How pet insurance works

by PDSA | 20 February #Lifestyle

If you are feeling the pinch due to the cost of living crisis, you might have found yourself looking closely at your bank statement and wondering what you can do to make things a little easier on your wallet.

Pets are part of the family – they give unconditional love and are always there for us, through the ups and downs.

As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to take care of our furry friends. That’s why it’s important to think about insuring your pet so that should the worst happen and they become sick or injured, you can afford the treatment they need.

Whilst we recommend that you insure your cat or dog, it can be hard to understand exactly how pet insurance works – especially with the unfamiliar terminology. We’ve summarised all you need to know about pet insurance right here.


Coverage options

Thankfully, there are a wide range of policies to suit your pet's healthcare needs and your budget.


Lifetime cover

Lifetime policies cover your pet for the cost of veterinary treatment for any injuries or illnesses that weren’t present before you started the policy. The big advantage of these policies is that they reset every year at renewal, so you can continue to claim up to the yearly amount year after year for the same condition, as long as you renew with no break in cover.

Lifetime cover is generally the most comprehensive type of cover that you can get. It will cover your pet for chronic conditions meaning you’ll be protected from the cost of ongoing vet treatment – unlike with accident-only or time-limited cover. With lifetime cover, you’ll also be covered for any short or long term treatment your pet may need if they are involved in an accident such as getting hit by a car.


Time limited cover

Also known as annual cover, time limited cover provides your pet with insurance coverage for accidents and illnesses for a set time period (usually a year) only from when the symptoms start. It’s worth mentioning that the time period stars from when the condition is first seen, not when first claimed. When 12 months have passed or the policy financial limit is reached, you’ll no longer be covered for vet fees for that specific accident or illness.

Time limited cover tends to be lower-priced. However if your pet develops a longer term condition such as arthritis, or has recurrent problems with for example skin irritation, after 12 months you will no longer be able to claim for this or any related problems. Therefore, this type of cover is most useful for short-term illnesses, such as kennel cough or an abscess, or for unexpected injuries, such as a car accident.


Accident only cover

Your pet might need urgent treatment for hospitalisation, X-rays or extensive surgery after an accident – which can all add up to a large amount of cost in one go. This is where accident only cover can be of use. Accident only cover provides the most basic and cheapest level of cover but only covers accidental injuries (such as road traffic accidents) not illnesses.

Accident-only cover may not be right type for you, if you have an older or sickly pet. But it could be the right cover if you’re on a tight budget, have a young and healthy pet and would struggle to afford the cost if your pet was badly injured.


Maximum benefit cover

Alternatively, there is maximum benefit cover, also known as per condition. This cover provides a fixed amount to treat illnesses or injuries for as long as the policy remains in force.

Unfortunately, if your pet is still unwell after the maximum amount is reached, you’ll have to pay for further treatment yourself. It’s also worth mentioning that you could reach the limit quickly if your pet needs expensive treatment, such as a major operation. Again, this cover may be ideal if you are on a tight budget and have a young pet.


Understanding pet insurance

When taking out pet insurance for dogs and cats, you’ll receive a variety of documents. These can be quite confusing and hard to understand – but will contain all the information about your policy that you’ll need.


How to understand your policy documents

It’s tempting to ignore your policy document as they can be quite long and daunting. But it’s crucial that you read through and make sure that you understand what your policy covers.

Ultimately, your policy document is a formal document that details everything you need to know about your pet insurance. Everything from what veterinary fees are covered to holiday travel cover, which is why it’s so important to read them so you know what you can make a claim for. It’s important to read through everything as you may find certain conditions not covered that you thought would be.

Most policy documents have a helpful glossary at the start or end of the booklet. It’s worth reading these terms so you can understand your policy. Make sure you take time to read it and contact your provider if you have any questions. For further help on understanding confusing terms, read our pet insurance jargon buster guide here.


What’s an excess?

The excess is the amount you will have to pay when you make a claim. This can be a compulsory excess set by the insurer, or a voluntary excess where you decide the amount. Paying a higher excess can reduce the cost of your pet insurance – but make sure that it’s still an affordable amount for you.


Does pet insurance cover long-term illness?

Just like us, our pets can develop long-term illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis. Sadly, not all pet insurance will cover the cost of your pet’s treatment if this happens. This is why it’s important to have the right insurance to make sure your furry friend is covered.

Lifetime cover may be the best pet insurance for this, as it will protect your companion for the rest of their life, as long as you renew your policy. However, there are some limits on cover either per condition or per year. Therefore, make sure to read your policy documents carefully to see what the limits are.


Does pet insurance cover dentistry?

Most pet insurance for dogs and cats do not include dental work as standard. You’ll normally have to pay extra to include this. Even if dentistry is included, your pet insurance is unlikely to cover routine dental treatments like a scale and polish. Dentistry will typically cover accidents, such as your pet breaking a tooth, and the care of infected teeth and abscesses.


What’s a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is a one-off or long-term illness, injury or symptom your pet is suffering or has suffered from before taking out your new policy. This even includes if your pet didn’t receive treatment, or you were told it was nothing serious. Even if you didn’t claim for the condition on a previous insurance policy, it still counts as a pre-existing condition. Pet insurance companies need to know about all pre-existing conditions as this could affect a future claim.

Whenever you make a claim, your pet insurance provider will review your pet’s medical records to see if there are any pre-existing conditions that they cannot cover.

Pet insurance for existing conditions does exist but few companies will cover this. Just be aware that this type of insurance will most likely be more expensive than standard pet insurance. This is why we advise taking out insurance for your pet while they are young. Before they have the chance to develop any illnesses that could be classed as pre-existing conditions.


What vet fees does my pet insurance cover?

When you find the pet insurance policy that’s right for you, you’ll be covered for vet fees. This is often for emergencies and unexpected illnesses – which you’ll be able to claim on. Unfortunately, routine pet health is usually not covered.

Pet insurance can cover vet fees for MRI and CT scans, physiotherapy and even overseas veterinary treatment. Some policies may even cover complimentary treatments such as hydrotherapy or behavioural treatment. Be sure to read your policy documents to find out exactly what is covered.


What are some common exclusions that I should be aware of when selecting pet insurance?

First, you should be aware of most pet insurance companies having restrictions on certain breeds. This could be due to your pet being classed as a banned breed or your furry friend having certain health conditions associated with the breed. Always be clear and honest about your breed to make sure that you get the right cover for them.

There isn't an official age limit for insuring your pet – but it’s worth noting that most pet insurance companies do have age limits in place for taking out new policies. Pet insurance often covers kittens and puppies aged from 8 weeks.

For new policies, cats can often be insured for the first time up until their 10th birthday depending on their breed and health. With dogs, they can be insured up to 5 years old or 8 years old. This all depends on their breed and health conditions. Ultimately, this is why we recommend finding a pet insurance provider, like PDSA Pet Insurance, and staying with them throughout your beloved companion’s life.

It’s worth mentioning that food and supplements prescribed by your vet are not always covered in your policy. If your pet has been prescribed a special diet, you may have to cover the cost yourself. This is why it’s important to read the policy documents thoroughly.

The last common exclusion that tends to catch people off-guard, is that pet insurance rarely covers routine check-ups. Pet insurance for cats and dogs usually just covers emergencies, injuries and unexpected illnesses. In most cases. vaccinations, worming, flea treatment and neutering are not covered by pet insurance. Thankfully, many vets offer a package of monthly payments to cover these treatments – so be sure to contact your vet to find out more.


Claim process

Processing a pet insurance claim is usually straightforward. It’s often tracked through an online portal so you can see your progress.

Once your pet has received treatment, you or your vet can submit your claim depending on your insurance provider. You usually need to provide your vet’s details and your bank details so they can send the payment. Your pet insurance provider will then contact your vet to confirm the treatment and costs.

After this, a claim assessor will review and come to a decision. This time can vary depending on the situation and if they need further information. When the assessment is complete, your pet insurance provider will tell you the outcome.

Depending on the agreement you vet has with the insurance company, the cost of your pet’s treatment can either be paid directly to your vet or reimbursed to you after you have paid.

How to claim

Before you make a claim, check your policy document to make sure that your pet’s condition is covered. If you are unsure, get in touch with your insurance provider.

The easiest way to make a claim is usually through an online portal provided by your pet insurance provider.

Alternatively, most pet insurance providers give you the option to submit a paper form. This can usually be downloaded from their website or posted to your address. Again, if you are unsure about anything, just get in touch with your pet insurance provider.


Make sure pet insurance fits your pet’s needs

Understanding how pet insurance works and what it covers is a difficult topic. After reading this guide, we hope you have a better understanding of pet insurance.

The most important part of pet insurance is making sure that it fits your pet’s needs. There’s nothing worse than taking out pet insurance, only to realise that it doesn’t provide the right coverage for your furry friend. Speak to your vet about the policy that is best for you and your pet if you are still unsure.

If you are looking at getting pet insurance for your pet, consider insuring your beloved companion with PDSA Pet Insurance. Every PDSA Pet Insurance policy sold contributes to our life-saving charity work.

Share this article on:  PDSA | 20 February


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