Pet insurance can give you peace of mind and protection for your pet against unexpected vet bills, illness or accidents. Find the best pet insurance for your family pet. Our sponsor, 4Paws, also offers extra information about your specific pet.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance protects you against the cost of vet bills should your pet become ill or injured. When you first welcome home your new pet, you may not be thinking about the cost of vet bills or the chance of your pet becoming sick or injured.
However, the cost of veterinary treatment can be high and pet insurance can help to cushion the cost. Insurance for pets in the UK is a popular choice amongst pet owners who do not want to be hit by large and unexpected bills.
Why do I need pet insurance?
When you have a new dog, cat or other animal, a pet insurance policy may seem unnecessary. After all, a young animal is less likely to have a serious illness. However, puppies and kittens can have accidents or chew or swallow dangerous items, which can require an operation. As your pet gets older you may need to take it to the vet for treatment for other illnesses or injuries.
Pet insurance may seem an unnecessary expense, but vet bills can be surprisingly high. The average cost of a pet insurance claim is nearly £800, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). You can end up paying out several thousand pounds in costs if your pet is very sick or seriously injured. Or if you need to use out of hours vet services, for example in the evening or at the weekend.
What animals does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance covers cats and dogs who are family pets. If your dog is a working dog, or you take it hunting or on shoots, then you should consider working dog insurance instead from specialist organisations.
It will cost more, but will cover injury to your dog while it's working. Otherwise you may find that your claim is turned down if your dog was hurt while actively working.
Can you get pet insurance for guinea pigs and rabbits?
It's possible to get insurance for other types of small furries, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters. However, with the exception of some rabbits, these types of pets don't live as long as cats and dogs. Also, surgery isn't often an option because of the risk of anaesthesia in small mammals.
Therefore, you would need to weigh up the cost of the insurance, versus the actual value. Consider what you might get from it, when you're thinking about pet insurance for small animals, such as guinea pigs and rabbits.
What about pet insurance for exotic animals?
Specialist insurers might be willing to insure your snake, lizard, degu, rat or exotic bird, but the insurance is likely to cost more. You would need them to be treated by a specialist veterinary surgeon in the event of them becoming ill.
You will not be able to get insurance for dangerous animals, although if you have a poisonous pet like a snake or tarantula, you should look into taking out public liability insurance in case they hurt someone while being handled.
Cat insurance and pet insurance in the UK is easy to find, with many insurers offering products to pet owners. You can find the best pet insurance in the UK by comparing quotes for pet insurance, and thinking about how much pet insurance cover you need for your animal friends.
What does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance doesn't cover routine vet visits for injections, boosters, flea and worm treatment or health checks. Nor does it cover spaying or neutering. The pet insurance is there in case of unforeseen or unexpected injury or ill health.
You might need to make a pet insurance claim if your pet is hurt in a road traffic accident. For example, if it's injured or cut on a walk, develops a life-threatening illness or requires surgery for a medical condition. It will not cover the cost of annual treatments, such as jabs for kennel cough. Some kennels, however, insist that you have pet insurance before they will agree to house your pet, in case your cat or dog needs urgent treatment while you are away on holiday.
Does pet insurance cover jabs and worming treatment?
Some veterinary practices offer regular payment plans for routine pet treatments such as worming. You can find out more about this by asking your vet, but it's not covered by pet insurance and is a separate policy.
How much cover for pet insurance do I need?
Depending on your budget, there are different types of pet insurance. You can either insure you pet annually or buy what some insurers call ‘cover for life’.
Cover for life pet insurance - is also known as Lifetime pet insurance and it means that your insurer will continue to offer you an insurance policy for your pet, as long as you renew with them each and every year.
It means that if you pet develops a long term or chronic condition, you will still be able to get pet insurance for them. It's not, however, a guarantee that the premium will not go up. Cover for life means that your pet will not be excluded from pet insurance cover for any pre-existing conditions they have.
If you switch insurers regularly and only take out cover for 12 months, you may find that you can't get full cover for an older pet with existing medical problems. While cover for life sounds good, it comes at a price. It's more expensive, even when your pet is relatively young.
Annual cover pet insurance - means that you renew your pet insurance each year. Your pet may not be covered for pre-existing conditions they have developed, but they will be covered for accidents or sudden illnesses.
Accident only pet insurance - just covers accidents and nothing else. It's the cheapest type of cover.
Does home insurance cover my pet?
Home insurance doesn't cover illness or injury to your pet, although some home insurance policies may cover damage caused by a pet to your home. Not all home insurance policy provide this cover, so it's important to check the small print.
Conversely, pet insurance doesn't cover damage to your home. It's for vet’s bills and illness or injury.
Therefore, you cannot reply on your home insurance policy to provide the best dog insurance or cat insurance. If you're looking for pet insurance for dogs or pet insurance for cats then you would need to buy a specific pet insurance policy.
Check whether the insurance you choose covers pet insurance lifetime cover and pet insurance pre-existing conditions if these are important to you.
How do I find the best pet insurance?
First you need to decide on your budget, and whether you want cover for life, or are going to shop around for cover each year when your pet insurance policy comes up for renewal.
Then you need to think about how much cover you want for your cat or dog. Different pets need different types of cover. For example, pedigree dogs and cats are more likely to have heredity health problems.
Some specific breeds have breathing problems, which might need to be corrected, while others have joint, elbow, hip or eye issues. If your dog or cat is a pedigree breed, cover may be more expensive as they may be more prone to congenital problems and may be more likely to be stolen.
What else is covered in pet insurance?
Along with accident and emergency treatment at the vets, and illness, you may also find that your pet insurance policy covers:
Loss or theft of your pet: sometimes a policy will pay out if your animal is stolen and is not recovered after 30 days. It may also cover the cost of advertising your lost pet and offering a reward for safe return.
Dental care: this does not cover routine dental work but may cover specialist treatment.
Death from illness and injury: although your beloved pet cannot be replaced, some policies will pay out if they die, so long as they are under a certain age.
What are the exclusions for pet insurance?
Not all policies cover pre-existing conditions, dental care, public liability or problems if your dog or cat is pregnant, so check the small print before you sign up.
Some policies have a maximum claim limit, which means that you cannot claim more than a set amount per year. Many also have a limit on the amount you can claim for treatment for an individual condition your pet develops, meaning that if your dog or cat develops a chronic medical condition they may not be covered at renewal time.
It can be difficult to find pet insurance for older dogs or cats. Not all policies cover you if your pet becomes sick while you are abroad or on holiday outside the UK.
Like all insurance claims, you will also have to pay an excess, which is usually around £75 per claim. This is the amount you will have to pay even if your claim is approved by the pet insurer. It may increase as your pet ages.
How can I cut the price of pet insurance?
Many of the problems that dogs and cats face relate to pregnancy, so you can cut the cost of premiums by having your pet spayed or neutered. There is also some evidence to suggest that animals who are spayed or neutered have a lower risk of some cancers.
You can reduce your pet insurance premium by having a higher excess, although with most policies charging at least a £50 excess, it starts to become an expensive option if you do need to claim on your pet insurance. If you have more than one dog or cat, or you want pet insurance for a cat and a dog, you can look at the option of having multi pet insurance and look at pet insurance quotes than would cover more than one animal.
You can also shop around and use a comparison service in order to compare pet insurance and see what pet insurance products are on offer. This can help you find out which pet insurer is offering the best deal and whether the cheap pet insurance you see is providing enough cover for you.
The perfect pet insurance for you is the one that covers your pet’s needs, and ensures your own peace of mind that your pet will be well cared for if you need to make a claim.
What are the alternatives to pet insurance?
If you don't want to pay for pet insurance, you could self-insure, which means that instead of paying a pet insurance premium to the insurer, you put the pet insurance premium you would have paid, into a savings account.
Then, should you need to pay out for an operation or treatment, you have a fund built up, which you could use. In theory, this could work, but only if your pet does not need treatment early in its life when you have not had enough time to build up enough savings to cover the cost.
If you need further information about pet insurance, check out our sponsor, 4Paws.