Guide to Pet Insurance

All pet insurance is not the same, the cover varies enormously and some cover is not as ‘comprehensive’ as you might think. This guide explains what you need to look out for, the terms you’ll see the providers use and how to choose the right policy for your needs.

Pet insurance is offered for a wide range of animals, birds and even reptiles. However, by far the majority of policies are for dogs – the focus of this guide. For the over 50s a large bill from the vet can be a huge financial blow especially when retired or on a fixed income. Therefore the cost of pet insurance is frequently an important consideration before buying a puppy or adopting a rescue dog.

Pet insurance for cats and other domestic animals is a more simplified version of dog insurance and you will find the application process simpler with fewer questions to answer. The cover offered and the decisions you have to make regarding how much cover you need are very much the same. In summary, once your understand how pet insurance for dogs works, you will find it relatively easy and straightforward to arrange cover for any other small pet.

The essential facts for finding the right pet insurance cover are outlined in just five steps:

Types of cover offered

Accident Only

Cover for vet fees, only as a result of a sudden and unexpected injury and within the 12 month policy period. The cheapest cover you can buy.

Specified condition

Cover for vets fees incurred in respect of specific conditions, this applies to both claims for accidents as well as illnesses. For example older animals are often excluded from cover from infectious diseases and ear problems. Diseases such as arthritis, asthma and diabetes that require ongoing treatment if not specified will not be included.

Time Limited

Each new condition is covered up to the financial limit for 12 months. If the limit is reached within the 12 month period the insurance will stop paying for that condition, it becomes pre-existing and is excluded from future claims.

Maximum Benefit

Each new condition is covered up to the financial limit, as long as the insurance policy remains in force as there is no time limit on your claim. Once the financial limit is reached the condition becomes pre-existing and is excluded from future claims.


All new medical conditions are covered up to the financial limit. If the limit is reached during the insurance year, the cover stops until the policy is renewed. At renewal the limit is fully reinstated and the condition will continue to be covered in the policy the following year.

Why Lifetime Cover?

Consider Lifetime cover very carefully. Despite the higher premiums, arguably it is the only type of pet insurance that can be considered truly comprehensive. It costs more because diseases such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes and some cancers require ongoing treatment. Any pet that contract one of these diseases will be covered with Lifetime Cover for as long as the treatment lasts.

The cheaper policies will only cover the costs up until the policies renewal date or a 12 month maximum. However the disease will be excluded after that time and any further vet’s bills for this condition paid by the owner.

Lifetime Cover comes in different varieties, the main three are:

  • Annual claim payment limit – This will cover a specific maximum sum of money for a number of diseases in one year. For example, if your dog contracted two illnesses and the policy offered £5,000 max per annum, then the insurer would not pay more than this amount each year even if the illnesses required expensive treatment of many years.
  • Per condition per annual limit – This means that each condition your pet suffered from would be covered up to a specified amount. If you had a £3,000 a year cover limit for example, then you would only need to pay the excess and the insurer would cover the rest of the treatment up to the value of £3,000 for the rest of your pet’s life.
  • Lifetime limit – This will offer an overall sum per condition. For example, if the agreed sum was for £30,000 then this is the maximum amount you could claim for that condition for the rest of your animal’s life. This means, if you reach this limit and your pet still has years of life ahead, then you must pay any vets bills that arise yourself.

Age - why the age of your pet is a critical consideration

Remain very aware of the type of cover you are buying and if the provider, including some of the biggest UK brands, only insure animals up to a specific age. Most vets’ fees are incurred in the last 6 months of an animal’s life, and the likelihood of making a claim at this time is much higher.

As a pet gets older, with dogs typically over age 8 for larger breeds or age 10 for others, many of the cheaper insurers will reduce the cover offered as well as increase the excess. Equally, the lifetime policy providers increase the price they charge as the insured pet gets older. As a £3,000 vets bill is far from uncommon, a good policy with a reliable insurer is worth holding on to avoid financial shocks.

No one wants to have their much loved pet ‘put to sleep’ because of the cost of essential treatment.

When buying insurance for dogs beware of certain breeds

For many dog breeds it is hard to get any cover at all, especially in the competitive world of online Pet Insurance. The ‘Computer says no’ to a huge list of breeds including dogs crossed with those excluded breeds. Therefore before you buy a dog, or think about adopting an older pet, please consider that most insurers exclude certain breeds of dog from their policies.

Even a ‘mixed breed pup’ could very easily grow up to be something that looks like an excluded breed. If a vet describes a dog as a ‘pit bull cross’ at some point, the insurance company would refuse to insure the pet, or pay a claim if cover was already in force. If you have doubts ask your vet before you risk taking on an uninsurable pet.

Excluded Breeds:

  • American Pit Bull
  • Japanese Tosa / Tosa Inus
  • Dogo Argentino (also referred to as Argentine Dogo and Argentinian Mastiff)
  • Fila Brasileiro

They include dogs as defined in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, including those considered to match the description of a prohibited breed or even a dog crossed with the above.

Types/breeds frequently excluded from cover:

  • American Bandogge/Bandogge Mastiff American/Irish Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • Canary Dogs/Perro De Pressa Canarios/Presa Canarios Cane Corsos
  • Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs/Sarloos wolfhounds/ Wolf hybrids
  • Korean Jindo
  • Northern Inuit Dogs
  • Racing Greyhounds
  • Shar Pei Utonagan

Top Tips for buying Pet Insurance for your dog

Pet Insurance GrownUpMoney

The following link offers you 10 Top Tips for buying pet insurance

There is simply no escaping the fact that Pet Insurance is more complex now than it was in the past. There are some restricted covers offered at lower premiums that require careful consideration. Otherwise you may be faced with paying a large part of the vet’s bill yourself. If you decide to self insure, consider saving up £40 a month in your own ‘dog vets bill fund’.