By Katie Binns
Around 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association.
If you’re one of them, and your pet is uninsured, it could cost you hundreds—or possibly thousands—of pounds if they become ill or get injured and need treatment from the vet.
So if your furry friend isn’t covered, here’s everything you need to know about getting the insurance policy, the costs involved and what to look out for.
The cost of pet insurance
The cost of pet insurance depends on your pet, its age and the type of cover you want, but the average premium is around £425 a year, according to GoCompare.
Not having insurance puts you at risk of paying hundreds, or maybe thousands, in vet bills and falling into debt. Some of the costs are eye-watering. For example, you could pay £7,000 to treat a French Bulldog that has fractured its leg. An inherited disease such as hip dysplasia will require a referral to a specialist vet for surgery and could leave you with a total bill exceeding £13,000.
“Many people massively underestimate the cost of medical procedures and so it can be a major shock when their pet becomes unwell,” explains Emily Stott from the RSPCA. “For example, surgery to remove a corn cob stuck in the intestine can be £2,000 to £4,000—or more if there are complications!”
Pet insurance with lifetime cover can give you peace of mind and means you don’t have to compromise on the vet treatment for your pet.
Pet insurance with lifetime cover
This is the most comprehensive policy you can get for your cat or dog. As long as you keep renewing your policy, it’ll last for their whole life and pay out for every new condition and recurring injuries and illnesses up to the policy limits each year.
Lifetime cover includes:
- Vet costs: Cover for treatment for injury or illness up to a set limit per year. This limit will be reset each year and the conditions you’ve previously claimed for will still be covered.
- Kennels and cattery: Pays for boarding costs for your pet if you’ve had to go into hospital.
- Dental accidents or injuries: Routine dental treatment is generally not covered by many policies.
- Complementary therapies such as hydrotherapy: Some policies cover this.
- Euthanasia: If the worst should happen.
This kind of insurance has a limit each year on either how much you can claim per condition, or the overall amount you can claim for all conditions—or both.
Let’s say your policy has a £6,000 annual limit per condition and a £10,000 overall annual limit. Imagine your dog gets an ear infection, which shows up every year. The vet bill and medication comes to £5,000 in the first year so you are covered for the treatment. The next year it costs £6,500 to treat—you’ll have to pay £500 yourself, as the cost of treatment exceeds the per condition limit. If your dog ingested a discarded face mask which became stuck in the small intestine and this cost £3,000 to treat, you would still be within your annual limit.
The main drawbacks of lifetime pet insurance:
- More expensive than other types of pet insurance because it is so extensive.
- You’re likely to lose out by shopping around, as most insurers will refuse to cover pre-existing conditions for new customers.
- Once you reach the annual or per condition limit, you’ll have to pay for any remaining treatment yourself.
- Policy price for future years isn’t fixed. Lifetime pet insurance usually increases in price as your pet ages.
What should I be looking for in a pet insurance policy?
Smart With Money
Smart With Money is our dedicated money channel created to give you expert, easily digestible information to help you make the most out of your money.
You should be looking for the right type of cover for the breed of your pet. Pugs have breathing problems, which can also lead to heart problems. Saint Bernards have issues with their hips and elbows. Irish setters are prone to epilepsy. A pet’s particular needs will affect the price of policy.
A top-rated pet insurance policy will cover the cost of most unexpected expenses that you may need to pay. It won’t start to raise the excess or ask you to pay a co-payment—a percentage of each claim—until your pet reaches a certain age. Choosing a policy with a higher excess or a co-payment can help keep the costs down, but you’ll have to contribute more towards the cost of any claim.
Some lifetime policies have an upper age limit for older pets. This doesn’t apply to existing policyholders but you wouldn’t be able to buy a new policy if your dog is over a certain age. For some breeds, that could be as young as six.
Pet insurance for pre-existing conditions
Most pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions—such as diabetes, cancer, recurring joint pain, arthritis and heart disease—and will either refuse to insure your pet or offer cover that excludes treatment related to their particular condition.
Each insurer will have their own definition of pre-existing conditions, so look carefully at policies to be sure how they’re defined.
Liability cover for your pet
If you are a dog owner, you’re legally responsible for your dog’s actions so you need to ensure that you’ve got liability cover as well, according to Phil Cooper, Home and Pet Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual. Cats have no recognized legal status so this isn’t necessary for them.
He also advises, ”It’s also worth considering what might happen if something happened to you and you were unable to look after your pet. Some policies provide for kennelling for a short time should you be unable to look after your pet due to hospitalization. Like any insurance, while you hope you never need it, it is worth consideration.
Attention beauty lovers: the Ulta Cyber Monday sale has arrived with over 300 deals—here's what to shop
We've compiled the best Ulta Cyber Monday deals, from skincare sets to premier hair dryers and more
By Dominique McIntee •
Why I'm a Celebrity was cancelled despite contestants being 'safe' from Storm Arwen
I'm a Celebrity was cancelled this weekend due to concerns over Storm Arwen
By Emma Dooney •
How to avoid Black Friday scams and get a genuinely good deal
Expert advice on how to avoid Black Friday scams and find genuine discounts that will actually save you money
By Ruth Emery •
The insurance policies that you should definitely have—and the ones that aren't worth it
The cost of having multiple insurance policies can mount up but which ones are actually worth having?
By Kalpana Fitzpatrick •
Are you spending too much on your car insurance?
Car insurance is an essential cost but are you spending too much on your policy? Follow our expert guide to see where you could be saving money
By Sue Hayward •
The best investing apps to help you invest with ease
It's easier than ever to expand your options for investing your money. Investing apps are a great place to start and our team of financial journalists have selected the best ones to try
By Ruth Emery •
What is inheritance tax? How to plan for you and your family
Inheritance tax can be a complicated process. Our expert financial journalists break down what you need to know and how to plan for your family
By Sue Hayward •
The best travel money cards to use on your next trip
There are many benefits to getting a travel money card for holiday spending. Our expert financial journalist reveals which ones are worth using
By Harriet Meyer •
How to check your pension—and why you should be doing it now
You may not think to check your pension until you’re about to retire, but knowing exactly what you will get could help you plan for life after work
By Ruth Emery •
Investing for beginners—5 easy steps to help you invest safely
Investing can seem like an intimidating option if you're unsure of where to start. We show you how to make a start in 5 easy steps
By Kalpana Fitzpatrick •