Pet insurance is something that is talked about a lot, but understood very little. It’s one of those things that people know is out there but don’t always consider for their pets. Here’s a bit of information that will hopefully help you to navigate your way around pet insurance and choose the best policy for you and your pet.
Let’s start with the basics: what is pet insurance? Just like house or car insurance, pet insurance covers your costs should your pet become ill or get injured. However, it’s not quite as simple as that, as we discuss below. Again, just like other types of insurance, there are different levels of cover and protection.
Generally, most pet insurance providers cover dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and exotic animals, though this can vary. Most horse owners understand the importance of pet insurance, as vets bills can be extremely costly for horses, but this isn’t true of other pet owners.
To state the obvious, vets bills can be expensive and generally when you least expect it. Things like vaccinations, which aren’t covered under pet insurance, are the bills that you plan for and the things you expect to pay out for. Pet insurance is there for those problems you don’t anticipate. For example, when your cat has been hit by a car and requires an operation costing hundreds of pounds, or when your dog develops diabetes and requires life-long treatment.
Alongside this, with regards to dogs there is 3rd party liability to consider. If your dog causes an accident, such as running in front of a car which results in a collision, as that dog’s owner you are liable to pay for damages. Pet insurance can cover this and avoid the financial burden that this would impose on your family.
It is important to remember that one size does not fit all with regards to pet insurance. There are different providers, levels of cover and types of policy and it’s important to do your research thoroughly and read the fine print. We’ve listed some of the policy types below to help you to make an informed decision on the right policy for you and your pet.
It is important to remember that pet insurance, just like car and house insurance, has an excess attached. This is generally around about £50 but it varies depending on company and policy type.
Lifetime cover policies cover conditions for the life-time of the animal but they do vary in the level of cover they provide. Generally they fall into one of the below categories:
Per condition, per year – this means that there is a limit on the amount of money the provider will pay per condition and this resets every year. For example, they limit may be £3,000. If your dog develops an on-going skin condition the provider will pay out £3,000 every year, but once you reach that limit they won’t pay out until you renew your insurance for the next year. These policies are great as it does reset every year but it depends on the amount of cover you opt for - £100 per condition isn’t very useful!
Annual lifetime cover – this is a more broad option which just gives a total amount you can claim for over the policy year. It doesn’t matter whether you use it all on one condition, or whether you use it over several different illnesses or injuries. Once you reach the limit, you cannot claim again until the policy renews
TIP: Always remember that it is important to renew these policies on time - if you let them lapse and then try to renew them conditions that your animal has that were covered previously (known as 'pre-existing conditions') will no longer be covered.
These policies are generally the cheaper ones you will find, as they limit the amount they will pay out for a condition before it is excluded from the policy. They are usually associated with supermarket policies.
Per condition, non-time-limited – these policies will pay a certain amount of money out for each policy and it is not time limited. For example, if your cat develops a thyroid problem and the level of cover per condition is £1,000, it doesn’t matter whether it takes you one month or three years to reach £1,000 (so long as there are no breaks in the policy where you let the renewal lapse). However, once you reach that limit, the provider will no longer pay out for claims relating to thyroid conditions
Time-limit per condition – these policies tend to be the cheapest policies and are sometimes referred to as ’12 month’ policies. They will cover a condition for only a 12 month period. This is useful for something like a road collision as that is generally a short-term problem. However if your dog or cat develops a long-term problem, after 12 months it will not be covered
Obviously it is important to consider the best insurance policy for the amount you are able to pay monthly. The ‘covered for life’ policies offer the best protection but these just aren’t feasible for some people so ensure you do your research to find the next best option. ALWAYS read the fine print before signing up to any policy.
Also, if you decide to change insurance providers, be aware that any pre-existing conditions that may have been covered by your previous provider will not be covered by your new provider. Likewise, if you are buying pet insurance for the first time, any pre-existing conditions will be exempt from the policy.
If you adopt a cat, dog or rabbit from us you will note that you receive 4 weeks’ free pet insurance from PetPlan. If your animal develops an illness or injury during those 4 weeks, that wasn’t pre-existing, you will be covered under the policy. If you continue the policy within those 4 weeks and quote our reference number (included on your copy of the policy) we receive 10% of the renewal price. Not only that, we continue to receive 10% of the renewal price for as long as you continue the policy. Therefore, by continuing on with a policy from PetPlan you are helping us to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome more needy animals, just like the one you have adopted from us!