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Get peace of mind knowing your vet bills are covered if your pet gets ill or injured

Having the right pet insurance can be reassuring as you know you won't be out of pocket if your pet needs medical help
Last updated
December 20th, 2023

What is pet insurance?

Your pet is part of the family, so it can be stressful, and costly, if something happens to them.

The right pet insurance can cover the cost of vet bills and other medical treatment and provide some welcome peace of mind, so you can focus on making sure your pets get the care and attention they need.

How pet insurance works

Pet insurance is designed to cover the cost of vet treatment for your pet if they have an accident or become sick. It can also cover the costs of recovering your pet if they are stolen or stray.

Your pet is likely to require a trip to the vet at some point in their life. It might be because they get a little over-adventurous and have an accident, or just because they need a routine check-up.

Dog owners can also get cover against any injury their animal might cause to other people or their property.

Pet insurance lets pet owners save themselves from paying any surprise costs out of their own pockets."

Types of pet insurance

Accident-only

Accident-only pet insurance covers your pet's injuries if they have an accident. It's the cheapest type of pet insurance with the most basic cover. Some policies give limited vet fee cover if your pet becomes ill due to an accident.

Time-limited

A time-limited pet insurance policy lets you claim for a specific condition for a set time period – usually one year. Once the time period set out in your policy has expired, you have to pay to treat your pet's condition yourself.

Max-benefit

A max-benefit pet insurance policy lets you claim for vet treatment along with a defined set of other costs up to a set limit – for example, £8,000. Your insurer won't pay out for any losses once your costs exceed that limit.

Lifetime

Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive type of pet insurance. It is also the most expensive. It lets you claim up to a set amount, such as £12,000, for each year of your pet's life, for any condition they suffer.

Types of pet insurance

Accident-only

Accident-only pet insurance covers your pet's injuries if they have an accident. It's the cheapest type of pet insurance with the most basic cover. Some policies give limited vet fee cover if your pet becomes ill due to an accident.

Time-limited

A time-limited pet insurance policy lets you claim for a specific condition for a set time period – usually one year. Once the time period set out in your policy has expired, you have to pay to treat your pet's condition yourself.

Max-benefit

A max-benefit pet insurance policy lets you claim for vet treatment along with a defined set of other costs up to a set limit – for example, £8,000. Your insurer won't pay out for any losses once your costs exceed that limit.

Lifetime

Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive type of pet insurance. It is also the most expensive. It lets you claim up to a set amount, such as £12,000, for each year of your pet's life, for any condition they suffer.

When should you get pet insurance?

It is a good idea to get cover for your pet as soon as possible, as they may need veterinary treatment or other support at any age.

Most providers won't insure your pet in its first weeks of life – the table below shows the age requirements listed by some providers – and any conditions your pet contracts in the first two weeks after you take out cover are frequently excluded.

It, therefore, pays to buy cover ahead of time if you can.

Make sure you have proof that your pet is over the age specified by your chosen provider in your policy documents before you make a claim. It is likely to be rejected if your pet is too young.

Provider Animal FriendsPet-insurance.co.ukWaggelDirect LineTesco BankCo-op Insurance
Minimum age 4 weeks5 weeks8 weeks8 weeks8 weeks8 weeks

What pet insurance covers

Your pet's cover depends on several factors, including its species, breed, age and where you live. But while these factors will affect the specific details of your policy, including the conditions and treatments that it covers, most pet insurance should offer some form of protection in case of accidents, illness and emergencies.

"Lifetime pet insurance policies may cost more, but they provide comprehensive cover. This could be especially important if your pet's breed commonly suffers from certain conditions as they age."

  • Accident cover means you're covered if your pet is injured or injures someone else.

  • Illness cover protects your pet if it becomes sick during the period covered by your insurance.

  • Emergencies cover helps if you fall ill and have to go into hospital. Some policies cover the cost of your pet's temporary care.

Which treatments and conditions are covered by pet insurance?

Covered

Alternative therapies (e.g. hydrotherapy or acupuncture) or any treatments for which you have a vet's referral
Diagnostic (e.g. blood tests)
Third-party costs if your dog damages someone else's property
Putting your pet to sleep
Emergency dental treatment

Not covered

Routine and preventative procedures such as vaccination or flea treatment
Routine dental treatment (unless it is an emergency)
Treatments or medication for pre-existing conditions
Paying for your pet to be buried or cremated
Neutering or spaying your pet

How to get cheap pet insurance

The most effective way to save money on your pet insurance is to be prepared and plan ahead. Try the following tips:

Do your research

Before choosing your next pet, see which animals are more susceptible to ill-health. Insurance premiums will be higher for pets more likely to incur increased vet bills throughout their life.

Keep your pet healthy

Help avoid costly trips to the vet by looking after your pet’s health. Sign up for a preventative care plan with your vet to ensure they receive regular routine check-ups and vaccinations.

Get your pet microchipped

Since April 2016, microchipping dogs has been a legal requirement, but if you microchip your other pets – including cats – you can open the door to cheaper pet insurance.

Multiple pets, one insurance plan

Look out for insurers who offer multi-pet insurance schemes – you may be able to get a discount for insuring two or more pets together.

Compare deals

Don’t accept the first policy you see – shop around to find the best insurance for your pets at the lowest price.

How to compare pet insurance?

Insurers consider several factors when setting the price of their insurance policies, but they don't all arrive at the same conclusion, which is why it pays to compare the different deals available to find the right cover for you.

Below are the things that insurers look at when deciding on the price of insurance:

The age of your pet

Sadly pets that are getting on in years tend to become ill more frequently than younger animals and that pushes up the cost of your insurance. Find out more with our essential guide to finding cover for your older pet.

Pre-existing medical conditions

Most insurers won’t cover pets that already have medical issues because such animals are more likely to need costly treatment. Companies that do cover pets with pre-existing medical conditions are likely to charge more.

Cost of your pet

Pedigree cats and dogs tend to costs more than crossbred moggies and pooches. That's because they’re more expensive to replace and often have inherited health conditions, which can be expensive to treat.

Type of pet

The purchase price of smaller animals like rabbits tends to be lower than with larger pets such as cats and dogs. Vets also charge less for their treatment. As a result, insurance for these pets is likely to be cheaper.

"It almost always pays to compare different pet insurance deals available to find the right cover for you."

FAQs

How do I claim on my pet insurance?

You need to send a claims form to your insurer. Here is what you need to do to make a pet insurance claim.

Can I get cover that starts immediately?

Yes, most policies will start when you purchase your cover, which means you could claim straight away in an emergency. Others might have a 14-day cooling-off period so you will need to check your policy's small print.

Does pet insurance cover vaccinations?

No, pet insurance doesn't cover vaccinations. You cannot claim on your policy to cover the cost of routine treatments like vaccinations or vet check ups.

Can I cover more than one pet on the same policy?

Yes, you can get a multi pet policy that covers two or more pets which may earn you a discount. Here is how to insure multiple pets at once.

Can I cover my older pet?

Yes, you can cover your older pet. However, many insurers set a maximum age limit on their policies, for example eight years old for dogs and cats. Here is how to find cover for your older pet.

Can pet insurance cover existing conditions?

Most policies do not cover existing conditions, but some can cover conditions if your pet has been symptom free for at least two years. Find out more here.

What is maximum vet fee cover?

Pet insurance providers cover treatment costs up to a specified amount.

You can claim vet fees for many procedures, but not all, so it's wise to put money aside for anything that's not covered or which exceeds the cover limits on your policy.

Treatment charges vary, with each practice setting its own rates. An initial consultation is likely to be under £100, but costs can soon rack up if specialist care or surgery is required.

Can I get charity help with my vet bills?

If you are retired, on a low income or receive certain state benefits you may be able to get help towards the cost of vet bills from a dedicated animal charity.

There are multiple UK charities that provide a variety of helpful services. If you need help, consider contacting: PDSA, Blue Cross or Dogs Trust.

Explore our pet insurance guides

Find out more about how pet insurance works and whether it's right for you
Can you get insurance for older pets?
Can you get insurance for older pets?
Can you get cover for your pet with existing conditions?
Can you get cover for your pet with existing conditions?
A buyer's guide to pet insurance
A buyer's guide to pet insurance

About the author

Salman Haqqi
Salman Haqqi spent over a decade as a journalist reporting in several countries around the world. Now as a personal finance expert, he helps people make informed financial decisions.

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