What is pet insurance?

If your pet is like one of the family you will want to make sure they are protected if they fall ill or go missing. Here is everything you need to know to find the best pet insurance policy.

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Pet insurance gives you financial protection against vet fees if your pet needs treatment.

It can also cover other things like the loss of your pet through theft or straying and third party liability if you have a dog.

What animals can you cover?

You can get pet insurance for:

However, most insurers only cover dogs and cats. If you need cover for a less common pet, like a lizard or rare bird, here is everything you need to know about exotic pet insurance.

What does pet insurance cover?

Vet fees

This is the main benefit of pet insurance and means you can claim the cost of veterinary treatment your pet has during the term of your policy.

Most policies cover treatment resulting from:

  • Accidental injury

  • Illness, including behavioural illnesses if referred by your vet

  • Physiotherapy if referred by your vet

Some policies cover complementary treatments your pet needs following an accident and injury. This could include things like:

  • Acupuncture

  • Homeopathy

  • Osteopathy

  • Hydrotherapy

Not all policies include dental treatment, but many insurers do. You can find pet insurance with dental cover here.

How much cover should you look for? 

As much as possible. Some offer up to £12,000 per year to cover vet fees, but it depends on what policy type you choose.

Death of your pet

This can cover the cost of your pet if they die, or have to be put to sleep by a vet, as a result of injury or illness.

Check the policy carefully because some insurers remove this cover when your pet reaches a certain age, for example eight years old for dogs and cats.

How much cover should you look for? 

Find a policy that pays the purchase price of your pet, or the current market value if you have no proof of how much you paid.

Many policies set a maximum benefit, for example £600, so you will only be able to claim up to this amount if your pet cost more to purchase.

Here is how to find the best insurance if you have an older pet

Lost and found cover

Your policy can pay the purchase price of your pet if they go missing as a result of:

  • Theft

  • Straying

You must report your pet missing to the police, and most insurers then pay out if they are not found within 30 days of being reported.

You could also claim for the cost of advertising your lost pet, including any reward given to the person who finds them.

How much cover should you look for? 

If your pet is lost or stolen the insurer can pay the purchase price, plus up to £2,000 for the cost of advertising and reward.

Third party liability (dogs only)

This can cover you against any legal costs or compensation you have to pay if your dog causes:

  • Damage to property

  • An incident that leads to someone being killed or injured

If someone is seriously injured or killed by your dog and you are taken to court it could cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds so look for policies with a high level of cover.

How much cover should you look for? 

Most policies offer over £1 million for third party liability, but but you can find insurers that offer up to £3 million.

Boarding fees

You can claim to cover the cost of kennel, cattery or other boarding fees if you have to go into hospital. Some insurers also pay out if a friend or family member looks after your pet.

Most policies only pay out once you have been in hospital for more than four days.

How much cover should you look for? 

Some policies cover up to £1,500 for boarding fees, or £5 per day for someone else to look after your pet.

Foreign travel cover

This means you will be covered for vet fees while you and your pet are abroad.

It can also cover the cost of holiday cancellation and repatriation if your pet is seriously ill when you are away.

How much cover should you look for? 

Try to find up to £2,000 for vet fees and £2,500 for holiday cancellation.

Here is everything you need to know about pet travel insurance

What types of policy are there?

There are four main types of pet insurance, and each offers a different level of cover for vet treatment:

  • Accident only policies: This is the most basic policy and only covers your pet for treatment that is needed following an accidental injury. It may also offer a lower maximum claim limit for vet fees than other policies, but it will be the cheapest to buy.

  • Time limited policies: This type of policy lets you claim for a specific condition for a set period of time, usually 12 months. When this period is up your insurer will not pay out for that condition and you will need to pay for any ongoing treatment yourself.

  • Maximum benefit policies: This covers a condition up to a set limit, for example £5,000. Once you have claimed up to this limit your insurer will not pay out for any further claims for the same condition.

  • Lifetime policies: You will be able to claim up to a set amount, for example £10,000, for any condition every year of your pet's life. Lifetime policies are usually the most expensive option, but offer the most comprehensive cover.

Some insurers will not offer certain benefits like lost and found cover, foreign travel cover or third party liability with the more basic levels of cover.

If these are not included, you may be able to add them to your policy for an extra cost.

Here is how to work out which policy is right for you and your pet

What affects the price?

The price you pay for your pet insurance policy depends on:

  • The age of your pet: Older pets are more likely to fall ill, so their insurance costs more. Here is how to find cover for your older pet.

  • Pre-existing medical conditions: If your pet has any medical issues, most insurers will not cover them, and those that do will charge you much more to cover the risk. This guide explains what cover is available for pets with existing conditions.

  • Cost of your pet: Pedigree pets cost more to cover than crossbreeds, because they are more expensive to buy and can suffer from hereditary conditions. Here is how to find the right insurance for pedigree pets.

  • Type of pet: For example, small pets like rabbits are cheaper to cover on average than dogs and cats because they cost less to buy and their vet fees will be lower.

If you have more than one pet, adding them all to the same multi pet policy can earn you a discount. This guide explains how to find multi pet insurance.

Here is more on what can affect pet insurance, including what exclusions you need to be aware of to make sure your policy pays out.

Pet insurance FAQs

You do not legally have to insure your pet, but it could save you money if your pet is ill, injured, lost or stolen.

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

Most insurers settle vet fee claims directly with your vet practice. Other claims are usually paid directly to your bank account.

Protect your pet with the best possible cover by comparing pet insurance deals. Find the right policy for your furry friend at the right price!