More than half of British homes have a pet – cats are the most popular followed closely behind by dogs. They’re fun-loving, affectionate, and proper members of the family.
We feel worry and anxiety when they are ill and this is closely followed, for pet owners without insurance, with more worry and anxiety about the vet bills we incur to make them well again. In fact, according to a report in the Wall St Journal, a quarter of our cats and dogs have pet insurance taken out for them.
4 out of 10 of us worry about vet bills pushing nearly a quarter of pet owners to have seriously considered rehoming their pet at one point, according to a survey in the RSPCA and reported in Vet Times.
With cat insurance starting from around £4 a month and dog insurance from around £7 a month, it’s never been cheaper for pet owners to insulate their finances against getting a four- or five-figure bill from the vet.
Better still, pet insurance can be customised to provide just the right cover you need for your animals and we’ve put together this report to let you know the most important points about it.
Best pet insurance – the main providers
- Animal Friends
- Healthy Pets
- Insure Your Paws
- John Lewis Insurance
- Legal & General
- M&S Bank
- More Than
- Paws and Claws
- Perfect Pet
- Post Office Money
- Purely Pets
- TESCO Bank
Best pet insurance policies
Because of its customisability, there are more pet insurance policy variations than there are dog and cat breeds. It’s because we want to get it right for our pets that we do well as owners to educate ourselves about insuring them as much as we possibly can.
Here are some of the features you should be looking out for when comparing pet insurance.
Lifetime pet insurance
Lifetime pet insurance covers your pet for any continuing health issues they may suffer from. Because this type of pet insurance is the most comprehensive, it also tends to be the most expensive.
Lifetime pet insurance can be personalised to cover death by accident or illness, missing pets, overseas travel, kennel fees, euthanasia, cremation, burial and some types of dental work.
Non-lifetime pet insurance (time limited pet insurance)
Non-lifetime pet insurance doesn’t cover certain conditions once you have exceeded your policy’s annual claims limit. For that reason, it’s generally less comprehensive than lifetime pet insurance.
The different types of non-lifetime pet insurance you can purchase are called “time-limit per condition cover” and “per condition cover” (more on these later).
More basic policies include something a time-limit per condition cover. Your insurer will pay for each new medical condition for twelve months after your pet has contracted the illness up to a certain amount. After the 12 months or when the spending has gone over that limit, all future insurance payments stop.
“Per condition” pet insurance
Per condition pet insurance pays up to a limited amount of vet bills and medicine fees for a particular condition that your pet has developed. Once the maximum amount has been reached, you won’t receive any more help from your insurer to cover the costs of treating the condition.
Let’s say that your dog had a cover limit for £500 for an eye infection and it ended up costing more than £500. You’d have to pay any amount over that £500 and you wouldn’t receive any further help unless your dog developed another separate eye infection.
Pet insurance covering only accidents
Accident-only pet insurance covers any accidental injury your pet suffers by providing you with a fixed sum of money to help you meet the bills for their treatment. Pet insurance policies of this type are the cheapest because it doesn’t cover any temporary on ongoing illnesses that your pet may experience.
Pet insurance covering medical conditions which are pre-existing
Currently, there are only a handful of pet insurers which offer cover on pre-existing conditions such as chronic illnesses. However, there are more insurers on the market who will give you cover for any historic conditions.
A historic condition is defined as when a pet has not had symptoms or been treated for a certain period for a certain illness of condition (typically two years).
What about older pets?
Dogs and cats aged more than eight years are classed as “older pets” by insurers. With smaller animals like rabbits, the limit is often lowered to five years old while bigger animals like horses can be as twenty years old before they are categorised as “old”.
The older your pet is, the more likely that they could become ill or be injured in an accident which may result in steeper treatment bills. Because of this, you may be charged more if your pet is older. However, you still have a good chance of finding an affordable policy by shopping around.
What do I need to tell an insurer to get a quote?
An insurer will need to know…
- the age of your pet,
- their breed,
- behavioural history,
- medical history,
- whether or not they have been neutered, and
- how much your pet was bought for (if you bought them)
…in order for them to be able to create your quote. The questions that an insurer asks you will vary depending on the type of pet that you want to insure.
How can I reduce the cost of pet insurance?
Although some conditions aren’t preventable, keeping your pet healthy could reduce the cost of your pet insurance. You can do this by feeding your pet a nutritional diet and by making sure they get all of their necessary vaccinations.
Choosing a higher excess could also decrease the cost of your pet insurance. An “excess” is that part of your bill that you pay before your insurer takes responsibility for meeting vet and medicine bills.
Alternatively, you could take out multi-pet cover because most insurers will offer a discount if you insure more than one pet on a single policy.
How much do vet treatments cost?
The cost of pet insurance can vary significantly person-to-person depending on your circumstances including the type and breed of your pet as well as its age and how long you’re taking the policy out for.
Although pet insurance can become costly if your pet is older or has several chronic illnesses, insurance can cost you as little as £50 a year for a cat – dogs always cost a little bit more.
Standard vet treatment prices
The cost of medical treatment for your sick pet can vary significantly depending on several factors so it’s difficult to give an accurate estimate. Dogs typically have higher vet fees than cats whilst exotic animals with ongoing illnesses are the most expensive to treat.
Surgery is usually the most expensive types of treatment that your pet may need. While spaying and neutering can cost as little as £40 for cats, the price can exceed £200 for larger animals.
If your pet needs a blood test, you should expect a bill of between £100 and £130 and as much as £300 if your pet needs an X-ray.
Vet consultation fees
In the UK, most vets do charge general consultation fees which usually cost about £60. However, if your consultation is with a specialist practitioner, such as a cardiologist or neurologist, you should expect to pay a larger fee.
As vet bills continue to rise, you may find that owning a dog without pet insurance becomes a financial burden when illness or injury strikes.
A lifetime policy can help to relieve this financial pressure by paying your dog’s vet bills and associated treatments over their entire life. Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive type of pet insurance covering your dog for recurring illnesses or pro-longed health issues.
Per-condition per-year lifetime cover is a type of insurance that can provide you with recompense to meet your vet bills. This policy has a maximum cover limit for each condition that your dog has and this limit resets every year.
Annual cover is another option worth considering. This type of policy gives you a maximum overall cover limit each year and it can be very competitively priced.
Your puppy is at greater risk of having an accident because of their age so it’s important that you have a pet insurance policy to cover any medical treatment they require.
Lifetime cover is a particularly popular option for puppies who are likely to need ongoing treatment for a medical condition. This type of cover is the most comprehensive and you’ll need to renew it every year to cover your puppy (later dog) over their entire life.
Alternatively, you may choose annual cover for which your puppy will be provided with cover for 12 months. If your puppy doesn’t have an ongoing condition, this type of policy will cover your them against any accidents that might befall them.
Cat insurance gives you the peace of mind you need knowing that you won’t get a high vet bill if your cat is in an accident. With an annual policy, you will be reimbursed for any vet bills and associated treatment that your cat receives for 12 months.
You can choose to renew your policy after the 12 months have finished or you can choose to take out a brand new policy.
Another option is to take out lifetime cover for your cat. This type of cover is more expensive however it can prove to be very helpful if your cat has an ongoing condition or if you don’t have the time to renew your annual policy every 12 months.
Much like older cats, kittens are naturally independent and mischievous. To protect your kitten from any injuries and to protect yourself from the high costs of medical treatment, you may want to consider taking out annual cover on your kitten.
Annual cover is the cheapest type of policy and it covers your kitten for a whole 12 months. After this, your insurance expires and your pet loses its cover.
If your kitten has a long-term illness or you think your kitten is likely to develop one because of their breed, lifetime cover may be the better option. Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive type of cover however you will need to stay with the same insurer and pay the same premium (or more) each year.
From their food to their accommodation, horses are expensive pets so it makes sense to protect yourself from having to pay for expensive medical treatment yourself by taking out insurance. A standard policy covers you if your horse dies, for vet bills, and if you are injured while riding your horse.
You could also opt for public liability insurance, sometimes called “third-party insurance”. This type of policy can protect you if your horse suffers from mood swings, nervousness, and so on. The Animals Act (1971) makes you liable if your horse damages property or injures a pedestrian.
While rabbits typically require less maintenance than cats and dogs, they are just as susceptible to health conditions. If you want to insure your pet rabbit, you can either choose lifetime cover or annual cover.
Lifetime cover allows you to claim up to a pre-set limit for vet fees every year and this can be very handy if your rabbit suffers from a recurring illness.
If your pet doesn’t have a chronic illness, then annual cover may be better. This type of policy meets the cost of vet treatment if your rabbit succumbs to an illness or suffers an injury and annual cover has a similar financial limit for the amount that you can claim each year.
Top 20 pet insurance quotes
As with other types of cover, pet insurance quotes range from the very small to the very large. It is generally true to say that, in the main, more expensive policies provide you with more protection. The decision you have to make is on whether the extra you might pay for a policy makes financial sense to you.
As cats and dogs are Britain’s favourite pets, we decided to share with you an example of the types of premium you may end up paying to make sure that your cat or dog is cared for when they are poorly or injured and that you’re protected from as much expense as possible.
For a dog, we got quotes for a male Bedlington Terrier (10-20kg) born in January 2013 for which our would-be policy holder paid £250. The dog has been neutered, chipped, and his vaccines are up to date. The dog has no pre-existing medical conditions, he has never bitten anyone or shown aggressive tendencies, been complained about by a member of the public for the last 5 years, nor been used for breeding, track racing, and other associated activities.
The type of insurance we’re searching for is a lifetime policy. The owner is 35 years old and married.
|Insurer Name||Monthly||Annual||Vet fees per condition||Annual policy limit||Excess||Additional Contribution|
|Legal & General||£15.26||£183.12||£2,000||Unlimited||£99||10%|
|John Lewis Insurance||£16.51||£198.12||£1,000||£3,000||£140||None|
|Paws and Claws||£18.26||£219.12||£2,500||Unlimited||£60||None|
|Insure Your Paws||£18.31||£219.69||£1,000||£5,000||£80||10%|
For a cat, we got quotes for a female moggie born in January 2013 for which our would-be policy holder paid £20. The cat has been neutered, chipped, and her vaccines are up to date. The cat has no pre-existing medical conditions, she has not been complained about by a member of the public for the last 5 years, nor has she been used for breeding purposes.
As with the dog insurance, the type of insurance we want for our cat is a lifetime policy. The cat’s owner is 35 years old and married.
|Insurer Name||Monthly||Annual||Vet fees per condition||Annual policy limit||Excess||Additional Contribution|
|Post Office Money||£6.90||£82.80||£1,000||£3,000||£60||None|
|Paws and Claws||£7.03||£84.36||£2,500||Unlimited||£60||None|
|John Lewis Insurance||£7.10||£85.11||£1,000||£3,000||£140||None|
|Legal and General||£7.54||£90.48||£2,000||Unlimited||£99||10%|
Pet insurance FAQ
Is pet insurance worth the money?
The average dog owner in the UK pays just £28 a month for pet insurance, whilst cat owners pay £13 each month. Although pet insurance can add up to a significant bill at the end of the year, its often a far cheaper option than paying for vet bills.
Insurance can give owners the peace of mind that their pet will be able to receive the vet and medical treatment they need, even if the fees are high. And as we’ve seen from our market snapshot tables, there are big savings to be made by looking around.
Can pet insurance be transferred to a new owner?
Yes, most insurers will let you transfer your policy to a new owner if someone else adopts your pet. Typically, the insurer will need to know the new owner’s full name, phone number, address and their preferred payment method to update the policy.
If this proof is provided promptly, then the cover can continue without any interruption.
Can I get pet insurance before surgery?
No, unfortunately not. Insurers typically don’t offer cover for animals that already need surgery because of an injury or condition.
Pet insurance only covers any conditions that your pet gets after taking out the policy. So, if your pet needs surgery right now, pet insurance won’t cover the cost of that vet treatment.
Can you cancel pet insurance?
Yes, you can cancel your pet insurance at any time. Most insurers give you a 14-day window to cancel your pet insurance, in which you receive a full refund for the premium you have paid.
If you cancel your pet insurance after this period, you generally won’t get a refund and some insurers may charge a fee for the early termination.
How much pet insurance should I get?
This depends on your own circumstances. If your pet:
- has a recurring illness,
- is particularly susceptible to injuries,
- is elderly, or
- is a pedigree
…then you should consider taking out a more comprehensive policy, such as lifetime cover.
What pet insurance covers dental problems?
Normally, pet insurance policies exclude the cost of dental treatment in their cover unless the dental treatment is needed because of an accident. If dental cover is something that concerns you, you should compare a range of policies to find out which one is ideal for you.
What pet insurance covers spaying?
As is the case with dental cover, most insurers see spaying and neutering as routine treatments which need to be paid for by the pet owner. Pet insurance policies will only cover injuries and illnesses that your pet develops as a result of spaying.
What pet insurance covers vaccinations?
The large majority of policies won’t cover vaccinations because they are considered a routine treatment that you as the owner need to pay for.
What if my pet goes missing or is stolen?
Daniel Allen, writing on the website The Conversation, states that “there are various dog theft networks working at local and national levels, specifically stealing pets for profit…Dogs are stolen to order, to sell, to breed, for ransom, and even for use as bait in illegal dog fighting”.
Around 60% of dog and cat insurance policies offer cover to fund advertising by owners to find their missing pets (including reward money). On policies which do not offer this as standard, it is, in most cases, available as an optional extra.
What pet insurance covers surgery?
Most types of pet insurance will cover surgery if you take out the policy before your pet develops the condition or suffers an injury which requires surgery. The type of policy that you take out will determine whether you are reimbursed the full fee of the surgery or for a portion of it.
What pet insurance covers pre-existing conditions?
If your pet has a pre-existing medical condition, you may struggle to find a policy that covers the cost of treatment for it. Policies do vary greatly and you may find one that fits your individual circumstances but it is likely that it will be costlier.
Which pet insurance is best?
With so many different types of policies and insurance providers on the market, it’s important that you shop around before committing to one policy in particular.
You may wish to use a broker or a specialist website to compare from the hundreds of policies and insurers available to help you find the one that best fits your and your pet’s circumstances.
Should my pet insurer belong to any association?
Likewise, if you’re using a broker or a price comparison service, make sure that they’re members of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association.