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Choosing Pet Insurance for Your Dog or Cat

Published: Friday, January 6, 2017

Whether you decide to choose pet insurance before the Christmas festivities start or as a New Year’s resolution it is a good idea to know what to look for.

Instead of insurance you may decide just to put some money into a savings account for your pet in case the worst happens and this is fine if you have saved enough money before you have to make that claim, but with veterinary fees costing thousands of pounds for broken legs or stomach surgeries it is nice to know you’re pet is covered. A little research and some small print reading along with this general advice should guide you in the right direction.

There are hundreds of companies offering pet insurance and the monthly premiums (the amount you pay) vary greatly. However, the type of cover and benefits you get also differ. For example, some of the really cheap policies only cover your dog or cat if they suffer an accident rather than accident and illness.

Pedigree cats and dogs will cost more to insure as they tend to suffer more from health problems than crossbreeds and the area you live in may make a difference in the cost. You may be able to bring your premiums down if you decide to choose a higher excess (the first part of the insurance claim that you will pay) and you could also look out for multi-pet discounts too.

Age of your dog or cat

It’s often assumed that older pets get more health problems and many owners don’t take out insurance until their pet is an adult. However, analysis of pet insurance claims[i] have shown that owners of puppies and kittens under 6 months old claim much more than owners of young adult pets.

After a certain age some insurers will not cover your dog or cat, always check what their maximum age is and whether they will continue to cover your pet as they get older.


An older pet may have already had a health issue in the past before you take out insurance. Any health issues like this are classed as ‘pre-existing’ and will not be covered by insurance taken out later.  Be aware that not all policies cover for dental treatment. Some will pay for accidental damage to the teeth but dental issues from decay and wear are often not included.

Time limited or no limit/lifetime pet insurance.

Many companies have a time limit on how long they will cover (pay out on) each illness. For example if they state that your pet will be covered ‘for 12 months from the first day of treatment’ this means that after 12 months your insurer will not pay out on any further claims for that specific illness. This may be okay for one-off illnesses or injuries but consider a dog with an on-going condition such as skin problems, diabetes or epilepsy and you may be left out of pocket.

Other pet insurance companies that will cover your pet for life (no time limits). The monthly premium you pay will be more expensive but you have the peace of mind knowing your pet will be covered for a long-term illness.

Amount of cover (veterinary fees)

This is the maximum amount of money your pet is covered for to pay veterinary fees. This is per condition and can range from around £1000 per condition for cheaper policies up to £12,000 for more advanced cover.  This can be a maximum amount per condition, per year (with the fee amount renewing if you renew the policy) or it can be per condition with no time limit or per condition within a 12 month limit (with the claim payments stopping after the vet fee limit is reached or 12 months have passed since the first day of treatment - whichever is reached first).

You may also like to check if the insurance covers complementary therapies too such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy or seeing a behaviourist.

Third Party Liability Insurance

If your dog bites or injures a person, other animal or causes damage to property you could be liable. This is regardless of the breed of dog: for example, a small dog causing an elderly person to trip and hurt themselves may be enough to warrant a claim.

Third party liability insurance is there to cover costs for damage and compensation. Interestingly, cats do not need to be covered for this as owners are not considered legally responsible for their actions.


Extras which vary between insurance companies include cover for accidental death, emergency kennel or cattery fees, money to use as a reward or for posters/advertising if your pet goes missing and money if you have to cancel your holiday due to your pet being ill or having an accident.

And finally...

Some pet insurance companies will pay your vet directly. This means you do not have to find the money first and wait for your insurer to pay you back. If this is something that you need you should ask your vet which companies they accept direct payments from before taking out insurance. 


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