The Best Pet Insurance UK: Our ULTIMATE Buyers Guide & Top Picks
Everything You Need to Know Before Spending a Penny
By Ben Doyle
Our pets are as likely to get ill or injure themselves as we are. That said, the NHS doesn’t look after our pets. So it’s up to us to make sure they have access to top-notch healthcare when they need it.
For many of us, the only way to do this is by taking out pet insurance.
That said, pet insurance doesn’t come cheap. Plus, there are lots of pitfalls to be aware of. The last thing you want is to make a claim and your insurer refuse to pay out.
Trust us, we’ve heard the horror stories!
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The UK’s Largest Pet Insurer
Up to £12,000/yr Vet Fees
97% of Claims Paid
10% Multi-Pet Discount
Up to £15,000/yr Vets Fees
Pre-Existing Conditions Cover
24 Hour FirstVet Helpline
15% Multi-Pet Discount
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£12,000 a Year Vets Fees
24 Hour Vetfone Helpline
10% Online Discount
£12,500 a Year Vets Fees
‘Best Claims Service’ 2018/19
£50 Healthcare Voucher
24hr Free Pet Health Helpline
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How We Came Up With Our List
The best pet insurance is rarely the cheapest. So while cost was definitely a factor, it wasn’t the main consideration.
If you want cheap pet insurance, you’d be best looking on Confused.com or another comparison site.
To come up with our list, we compared the quality of each policy and considered things like;
- Customer service
- Transparency of charges, penalties and price hikes
- Clarity of policies
- Customer experience when making a claim
To create a fair and accurate list, we;
- Consulted with industry experts
- Reviewed research from consumer report companies like Which? and Defaqto
- Considered which awards various pet insurers have won, and
- Talked with our customers and regular pet owners over the last 7 years to get their experiences
What is Pet Insurance?
And How Does it Work?
Pet insurance is for covering the cost of treatment if your pet gets ill or hurts itself.
You pay your monthly or annual premium and hope your pet doesn’t hurt themselves or become ill. If they do, you pay an agreed excess amount and the insurer will cover the remaining cost of treatment.
This could be a few hundred pounds. It could run into thousands if your pet develops an ongoing condition.
Pet insurance covers the cost of life’s emergencies. It’s not for paying for routine treatments like worming tablets or grooming.
When to Get Pet Insurance
No matter how young or old your pet is, accidents and illness can happen at any time.
If your pet suffers an injury or illness before they’re insured, no insurer will cover it. They will class it as a pre-existing condition.
This is why it’s important to have pet insurance in place as soon as possible.
What Pets Can I Insure?
From Dogs to Donkeys & Anything in Between
Dogs & Cats
Are the most popular pets. As a result so most insurance companies only cover them.
You can also get insurance for rabbits. Although they’re not covered by as many insurers.
Horses & Equine
Equine insurance is specialised. You can cover the animal as well as yourself, as the rider.
You can insure exotics like parrots, reptiles and some mammals, through specialist insurers.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Illnesses, Injuries & Other Conditions
Pet insurance cover varies from company to company and no two policies are ever the same. As such, it’s worth taking your time to read through a company’s policy documents to see exactly what’s covered. Most (not all so check!) insurers offer the following;
Basic policies provide as little as £1,000 per year in vet fee cover. The more comprehensive policies cover up to £15,000 per year for vet fees.
If your dog damages someone’s property or runs into the road and causes a crash, this will cover the cost of legal fees and claims made against you.
Many insurers offer some kind of dental cover. This usually only applies to dental injuries but some providers might also cover dental illnesses.
Missing Pet Cover
Sadly, pets do go missing. Either by straying or theft. Missing pet cover can pay for printing posters and offering rewards for their safe return.
If you need to go to the hospital and there’s no one to look after your pet, some insurers will cover the cost of kennel/cattery, even pet sitting fees.
Death By Illness/Injury
Some policies cover the cost of burial or cremation if your pet dies. Some will pay out a fixed fee to cover the purchase prices of a new pet.
What Pet Insurance DOESN’T Cover
Exclusions to Be Aware Of
This is a medical condition or injury that occurred before taking out a policy. There are two types of pre-existing condition;
- Chronic Conditions: These are ongoing problems or illnesses like hip dysplasia or epilepsy.
- Historic Conditions: These are illnesses or injuries your pet no longer suffers from. A broken leg or cat flu. for example.
Most pet insurers will exclude pre-existing conditions when you sign up with them. That said some insurers might cover them if your pet hasn’t been treated for them in the past 2 years.
Just like car insurance doesn’t cover servicing, pet insurance doesn’t cover routine treatments. These include;
- Flea and worm treatments
- Claw clipping
- Dental hygiene
Despite not covering these treatments, many insurers say you must have them for your policy to remain valid.
14-Day Exclusion Period
Most insurance providers have a 14 day ‘exclusion period’. This gives you two weeks to change your mind about a policy.
That said, this isn’t really why it exists.
It’s there to prevent you from taking out insurance just to pay for a condition your pet is suffering from right now. So if your pet develops an illness in those first 14 days, you’ll need to cover the cost yourself.
Some insurers will waive the exclusion period if you’re switching from another provider.
Breeding & Commercial Animals
Most pet insurance policies won’t cover pets used for commercial purposes.
- Breeding and the costs associated with pregnancy and giving birth
- Dogs used for security and guarding
- Dogs used for racing
If you need to insure an animal for any of these purposes, you’ll need a specialist policy.
Types of Pet Insurance
4 Types of Policy
There are different types of pet insurance policies. All of which provide different types and levels of cover. These are the four main types of policy;
These are generally the cheapest policies available. The price reflects the level of cover you can expect.
As the name suggests, this type of policy will only the cost of treatment if your pet has an accident.
Some policies (but not all, so check!) cover emergency illness and/or illnesses resulting from an accident.
Time-limited insurance covers up to a maximum cost per condition. Up to £1,000 of vet fees, for example.
You can claim up to the maximum cover amount, or for a 12 month period, whichever comes first.
Your insurance company will then exclude that condition from your policy – even when you renew it.
As with time-limited policies, maximum benefit policies cover up to a maximum amount per condition. This could be £4,000 for example.
The difference being that there is no time limit placed on how long you can claim for.
Once you have claimed the total amount set by the policy, there will be no further payouts. You will need to cover the cost of any ongoing treatment yourself.
Lifetime insurance provides a set amount of cover for vet fees per year. This could be £10,000 for example. Each year your policy renews, the amount of cover renews with it.
This means your pet, is covered throughout its lifetime, as long as the policy remains active.
This is the most expensive type of insurance. That said, it’s by far the most comprehensive and is the one that gives owners the most peace of mind.
Choosing The Right Type of Policy
For You and Your Pets
The type of policy you choose will depend on your budget, the type of pets you own and how much cover you want for them.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself;[su_accordion class=””] [su_spoiler title=”How is Your Financial Situation?” open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” anchor_in_url=”no” class=””]
It might be tempting to opt for the cheapest level of cover because finances are tight. But what if that policy doesn’t cover the cost of any treatment your pet might need in the future?
We’ve seen pet owners left with no choice but to put their pets to sleep because they were underinsured. They just couldn’t afford to pay for treatment themselves.
Yes, some insurance is better than none. But be realistic about how much you can afford to put to the cost of treatment if your policy stops paying out.
Could you reorganise your finances to give your loved one a better level of cover?[/su_spoiler][su_spoiler title=”What Type(s) of Pet(s) Do You Own?” open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” anchor_in_url=”no” class=””]
Some animals are more susceptible to certain conditions than others. So you should educate yourself about the types of pet(s) you own.
For instance, large dog breeds are often prone to hip dysplasia. It’s worth considering these things when you are thinking about what type of policy to choose.
Pedigree animals are more likely to develop health issues. This is due to the size of their gene pools and inbreeding. Not only that, but they’re at higher risk of theft.[/su_spoiler][su_spoiler title=”Are You a Worrier?” open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” anchor_in_url=”no” class=””]
If you’re the type of person that worries a lot, you might want to consider this when choosing a policy.
You might not ever use it. But just knowing you have a comprehensive policy in place if anything should go wrong will make you feel better.[/su_spoiler] [/su_accordion]
The Cost of Pet Insurance
What You Can Expect to Pay
According to Which? The average cost of pet insurance in the UK is;
How Much is Dog Insurance?
£472 a year, or £39.33 per month.
How Much is Cat Insurance?
£285 a year, or £23.75 per month.
You might pay more, you might pay less. Also, these prices will differ depending on the type of pets you’re insuring. Either way, the cost of your policy will depend on the following factors;
The Insurance Company
No two insurance companies are the same and neither are their policies. Each having different levels of vet fees, different inclusions and exclusions.
The Type/Breed of Pet
Mixed breeds have fewer health issues than pedigrees thanks to their genetic diversity. Also, pedigree animals are more expensive and more desirable. As such, they’re at greater risk of being stolen.
The Policy Type
You might only pay £5 a month for a basic, accident-only policy. But if you choose a comprehensive, lifetime policy you could pay £80 a month or more.
Your Pet’s Age
The younger your pet is, the cheaper it will be to insure. The cost of insurance can double when your pet reaches 8 years old as they’re classed as ‘seniors’.
Where You Live
The cost of veterinary care in your area will affect the cost of your policy. Also, the risk of animal theft where you live will have an impact on how much you pay.
How to Save Money On Pet Insurance
Things You Can Do
Pet insurance isn’t cheap. That said, there are things you can do to save money when you take out a policy;
Keep Your Pet Healthy
Feed them a good diet, keep them up to date with vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, give them proper exercise etc. This will reduce the chances of them getting ill in the first place.
Choose the Right Policy
Accident only policies are cheap, but they’re useless if your pet develops an ongoing illness. On the other hand, lifetime cover might be too much for your pet’s needs.
Consider Spaying or Neutering
This reduces the chances of your pet developing related health issues as well as straying. As a result, it can reduce the cost of insuring them.
Get multiple quotes from different insurance providers and compare their policies. Use comparison sites like Confused.com, Go Compare etc.
If you own more than one pet, trying insuring them with the same provider to get a multi-pet discount. That said, it can often be cheaper to insure them separately, so check.
How to Complain About Your Pet Insurance Provider
What to Do if You’re Not Happy
The insurance industry as a whole doesn’t have the best reputation.
An insurance company might be brilliant for some but be a complete nightmare for you. So if;
- You feel that you should have got a payout and didn’t
- A claim is taking too long
- You’ve suffered unfair charges
Or anything else, call your insurance company and discuss it with them.
If they’re no help then go to http://www.resolver.co.uk/complaints/insurance-complaints.
This service was created by Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert.
You can raise complaints with 210 insurance companies through this website. So the likelihood is that your provider is listed here.
- Explain your rights to you
- Help you prepare email communications
- Let you record all communications – including phone calls
- Create a case file for you
- Let you know when to escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service
And best of all, its FREE!
To Sum Up
For Many of Us Pet Insurance Is a Necessary Evil
Our pets are a huge part of our lives and they’re as likely to become ill or hurt themselves as we are. So it’s up to us to make sure they can get treatment as and when they need it.
Vet bills are rising and according to Statista, the average insurance claim in 2019 was £822. That’s up from £793 in 2018. As veterinary treatment becomes more sophisticated, costs are only going to keep rising.
For many of us, pet insurance is the only way to make vet care more affordable. It’s a necessary evil.
My name is Ben Doyle and I co-own Pet Checkers. I spend most of my time looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When I’m not taking care of animals, I’m photographing them and writing about them here on our website.