How does pet insurance work? The ins and outs of insuring your pets

By DogDialog Team on 27 July 2017

At DogDialog, we know that pet insurance can sometimes be a bit of a tricky subject for owners, which is why we decided to write this article to help you answer that important question; how does pet insurance work?

Understanding what pet insurance actually covers

Pet insurance is only intended to cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your insured animal falls ill or is injured in an accident, so fleaing, worming, and annual vaccinations are all expenses that you will remain liable for.

Some policies do offer additional cover and may also pay out if your pet dies, is lost or stolen, or causes injury or damage to a third party or third party property.

This type of insurance is not just limited to cats and dogs. Lots of insurers will cover a wide range of other animal species, from horses to birds, rabbits, chinchillas, ferrets, and even exotic pets like snakes and lizards.


The specifics

Most insurance policies will offer some combination of the following:

Vet fee cover
Vet fee cover covers you for medical expenses, not including routine visits to the vets. The amount your insurer will pay-out in the event of an accident or injury typically ranges from £500 to £12,000.

Death by accident or illness
This ensures that if your pet perishes, you can get back either the amount you paid for it, or the amount you would have been able to sell it for. There is usually an age limit attached to this aspect of policies – typically, this is around seven to 10 years old for cats, and seven to eight years old for dogs.

Cover for advertising
You will find that some insurers offer cover for advertising in the event of your pet going missing. This allows you to claim back the cost of putting up posters and paying out a reward should this happen.

Third-party liability
Third-party liability is usually only included in dog and horse policies. It means that if your animal injures a third party or causes damage to their property, the insurer will pay out for legal costs, your expenses, and the claimant’s expenses. Other animals are legally considered ‘free spirits’ so their cover does not require this add-on.

Overseas travel cover
Some insurers will also offer overseas travel cover to protect your pet if they fall ill, are involved in an accident or require veterinary treatment while abroad.

Cattery and kennel fees
You may find that your policy includes cattery and kennel fees, which will be covered in the event that you are hospitalised and left unable to care for your pet by yourself.

Euthanasia, cremation and burial
Some insurers will be willing to contribute to these costs as part of your policy.

Dental cover
Should your pet require dental treatment, it is covered under this part of your policy. Lots of insurers will only pay out for damage caused by accidents, although some will cover issues relating to illness too.

The types of pet insurance policy

Cover will generally fall into one of four categories, each of them explained below.

Accident-only policies
Usually the most economical option available, accident-only policies will cover your costs in the event of an accident, but they won’t do much else. Although some will also cover emergency illnesses and/or those resulting from an accident, you must be sure to read the small print carefully to check whether this is the case.

Time-limited policies
The most common type of policy, they work by providing cover up to a certain amount per condition and, should you make a claim for that condition, you usually have a 12-month limit placed on treatment costs, after which you’ll be responsible for covering any additional expenses relating to the problem yourself. The condition will then be excluded from the policy in future.

Maximum-benefit policies
Like time-limited policies, maximum-benefit policies cover conditions up to a set amount, but they have no time limit placed on how long you can claim for. This means that even if the ongoing effects of the illness or injury require treatment for the remainder of your pet’s life, the insurer must continue to pay out for this – until your outlay exceeds the policy limit.

Lifetime/covered for life policies
Commonly referred to as life policies, this last type of insurance provides a set annual amount of cover for veterinary fees, which renews each year. This means that the animal is covered for the entirety of its life, provided that the policy remains active. Although the most expensive option, this is also the most comprehensive and provides owners with ultimate peace of mind.

Insuring older pets

One subject we haven’t yet touched on is older pets. Difficulties can arise when insuring senior animals, as premiums tend to rise year-on-year, putting owners in an uncomfortable position.

They have two options and neither are particularly pleasant:
stay with their current insurer and pay more each year, or look for someone else knowing that pre-existing conditions will be excluded and that many providers do not cover OAPs at all.

Assuming you don’t have lifelong cover, here’s what we would recommend:
spend some time shopping around to see if there is a better and more economical policy out there – pet insurance comparison sites can help you with this – but don’t cancel your current policy until you find one.


Building an emergency pet fund

Some people prefer to build their own pet emergency fund, especially if their past experience has been one of paying out for insurance premiums for years without ever actually having to make a claim.

However, we would only recommend it as a course of action if you’re sure you can build a fund big enough to cover any emergency vet bills. Considering the average cost of a pet insurance claim is around £899, you would need to have a fairly large sum at your disposal to really be on the safe side.

Pet insurance can be invaluable in cases of accident or illness – but only if you find a policy that suits your needs. For more information, ask your insurer.


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