Animal Friends is a very popular pet insurance company that offers relatively cheap pet insurance for the UK market putting lifetime cover within reach of pet owners who might not otherwise be able to afford it. With a full range of 13 different plans covering each type of insurance, there may be a good Animal Friends plan for you if finding cheaper pet insurance is your priority.
However, there are some limitations to Animal Friends policies that we'll explain in this review. For example, none of the plans cover dental illness and only a few cover dental injury. And there are some differences to the Lifetime plans that can be confusing.
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In This Review
- Overall Review
- Policy and Coverage Options
- Comparing Animal Friends to Competitors
Choosing the right cat or dog insurance policy for you will depend upon the individual needs of you and your pet. Use the information in this guide to help you understand which features are important to you in order to make the best buying decision. We also advise reading through the policy wording before you buy.
Animal Friends Pet Insurance Review
Animal Friends offers a wide selection of dog and cat insurance plans at prices that are less than the average cost of pet insurance for budget-conscious dog and cat owners. In fact, their Lifetime policies start from around £130 for dogs and £110 for cats. They have a wide selection of plans to choose from:
|Animal Friends Limits||Annual condition limit||Condition limit||Annual policy limit||Vet excess||Dental Accident|
|Lifetime (per year)||Prestige||£6,000||Unlimited||Unlimited||£99||Accident only (excluding root canals)|
|Assure Plus||n/a||Unlimited||£5,000||£99||Accident only (excluding root canals)|
|Max Benefit (per condition over the life of the pet)||Max Value||n/a||£1,000||n/a||£99||no|
|Time Limited||Prime Plus||£1,000||n/a||£4,000||£99||no|
It's important to note that there are two types of Lifetime policies, those with:
- An overall annual limit (a maximum amount you can claim each year for all of your pet's various injuries and illnesses): Assured, Assured Plus
- A per condition annual limit (a maximum amount you can claim each year per condition, with no overall limit on total annual vet claims): Prestige, Superior Plus, Superior, Super
If it fits in your budget, the Prestige plan offers the highest level of cover (£6,000) for a relatively competitive price for that level of Lifetime pet insurance cover. The Prestige limit of £6K is per condition, which means you can get up to £6K for each unrelated condition every year (e.g. up to £6K for a surgery + up to £6K for treatment of another health condition in one year). While that means you could theoretically make more than £6K of vet claims in a year with Prestige, keep in mind that the plan is not as optimal for covering very high-cost problems—to protect against that, a pet owner might need a plan from a competing companies, as some offer policies with north of £10,000 of coverage for top tiers of cover.
When choosing a plan, keep in mind that lower levels of cover in particular won't be enough to cover more serious issues like surgery or expensive diagnostics like MRIs, which now cost around £2,500.
Claiming should be relatively easy with Animal Friends. The company is big and has an efficient claims system called Pawtal, which most vets are accustomed to working with. You only have 90 days to submit claims, however, which is less time than you'll find on some competitors like Petplan.
And we should point out that Animal Friends has made some positive changes in the past year or so, which we're pleased to see. These include a free 24/7 vet video app to get advice from home, dental injury on a few plans and some new Lifetime options.
Animal Friends never covers:
- Dental illness
Why is Animal Friend so cheap? There are a few features that Animal Friends plans don't cover. No policies cover dental illness, which could be needed if gingivitis leads to a dog needing teeth pulled, for example. Only two plans (Prestige and Assure Plus) cover dental accident, for instance a chipped tooth that needs treating. Also, there's no cover for cremation/burial. (There is cover for euthanasia as part of vet fees as long as the vet confirms the euthanasia was necessary and it is because of a condition that they would normally cover under the vet fee benefit.)
Another potential limitation is language in the policy wording that the company can limit reimbursement to "vet fees deemed reasonable and essential by our vet advisor", which could conceivably reduce a claim pay out.
And the shorter 90-day claim window means you need to stay on top of your claims and submit them in a timely manner. This should be helped by vets using the Pawtal system, however.
Those who have older pets or are switching insurers should be aware that, like most pet insurers, Animal Friends does not cover pre-existing conditions. They define pre-existing conditions as follows:
- Any condition, symptom or sign of a condition occurring or existing in any form and at any time prior to the commencement date; or
- Any illness, symptom or sign of an illness occurring or existing in any form during the first 14 days of the commencement date.
There are a handful of insurers who do cover pre-existing conditions, which you can read about here.
What's the Animal Friends Excess?
For most Animal Friends policies (except Max Benefit) the policyholder pays the £99 excess once per condition per policy year. That is, you pay the excess upon a condition's first claim, and if the claim continues past the annual renewal then you pay the excess again.
There are two exceptions to this:
1) On a Max Benefit policy, you only pay the excess once per condition during the life of your pet.
2) On the new Assured and Assured Plus lifetime products you only pay the £99 excess once per year (no matter how many conditions you claim for).
|Animal Friends Excess/Copay|
|Older Pets (dogs aged 8+, cats aged 10+)||£99 plus 20% of remaining vet bills|
For older pets (dogs aged 8+ and cats aged 10+), owners pay an additional amount towards vet bills in the form of a 20% co-payment (so the pet owner's contribution becomes £99 + 20% of the remaining vet bills for older pets).
Customer Experience Ratings
|Animal Friends Ratings|
|Defaqto||1 star (Accident Only)|
|2 star (Basic And Basic Plus time limited policies)|
|3 star (all other plans)|
|Trustpilot||4.4 out of 5 stars|
Animal Friends is rated a very solid 4.4 out of 5 stars for customer experience, according to more than 23,000 customers surveyed on Trust Pilot. More than 3/4 of customers rated Animals Friends as 'Excellent', highlighting good value for money, helpful customer service and prompt payment of claims. Here are some real life customer comments:
"Claiming was easy and hassle free. Very impressed. And to top it off my lovely dog Ellie is fit and healthy once more"
"Always kept good contact through any claim. Paid out fast and very easy to talk to when we had any questions."
"On the two occasions I’ve needed to claim Animal Friends have paid out promptly and communicated with compassion."
"Excellent service after my dog had to have an operation."
"Very happy with level of cover and competitive premium."
"Dealing with Animal Friends is effortless. Staff are extremely helpful and the claims process is extremely easy, particularly when the provider is registered with Animal Friends. I am absolutely delighted that I chose to go with Animal Friends."
Of course, not all customers write glorious reviews. A few common complaints are price rises for existing customers, the 20% copay for older pets, lack of payment for some out of hours claims and failure to pay when Animal Friends links a new condition to a pre-existing condition or a condition excluded by the terms. Here are a few more real life customer comments:
"I have not had to use my pet insurance as thankfully I have a healthy animal... I do wish that the premiums didn't go up as all the years I have paid are in your Bank account."
"I've been with this company for approximately 10 years and never had to claim, now I have I'm hit with 20% of the bill and a refusal to pay out of hours costs."
"...they didn’t pay saying it was a previous illness—it wasn’t. It was an injury. Although they payed for the X-ray initially, but not for the op."
"... the vets were very worried as his breed are prone to Pancreatitis and needed to do more tests. The results came back clear. I have now put in my claim of over £400, and it has been declined as a pre-existing condition because my dog has vomited in the past."
"I am absolutely shocked and appalled by the service we have received. Our dog Charlie suffered with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis and had to go into vet hospital over-night. We were charged a ridiculous £903 for this. As Charlie had had a number of teeth extracted 3 days earlier Animal Friends wouldn't pay up as our insurance doesn't cover teeth and gums. The two are completely unlinked and there is no clinical evidence what so ever that they were linked (as stated and written by the vet.) We have dutifully paid our insurance for YEARS and never made a claim. Save your money - this is a robbing insurance company that will do anything to avoid your claim. We will be stopping our insurance with them."
"... Unfortunately on bank holiday Monday my dog fell while running and damaged his foot he was screaming in agony couldn’t put his foot to the ground and was obviously in distress, of course the most obvious thing to do for your loved pet is to take it to a vet. After paying the excess fee I made a claim from animal friends and was told that they only pay emergency vet fee if it’s life threatening!! So a nearly £400 vet fee they only paid out £80..."
Animal Friends Quote Comparison
Animal Friends is relatively cheap pet insurance compared to some competitors, but how much does it really cost and which plan fits in your budget? We gathered sample prices for dog insurance and cat insurance from Animal Friends to get a rough idea. Depending on factors like the breed (e.g., Bulldogs) and age of your pet and more, you may be quoted more or less than these figures. Each case is priced by Animal Friends based on the details of the application.
Cheap Animal Friends Premiums vs. Market Averages
It can be difficult to compare quotes across insurers, as coverage, features and excess amounts vary considerable. However, we think it is still useful to compare the average cost of Animal Friends policies to average prices in the UK market. Keeping in mind that cover amounts and excesses differ, you can see that Animal Friends polices come in cheaper which can help those not sure if they can afford pet insurance.
Animal Friends Notable Features
Here is a brief overview of the notable features of Animal Friends dog and cat insurance. For a complete rundown of the details and exclusions, please refer to the policy documents.
|Animal Friends Pet Insurance Features|
|Unlimited Annual Cover on some plans||On max benefit and some lifetime policies there is no annual policy cap on vet bill reimbursement; There are per condition caps, however—a lifetime condition limit for max benefit and an annual condition limit for some lifetime policies; This sounds confusing at first, but means that the per condition cap resets each year on the Superior Plus, Superior and Super lifetime policies, giving you a fresh pot of money from which to claim each year for each condition|
|Complementary Therapy||Acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, Chiropractic manipulation, osteopathy, physiotherapy, laser therapy and hydrotherapy (performed by a recognised party)|
|Pawtal||Reimbursement times can be sped up if your vet is signed up with Animal Friends and can bill the insurance company directly|
|Vet video calls||Free, unlimited vet video calls 24/7 through the joii app, which includes access to a comprehensive symptom checker, preventative care with vet nurses and free health clinics|
|Cover for Holiday Cut Short||Cover if you have to cancel or curtail your holiday because your pet needs emergency life-saving surgery within 14 days of departure; trips booked last minute, within 28 days of departure, are excluded.|
|Emergency Boarding||Cover for boarding costs if you need to spend more than 4 days in the hospital|
|Dental||No cover on most plans; dental accidental injury only (excluding root canals) on Prestige and Assure Plus|
|Travel||Vet fee cover for up to three trips of 30 days each for all policies except Accident Only|
|Euthanasia||Covered as long as the vet confirms the euthanasia was necessary and it is because of a condition that Animal Friends would normally cover under the vet fee benefit|
|Cremation and burial||No cover|
Types of Animal Friends Policies
Animal Friends, through underwriter Red Sands, offers a wide array of policies from which to choose. We've broken them out according to type of policy (listed in order of least to most cover): Accident Only, Time Limited, Max Benefit and Lifetime.
Animal Friends Accident Only Cover
The simplest and least expensive cover, Accident Only policies over covers accidental injury—not for illnesses (e.g., tumours, ear infections, digestive trouble, rashes, etc.). Additionally, there's no provision for public liability, personal accident, accidental damage, etc. Accident Only is a very basic level of pet insurance.
|Policy Name:||Accident Only Cover Amounts|
|Annual Condition Limit||£2,500|
|Lifetime Condition Limit||£15,000|
|Theft & Straying||n/a|
|Advertising & Reward||n/a|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||n/a|
|Death Of Pet||n/a|
|Overseas Travel Cover||n/a|
Animal Friends Time Limited Cover
Animal Friends sells three Time Limited pet insurance products that cover vet bills for injuries and illnesses for up to one year per condition. Cover ranges from £500 up to £4,000 of vet bills (per condition, for up to one year of cover). The annual policy limits (which you'll notice are higher) enable you to claim on multiple conditions within the same year.
Time Limited pet insurance policies have a significant limitation—bilateral conditions start the 12-month clock ticking for BOTH sides of the body. For example, if your pet has an ear infection in the left year, you only have one year to claim for ear infections on BOTH ears. After a year is up, you will not be reimbursed for ear infections again, in either ear.
|Policy Name: Limits||Basic Plus Limits||Prime Limits||Prime Plus Limits|
Annual Condition Limit
Annual Policy Limit
Theft & Straying
Advertising & Reward
Boarding Kennel / Cattery
Death Of Pet
Overseas Travel Cover
Animal Friends Max Benefit Cover
Animal Friends offers three levels of Maximum Benefit pet insurance cover, with £1,000, £2,000 or £4,000 of cover per condition. You're able to claim this amount for a condition over the course of your pet's life (so long as the policy remains in force)—there is no time limit.
Max Benefit policies have the same bilateral condition limitation. For example, let's say you have the £1,000 max benefit policy and your pet has a complicated ear infection requiring multiple trips to the vet and prescription meds, costing £450 in total. This ear infection depletes your "ear infection pot" (aka "otitis") by £450, leaving you with £550 for all future ear conditions. As your pet has two ears, ear infections are considered a bilateral condition and this remaining £550 is the amount available for treatment of both ears.
|Policy Name:||Max Value Limits||Max Plus Limits||Max Extra Limits|
|Annual Condition Limit||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Lifetime Condition Limit||£1,000||£2,000||£4,000|
|Theft & Straying||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Advertising & Reward||£200||£200||£200|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Death Of Pet||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Overseas Travel Cover||£1,500||£2,000||£2,000|
Animal Friends Lifetime Cover
Broadly speaking, Lifetime policies offer the best cover because the limits reset each year when you renew, even if you have claimed. Prestige policy being Animal Friend's most premium product.
Some of the Lifetime policies by Animal Friends work a bit differently than other Lifetime products in the UK market—specifically, there is an annual condition limit on four of the options (Super, Superior, Superior Plus and Prestige), but no annual policy limit. Usually it's the other way around. For these policies, each year you have a certain amount (£1,000, £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000) to use for a given condition—and this renews each year. You can claim for as many ailments in a year as necessary, however, as there is no overall annual limit.
Animal Friends has recently launched two new Lifetime products called Assure and Assure Plus that are more in line with the traditional Lifetime coverage in the UK market, where there is an overall annual limit but no per condition limit.
|Policy Name:||Super Limits||Superior Limits||Superior Plus Limits||Prestige Limits||Assure Limits||Assure Plus Limits|
|Annual Condition Limit||£1,000||£2,000||£4,000||£6,000||n/a||n/a|
|Annual Policy Limit||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||£3,000||£5,000|
|Theft & Straying||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500||£600||£1,200|
|Advertising & Reward||£200||£200||£200||£1,000||£200||£600|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500||£600||£1,200|
|Death Of Pet||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500||£600||£1,200|
|Overseas Travel Cover||£1,500||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000|
- Illnesses after 14 days of the commencement date
- Accident or injury that occurs after 5 days of the commencement date
- Accident or injury affecting the Cruciate ligament after 14 days of the commencement date
How does Animal Friends Insurance Compare to Competitors?
To better understand the value of Animal Friends pet insurance you need to look at it in the context of other available options. We compared it to other plans in the market so you can see which may be more suitable for you.
Animal Friends Insurance vs Agria Pet Insurance
Agria Pet Insurance offers comprehensive Lifetime plans for lower-than-average prices. Many features are offered as extras, which means that you don't need to pay for certain features if you don't want to—if you never take your pet abroad to Europe, then you don't need to buy the Travel cover. Another way that Agria keeps prices lower is through a 10% copay/variable excess so pet owners contribute more towards vet fees—the pet owner is responsible for the fixed excess (£95 or £160 for dogs, £85 or £160 for cats) than another 10% of vet bills. We like that Agria is a specialist pet insurer with a long history, offering some desirable features such as dental, euthanasia and cremation/burial, sensible out-of-hours reimbursement and cover for congenital conditions. The cost for a young, healthy crossbreed dog is around £350 per year for a plan with £6,500 of vet cover and a £95 fixed excess + 10% copay; a British shorthair with an £85 excess + 10% copay would cost around £325 for the same level of cover.
Bottom Line: If you want a relatively low annual premium, but want longer to submit claims (6+ months), higher limits and dental cover, then Agria can be a good option—but even owners of younger pets will pay a larger share of any vet bills that arise due to the standard 10% copay.
Animal Friends Insurance vs John Lewis Pet Insurance
John Lewis Pet Insurance offers solid Lifetime plans and competitive prices, good for those who value a longer time to submit claims and features like EU travel cover, dental injury (but not illness), a 24-hour vetfone, euthanasia cover, cover if your holiday is cut short due to your pet being ill and boarding cover if you are hospitalized unexpectedly. Those hoping for a lower excess can choose a fixed excess as low as £60. Like many insurers, the excess will rise for older pets, however, becoming the greater of your fixed £ excess and 20% of the vet bill for each condition each year. You can chose a Lifetime plan for which you'll pay, for instance, around £375 for £3k of cover with a £60 excess or £550 for £7.5k of cover. A higher excess can lower the premium, if that's what you want—but you'll be on the hook for the excess should you need to claim.
Bottom Line: You may have to pay a bit more for a John Lewis plan, but there are no per-condition limits, you get access to a 24-hour vetfone and you have longer (up to a year) to submit claims.
Animal Friends Insurance vs Pet Protect Pet Insurance
Pet Protect Pet Insurance is another specialist pet insurer whose low-priced plans offer a host of features such as euthanasia cover, travel cover, dental illness and injury, prescription food and cover for congenital & hereditary conditions (e.g, heart murmur or hip dysplasia), plus owners have up to 6 months to submit claims. There are no per-condition limits. Owners of older pets should be aware that new policies are not available to dogs 6+ or 8+ (breed dependent) or cats 10+, plus the fixed excess and copay amount rise steadily as your pet ages. Our price check showed a range of £180 to £210 for £4k to £6k of Lifetime cover, respectively, for a healthy, young crossbreed dog, significantly lower than average.
Bottom Line: Those looking for a lower-priced Lifetime plan might want to consider Pet Protect since there are no per-condition limits and wide-ranging features, but be sure you're comfortable with the copay (which rises with age up from 5% to 25%).