While the good news is that four companies now offer pet insurance for pre-existing conditions in the UK, the bad news is that there are stark differences between the different options—and choosing the wrong plan could mean your pet isn't covered and you're on the hook for some hefty vet bills.
Read our expert analysis to find the best cover for your pet—an avoid sub-par coverage. Below we explain the differences in cover to help you decide which one is best for you and your pet.
- Does Pet Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?
- Best Pet Insurance for Pre-Existing Conditions
- Details of Pre-Existing Pet Insurance Coverage
- Average Cost of Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance
Does Pet Insurance Generally Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?
The vast majority of UK pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, but there are exceptions. If your pet has a pre-existing condition, most companies will either refuse to insure your pet or offer cover that excludes treatment related to the condition. As a result, customers may think they're trapped with the same insurer, unable to change even if faced with rising, higher-than-expected premiums.
What's the Best Pre-Exisiting Pet Insurance?
In our opinion, Scratch & Patch and Bought By Many offer the most comprehensive cover for pets with pre-existing pet insurance. Why? These two companies will cover recent or even current pre-existing conditions. (In contrast, the other two options—Lifetime Pet Cover and VetsMediCover—are less robust because they only cover conditions once your pet has been healthy for two years.)
Scratch & Patch can cover your pet for certain pre-existing conditions immediately under their "Champ" product line. As part of the quotation process you'll need to provide information on your pet's medical history, which will determine if they can provide cover for your pet's pre-existing conditions or not—and at what price.
This system is really efficient—it's part of the online quote system—so you'll know immediately whether or not your pet's pre-existing conditions are covered. Pre-existing conditions can be fully covered right away or subject to a lower vet fee limit such as £500. Getting "pre-approved" like this for your pet's medical conditions can be a huge relief to pet owners, removing uncertainty over future coverage.
Bought By Many's pre-existing policy covers conditions so long as your pet has been healthy for three months before you purchase your policy. These recent pre-existing conditions (between 3 months and 2 years in the past) will be covered for a limited amount initially, with cover starting at £500 and potentially rising to £7,000 over time if you don't claim for them. (Once a condition has been gone for 2 years you get full cover for that issue.)
Pet Insurance for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Here is a summary of the pre-existing cover currently on offer in the UK:
|Pre-Existing Pet Insurance Companies UK|
|Scratch & Patch|
|Bought By Many|
|Lifetime Pet Cover|
Pet Insurance for Older Cats and Dogs with Pre-Existing Conditions
Older pets are more likely to have a medical history and need pre-existing cover, but you may face restrictions on some plans as a function of their age. For example, of the plans mentioned above for pre-existing conditions, Bought By Many, Lifetime Pet Cover and Scratch & Patch have no age restrictions and should offer cover regardless of your pet's age. VetsMediCover will consider pets up to age 8 for new policies—once your pet is covered, however, you should be able to keep renewing past the age of 8.
|Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance for Older Pets||Upper Age Limit|
|Bought By Many||No upper age limit|
|Lifetime Pet Cover||No upper age limit|
|Scratch & Patch||No upper age limit|
|VetsMediCover||8 years old for new policies (but renewals for pets are allowed over age 8)|
When is a Pet Considered Healthy?
A condition is no longer considered a pre-existing condition by these companies once they've been "healthy" for a certain period of time. "Healthy" has a slightly different definition by insurer but essentially means your dog or cat has been symptom, medication, advice and treatment free from a condition for a minimum time, with no long-term effects or weaknesses.
Features and Coverage for Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance
Here is in-depth information on the different options to help you learn more about how and when pre-existing conditions are covered by each plan, plus other notable details.
Scratch & Patch Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance
Scratch & Patch pet insurance is actively innovating to offer new pet insurance options for UK pets with pre-existing conditions. They have recently introduced "Champ" products, which provide either £2.5k, £4k of £8k of Lifetime vet cover—your choice. This range of products works a bit differently than competitors mentioned on this page because before you sign up you can find out if your pet's pre-existing conditions will be accepted or not through an online screening system—the first of its kind in the UK. If accepted, you get cover right off the bat for your pet's pre-existing conditions (i.e., after the initial 14-day waiting period). You can find out if your pet's conditions will be covered, and how much it will cost, by filling out a quote directly with Scratch & Patch.
Scratch & Patch defines a pre-existing condition as:
However, any injury, illness or condition declared by you in the veterinary medical screening declaration and accepted by Scratch & Patch and noted on your insurance documents is not considered to be a pre-existing condition.
While Scratch & Patch doesn't offer cover for all pre-existing conditions, or all circumstances, here is a list that we obtained from Scratch & Patch of conditions for which they have recently offered cover:
- Back pain
- Broken bone
- Cerebral hypoplasia
- Corneal ulcer
- Cruciate ligament injury
- Diarrhoeae and vomitting
- Ear haematoma
- Elbow dysplasia
- Eye infection
- FIV (Feline)
- Food allergy
- Haemorrghaigc gastroenteritis
- Heart murmur
- Hip replacement
- Liver shunt
- Otitis (ear infection)
- Patellar luxation
- Retinal atrophy
- Sarcoptic mange
- Skin allergy
Scratch & Patch doesn't charge a % copayment, but for Champ product they may impose an additional excess for accepted conditions.
Bought By Many Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance
Bought By Many has a unique approach to pet insurance, where plans are based on feedback from over 40,000 pet owners and they aim to fix problems with the pet insurance market. Bought by Many technically offers the most lenient cover for pets with pre-existing conditions in the UK. All of their policies should cover pre-existing conditions once your pet has been treatment, medication and advice free for two years. Their "Pre-Existing" policy goes even further to protect more recent medical conditions, so long as your pet has been treatment, medication and advice free for three months before your policy starts.
On the Pre-Existing policy, Bought by Many provides £500 of cover in total for all pre-existing conditions in the first year of your policy. If you do not make a claim for any conditions they’ll increase your vet fee limit to £1,000 in the second year and if you still haven’t claimed they’ll increase to the limit to £7,000 from year three onwards. If you do have to make a claim in the first two years for a pre-existing condition that reoccurs, your vet fee limit will remain at or drop to £500 for pre-existing issues. The policy includes up to £7,000 for any new conditions you need to claim for.
Lifetime Pet Cover Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance
If your pet had a health problem in the past that has been completely cured for more than two years, then Lifetime Pet Cover will insure the condition on new policies. Open the Policy Wording and on page 8 you'll find the official language regarding pre-existing conditions. The terms state that a condition will cease to be a pre-existing condition if all of the following are true:
- A condition has been treated and your pet has fully recovered, leaving no susceptibility to future problems or underlying weakness and since that point
- The condition has been treated and your pet has not received any treatment for or in connection with the condition for a continuous period of 24 calendar months
- There are no symptoms or vet consultations relating to the condition for the previous 24 months
Here's a screenshot of the relevant section from the Policy Booklet:
VetsMediCover Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance
VetsMediCover's lifetime pet insurance policies (i.e., Gold, Platinum and Diamond policies) policy wording states that pre-existing conditions will cease to be considered as pre-existing conditions if for twenty four consecutive calendar months:
- Your pet has shown no symptoms of the condition
- You have not consulted a vet with respect to the condition
- Your pet has not received treatment for or in connection with the condition
Pets over 8 years old are not eligible for new policies, so if you have an older pet needing a new pet insurance policy for pre-existing conditions then you may find more luck with Bought by Many or Lifetime Pet Cover. Also, please note that VetsMediCover time limited Silver policies will not cover pre-existing conditions at any time.
Here's a screenshot of the relevant section from the VetsMediCover Policy Booklet:
What is a Pre-Existing Condition for Pet Insurance?
Broadly speaking, a pre-existing condition for pet insurance is an injury or illness that occurred or showed signs before your pet insurance becomes effective. It's important to note that policies often don't become effective right away—that is, a new pet insurance policy officially starts after an initial waiting period that can last for days or weeks and usually differs for accidents vs. illnesses. As a result, an injury or illness is considered to be pre-existing if it affected your pet:
- Before you purchased the policy, or
- During the initial accident or illness waiting period, as appropriate
Additionally, an injury or illness may be considered pre-existing if it is "related to, caused by or shows the same signs of" another previous injury or illness. For instance, bilateral conditions (conditions that occur to a body part of which your pet has a second, such as an ear, eye or hip) are typically treated as one condition by insurers. For example, a previous left ear infection could exclude cover for infections in both ears (i.e., all ear infections would be considered pre-existing).
Why are pre-existing conditions restricted on pet insurance? If pet insurance companies covered pre-existing illnesses and injuries without restriction, then pet owners might be tempted to keep their pet uninsured until an injury or illness occurred. In that situation, however, insurance companies would surely suffer financially and premiums would rise for all pet owners. By setting some rules around pre-existing conditions, pet insurance premiums are kept lower for everyone.
How Much is Pre-Existing Condition Pet Insurance?
Not surprisingly, the average cost of pre-existing pet insurance is generally higher than the cost of regular pet insurance, with prices typically exceeding £400 a year (over £30 a month).
If you're buying from Scratch & Patch, the premium you pay will depend on the health history of your pet. To learn more about rough costs, we obtained sample prices for a 3-year-old dog with pre-existing conditions that have occurred 1 year to 2 years in the past. You may find prices are quite different for your pet, since prices can vary significantly by breed, pet age and even where you live. Be sure to compare quotes from different companies to understand market pricing for your particular situation before deciding which is most suitable and economical for you. Here's what we found:
|Pre-Existing Pet Insurance Average Cost||Plan Name||Condition||Estimated Cost Per Month|
|Bought By Many||Pre-Existing||Vet Limit of £7,000 per year (less for recent pre-existing conditions)|
|Scratch & Patch||Champ||£2,500/yr vet limit^||£4,000/yr vet limit^||£8,000/yr vet limit^|
|Gastroenteritis/Irritable Bowel/Food allergy||£45||£65||£67|
|Hip Dysplasia (post surgery)||£47||£67||£70|
^(potentially less for some accepted conditions)
Pets who have been healthy for over two years will have a wider range of coverages available to them (e.g., all of Bought By Many's policies as well as Lifetime Pet Cover and VetsMediCover), and at cheaper prices.
If you'd like to review the pre-existing terms in detail, please refer to the Policy Wording for each plan. As of the time of writing, these were the most recent terms: