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What Does Pet Insurance Cover in the UK?

Compare Cheap Pet Insurance

Pet cover can help with vet bills. Protect your dog or cat today.

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Before buying a pet insurance policy, it's important to be aware of both what is and is not covered under the terms of the contract. Many annual vet expenses will not be covered by your policy—no matter how good it is. For instance, expenses related to health and well being are never reimbursed—insurance won't pay for costs like neutering/spaying, vaccinations or flea/tick/wormer medication. To avoid being caught off guard by vet bills, be sure to read the wording of your specific policy terms.

Pet Insurance Coverage

At the heart of most pet insurance policies is coverage for accidents and illnesses that your pet may suffer. Accident cover provides reimbursement for vet bills to treat injuries from a one-off, unexpected event like a broken leg or a torn nail. Illness cover extends to treatment for infections or disease.

Examples of Common Ailments Covered by Pet Insurance

Accident CoverIllness Cover
Swallowing a foreign objectSkin disorders
Hit by a carEar infections
Break a boneEye illness
Cuts/lacerationsGastrointestinal ailment

Clearly one risk of not buying pet insurance is that you'll have to pay 100% of an injury or illness that occurs today. But there's an even greater risk that many pet owners are unaware of—not having pet insurance today can preclude you from certain coverage in the future, too. Pre-existing conditions are generally excluded from coverage, which means that any illness or injury that happens to your pet while uninsured will likely never be covered under future policies you may buy. Insurers will require a vet check to identify any pre-existing conditions and certify the health of your pet.

Accident-Only vs. Accident & Illness

The most comprehensive and common types of pet insurance cover both accidents and illness. Aside from pre-existing conditions, most insurers will cover most injuries and ailments that may befall your pet. This type of insurance typically ranges from £5 to £75 per month (or more for some breeds). Types of pet insurance policies that cover both accident and illness include time-limited, maximum benefit and lifetime.

vet holding a cat and a dog

Some insurers also offer a cheaper accident-only cover. Since more visits to the vet are due to illness than accident, however, these accident-only policies can leave you financially vulnerable if/when your pet falls ill due to disease or infection. Beware of the cheapest policies as they may offer accident cover only. Cheapest is not always best, especially when it comes to insurance.

Pet Insurance Exclusions

Each pet insurance company will have their own list of excluded claims. Below is a description of exclusions common to many pet insurance policies. Be sure to understand the exclusions on any policy before you buy, as they do vary from insurer to insurer.

Bilateral Conditions:

When a condition affects a body part on one side of the body of which your pet has two (e.g., ears, eyes, knees, cruciate ligaments), both body parts are essentially counted as one. This matters when it comes to insurance policies with a maximum benefit limit, which impose a maximum reimbursement amount per condition.

For example, an ear infection on the left side and another on the right side are considered to be one bilateral condition (e.g., ear infections), not two separate conditions (e.g., right ear infection and left ear infection). If your maximum benefit per condition is £1,000 then the most the insurance company will pay in reimbursements for both ear infections is £1,000 total (not £1,000 per ear).

Pre-existing conditions:

Insurers generally will not cover any pre-existing conditions—that is, any injury or illness that your pet had before the commencement date of a policy. Pre-existing conditions extend to include previous injuries or illnesses, even if your pet is healthy when the policy starts. For example, if your pet suffered an ear infection years ago, any new policy for which you apply would exclude ear infections as a pre-existing condition—even if at the commencement of the new policy your pet is infection free.

That said, we have found three pet insurance companies that cover pre-existing conditions. If your pet has been ill or injured in the past, you may want to consider a plan from one of these insurers.

Routine and preventative care:

Routine and preventative treatments are not covered under pet insurance policies. Despite being helpful in preventing future illnesses, insurance generally won't reimburse for the following:

  • Bathing/dematting
  • Flea/tick/worm medicine

Claims made in the first 5 - 14 days

The window varies from insurer to insurer, but typically a pet insurance policy will not cover claims made during an initial waiting period, for accidents/injuries in the first 5 days or illnesses in the first 14 days of the policy commencement date. Insurance companies impose this window to prevent pet owners from taking out insurance only once their pet becomes ill or injured.

3rd Party Liability and Other Features

Pet insurance in the UK wider coverage than just health care. Most policies offer some or all of the following added features. 3rd party liability is somewhat standard, whereas the other features may or may not be covered on your policy, or may be available as an add on for extra cost.

  • 3rd party liability (people and property)
  • Death benefits
  • Loss of pet (theft or straying)
  • Overseas cover
  • Holiday cancellation
  • Advertising and Reward
  • Boarding fees

Before buying a policy, be sure to understand how pet insurance works. Read through the terms thoroughly to see if the offered coverage is sufficient for the needs of both you and your pet.

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