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What You Need to Know: Buying Pet Insurance for Older Pets

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

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Pet insurance coverage shifts noticeably once animals hit a certain age—typically 9 years old for dogs and 9 or 11 years old for cats. Once your pet is “older” in insurance terms, expect greater restrictions on new policies, higher excesses, the introduction of variable percentage co-pays and/or the elimination of purchase-price reimbursement upon death due to injury. Besides the coverage changes, premiums rise with age meaning you'll spend more each year to insure your beloved pet as they grow old.

We’ve read through the policy wording documents for a number of major UK pet insurers to see how their terms and cover change for older pets. Use this information as a guide to help you make insurance decisions, both now and in the future. We have not studied every pet insurer and terms change, so please be sure to carry out your own research before buying an insurance policy.

Insurance Premiums for Older Pets

Pet insurance premiums rise steadily with an animal's age. In order to understand the scope of insurance increases with age, we gathered quotes from a popular UK pet insurer for a Labrador Retriever and a British Shorthair cat of various ages. The results show that cat owners can expect to pay twice as much insuring a 13-year-old cat than a 1-year-old. Dog owners will pay double for insurance around their pet's 9th birthday.

chart showing rise in pet insurance premiums for older cats and dogs
Insurance is More Costly for Older Pets

Besides paying higher premiums for older animals, pet owners should be aware of changes to the excess and the possible addition of a co-pay.

Excess and Co-Pay for Older Pets

Most insurers will require a larger contribution from you, the pet owner, towards vet bills once your pet turns 9 (give or take). This contribution may come in the form of a higher fixed £ excess or the addition of a percentage-based co-pay (e.g., 10% of vet treatment costs) to your responsibility. Some insurers we spoke with justify a higher excess in place of the monthly premiums going up significantly as your pet ages.

These Insurers Increase Excess/Co-pay for Older Cats and Dogs

InsurerDOGS—Excess/Copay Changes at Age …CATS—Excess/Copay Changes at Age …Change in Excess or Copay for Older Pets
Animal Friends810Addition of 20% copay
John Lewis99You pay greater of chosen fixed £ excess and 20% of treatment costs, whichever is greater
M&S99Fixed excess increases by £100
More Th>n99Fixed excess increases from £75 to £150 per condition
Petplan810Addition of 20% copay

A few insurers hold the excess steady as pets age. However, this is no guarantee you won’t pay more, as premiums may rise more rapidly in place of higher excesses or the addition of a co-pay. When deciding which is best for you, compare premiums and think about if you’d rather have higher monthly payments or risk a higher excess should your pet fall ill or be injured in an accident.

These Insurers Hold Excess/Co-pay Steady for Older Cats and Dogs:

  • Tesco
  • Direct Line
  • PDSA

Death Due to Illness

Insurers generally halt any "death due to illness" benefit once your pet hits age 9 or so. (Note: this benefit is not included on all pet insurance policies.) For some breeds of dog, this could drop as low as 5 years of age. For cats, the benefit may last until 11 years old. It does make some sense that insurers drop this benefit for older animals—as your pet ages, they are naturally more likely to die as a result of an illness. And pet insurance death reimbursement is meant to compensate for an untimely death, not age-related death. Basically, they’ll pay you to replace a young pet, but not an older pet who has lived (a long, happy) life.

Age Pet No Longer Eligible for Death-Due-to-Illness Reimbursement

InsurerDogsCats
Animal Friends88
Direct Line911
John Lewis99
LV=911
M&S99
Morethan99
PDSA911
Petplan8 (or aged 5 for select breeds)10
Tesco99 (accd. to Policy docs.), 11 (accd. to customer service)
The Kennel Clubvariable by breedvariable by breed

Top Tip for Insuring Older Pets

Setting aside premiums and excesses for a moment, we'd like to emphasize the importance of having some type of pet insurance in place. Being uninsured may save you money in premiums (especially if your pet seems healthy and not prone to accidents) but it can be a risky move, especially if you can't afford the thousands of pounds that some treatments cost in case your pet does suffer an ailment.

Even more importantly, once your pet is injured or falls ill, that condition becomes known as a "pre-existing condition." Any new policy you buy from that point on will exclude that condition from your policy. For example, if you pet develops a tumour while you're uninsured, any new policy you take out will exclude the treatment of all tumours for your darling pet. Having a valid insurance policy in place year after year ensures that vet fees for unexpected illnesses or injuries will be covered (subject to your policies condition/annual/12-month limits, of course).

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