What You Need to Know: Dog Insurance

Dog insurance can provide peace of mind and financial protection in case your beloved pooch has an accident or falls ill. Dog insurance won't cover all vet bills, however. You'll always pay an excess (usually a fixed payment towards any claim) and many vet bills won't be covered at all—common exclusions include pre-existing conditions and routine/preventative care. Below we discuss the ins and outs of dog insurance—how to claim, what's covered and not covered by most policies, what you can expect to pay based on your dog's breed and age, and more.

Dog Insurance Coverage Explained

Dog insurance works similar to other types of insurance—you pay a monthly or annual premium in return for financial protection in the case of unexpected events and their associated costs.

The heart of dog insurance lies in the medical cover you receive to help with vet bills for injuries (due to accidents) and/or illness. Additionally, most dog insurance policies provide a level of cover for 3rd party liability, holiday cancellation cover, theft/death cover, etc.

Here is an overview of some of the most important components of pet insurance cover:

  • Premium: The amount of money you pay your insurance company for coverage. Premiums can be paid annually or monthly. Sometimes monthly payments work out more expensive over the course of a year than annual payments.
  • Excess: The amount of money you pay towards each new condition before your insurance policy kicks in. Excesses typically range from £50 to £120. Some insurers let you increase the excess to reduce your premium.
  • Reimbursement Level: The percentage of a vet bill that insurers will pay after the excess. Typically 100% but some insurers let you drop the reimbursement level, which will lower your premiums.
  • Time Maximum: Applicable only to time-limited policies, the maximum time (usually 365 days/12 months) a condition is covered.
  • Maximum Reimbursement per Condition: Applicable to maximum-benefit policies, the maximum reimbursement amount paid per condition.
  • Maximum Reimbursement per Year: The maximum claim benefit that will be paid in a given year. On lifetime policies, this number resets each year so long as you renew.

These features will vary by the type of pet insurance policy that you choose: accident only, time limited, maximum benefit or lifetime.

By choosing a lower maximum coverage amount or a higher excess, you can reduce your premium. Keep in mind, however, that by setting coverage levels purely to reduce your premium you won't get as much back from the insurer when an injury or illness does occur. In the following table are sample quotes so you can see how premiums change with excess and annual £ limits.

Annual £ LimitExcessMonthly Premium
£3,000£60£31.56
£3,000£100£25.01
£3,000£250£19.55
£3,000£500£16.74
£7,500£60£46.18
£7,500£100£36.57
£7,500£250£28.57
£7,500£500£24.45
£12,000£60£57.50
£12,000£100£45.55
£12,000£250£35.59
£12,000£500£30.46
chart showing how Pet Insurance Premiums Increase with Lower Excesses
Dog Insurance Premiums Increase with Lower Excesses

How to Claim

Even if you have dog insurance, you'll usually need to pay any reimbursable vet bills out of pocket first. In order to claim on your insurance policy, you and the vet fill in different portions of a claim form, which is then sent into the insurer for reimbursement. After they've approved your claim, they'll either reimburse you via direct deposit or a posted cheque.

Can the Vet Bill my Insurer Directly?

Sometimes you can get your vet to bill your insurer directly, eliminating the need for you to first pay out of pocket for any claimable amounts (excluding any excesses, of course). Not all vets are happy to wait for payment from the insurer, however; if the insurer doesn't pay for any reason (say you've exceeded any time or claim maximums) then the vet has to chase you up for payment.

If you want your vet to bill your insurer directly, contact your vet ahead of your appointment. The vet may check with your insurance company to confirm policy details before agreeing, and not all vets offer this option.

3rd Party Liability, Holiday Cancellation, Death Benefits, etc.

Pet insurance in the UK has a broader scope than just health coverage. Most policies offer, either as base or optional add-on cover, other features such as:

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

3rd party liability is quite standard on most policies but the other features may only be offered as add ons to a policy, or not offered at all by some insurers. Before buying a policy, it's good to understand the terms offered by the insurer in order to get coverage appropriate to your needs.

How Much is Dog Insurance?

The monthly cost of dog insurance ranges from as little as £3 a month up to £100 a month, or more for some illness-prone breeds like bulldogs. Accident-only plans are usually cheapest, with a range of £3 to £10.40 per month according to our research—but accident-only coverage won't cover for any illnesses that affect your dog. Policies that cover both injury due to accident AND illness are more expensive, with an average cost of £26 for a young, medium-sized, mixed breed dog.

Dog insurance premiums don't just fluctuate based on excess and maximum payouts—premiums also vary widely by factors like breed and age. We've researched sample premiums by both breed and age for a £4,000 maximum annual payout, lifetime policy with a £120 excess by a major UK pet insurer, to give you an idea of how these factors affect your monthly payments.

Dog Insurance by Breed

We gathered quotes for a 4-year-old male dog on a £4,000 annual limit lifetime policy, for each of the top 10 most popular breeds in the UK, based on 2016 data from the Kennel Club. As you can see in the following table, monthly premium quotes from a major UK pet insurer range from as low as £36.95 for a cocker spaniel up to £158.97 for an English bulldog.

Sample Monthly Insurance Premiums by Breeds

RankBreedMonthly Premium
1Labradore retriever£48.49
2Cocker spaniel£36.95
3French bulldog£134.37
4Pug£45.66
5English springer spaniel£40.56
6English bulldog£158.97
7German Shephard£59.23
8Golden Retriever£48.07
9Miniature schnauzer£40.72
10Border terrier£38.04

Choice of breed can play a large role in your annual pet expenses, with the annual pet insurance tab coming to a whopping £1,908 for the English bulldog in this case. French bulldogs aren't far behind, at £1,612 per year. Bulldogs' short faces often lead to breathing problems and the associated vet bills, so insurers charge more in anticipation of higher claims levels with these breeds.

Dog Insurance by Age

Pet insurance costs generally increase as pets grow older. We gathered quotes for a 4-year-old male Labrador Retriever from a major insurer, for a £4,000 annual maximum lifetime policy with a £120 excess. Between the dog's 1st and 7th birthdays, the premium rose 57%. Rising premiums with age is not surprising, as many ailments are age related resulting in higher expected vet bills for older pets.

chart showing how Pet Insurance Premiums Rise with Age
Dog Insurance Premiums Rise with Age

Insurance may be one of the larger costs of owning a dog, but it can provide not only financial support in times of crisis but also peace of mind.

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