Pet insurance

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Why do I need pet insurance?

As a pet owner, you’ll know that your furry friend can be, let’s say, one of the more adventurous members of the family. Because of this, it’s not unusual for our pets to need a trip or two to the vets from time to time. The stress of your pet being ill or injured is bad enough, but adding a hefty vet bill on top just makes a worrying situation worse.

Having the right pet insurance in place means you can rest easy, knowing you could cover the vet bills for your dog or cat and give them the care they need if they fall ill. With Compare the Market, you can find and compare our best pet insurance in minutes. It’s a quick way to find a great deal and peace of mind. 

Read on to find out more about the different types of pet insurance for your dog or cat, what it includes and how much it costs.

Why compare pet insurance with Compare the Market?

Rated 4.8/5 on Trustpilot [4]

We compare prices for 33 pet insurance products [5]

If you buy your pet insurance through Compare the Market you can get Meerkat Meals & Meerkat Movies*.

[4] As of July 2022, Compare The Market had an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 from 19,377 people who left a review on Trustpilot. The score 4.8 corresponds to the Star Label ‘Excellent’. 
 [5] Correct as of June,
 2022.

How much is pet insurance?

The average premium for dog insurance is £141 per year [2]

The average premium for cat insurance is
£74 per year [3]

Just be aware that the cost of your pet insurance will also depend on:

  • The type of policy you choose
  • The amount of cover you want
  • The insurance provider you go with
  • The age and health of your pet
  • Whether your pet has been spayed or neutered
  • The size of the compulsory excess – the value of the costs you need to cover yourself before your insurance provider steps in.

[2] 51% of our customers were quoted less than £140.52 for their dog insurance based on Compare the Market data in June, 2022.

[3] 51% of our customers were quoted less than £73.56 for their cat insurance based on Compare the Market data in June, 2022.

And remember, if you’re running a price comparison, the cheapest pet insurance premium may not tick all your boxes. If you’re wanting the best pet insurance for your pooch or more cover for your moggy, always read the small print.

Types of pet insurance policy

To find the best pet insurance policy for you, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of the various options available – and that usually boils down to the level of cover you want and how much you’re willing to pay.

There are four main types of pet insurance to look out for when comparing deals:

Accident only pet insurance

Accident only pet insurance covers your pet’s vet bills if they’re hurt in an accident, but not if they become ill. Compared to more comprehensive policies, it’s likely to be cheaper and may work out well if you have a young dog or cat that’s fit and healthy.

Most accident-only policies last for 12 months and if ongoing treatments are needed after that, they might not be covered. Always remember to check the upper limit on how much you can claim – there’s usually a cap.

Time-limited pet insurance

Time-limited pet insurance covers illnesses as well as accidents, for up to 12 months from when the condition was diagnosed or up to the limit of the policy, whichever happens first. Once either limit is reached, the condition is no longer covered even if you renew. Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered either.

Although this is the most basic illness-related pet insurance, there’s no age limit, so it could be a good option for older pets, as well as offering valuable support if pets of any age fall ill with a short-term illness.

Maximum benefit pet insurance

Maximum benefit pet insurance covers accidents and illnesses up to a maximum amount per condition. Once you’ve reached the limit, you’re no longer covered for that particular condition.

This may be a disadvantage if your pet develops a serious long-term condition that requires costly treatments. The flipside is that, because there’s no time limit, it could be a good choice for maintaining the health of your pet over a longer period of time, for example, if they need ongoing medication.

Lifetime pet insurance

Lifetime pet insurance is the most comprehensive pet insurance available. Provided you maintain the policy, your pet could be covered for accidents, injuries and illnesses throughout its life and beyond – as well as the cost of putting your pet down, cremation and burial costs might also be included. Policies have limits on claims per year or per condition – or sometimes both. Once the limit is reached, you can no longer claim for that condition until you renew. The limits are reset once the policy is renewed.

As long as you stay with the same policy provider, one of the biggest benefits is that you’ll have less to worry about if your cat or dog develops a chronic condition.

The best pet insurance for you depends on your budget and your needs. But whichever policy you choose, always read the small print carefully and make sure you know what’s excluded from your policy to avoid any nasty surprises.

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance policies vary. Make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully so you know what’s covered and what isn’t.

Pet insurance will typically cover:

  • Vet fees and treatment if your pet is ill or injured.
  • Emergency dental treatment in the event of an accident.
  • Compensation if your pet dies or goes missing.
  • Advertising fees and reward money if your pet goes missing.
  • Kennel and cattery fees if you’re temporarily unable to care for your pet.
  • Third-party liability cover if your dog injures someone, causes an accident or damages someone’s property.
  • Alternative treatments like physio, acupuncture or homeopathy, if they’re recommended by your vet.

Please note: accident-only pet insurance won’t cover illness and is unlikely to cover compensation, alternative treatments, advertising fees and reward money, plus kennel and cattery fees. Be sure to check the terms of the policy.

Pet insurance won’t typically cover:

  • Treatment for pre-existing conditions – injuries and illnesses your pet was already suffering from when you took out the policy.
  • Vaccinations and boosters.
  • Microchipping your pet
  • Neutering or spaying your pet and other preventative treatments
  • Routine medical treatment, such as annual check-ups, worming and flea treatments.
  • Routine dental care and dental treatment resulting from illness.
  • Putting your pet to sleep and other costs related to euthanasia, cremation or burial.
  • Cosmetic treatments or any other medical treatment not recommended by a vet.
  • Any condition that could have been prevented by routine vaccinations, for either cats or dogs
  • Pregnancy care, so always check first if you plan on breeding your pet.
  • Any international costs, if you take your pet abroad and they need vet treatment. 

It’s important to check any policy carefully before you buy to make sure it includes the cover you need. Some policies won’t include overseas cover and holiday cancellation as standard, for example, but you may be able to add them to your policy at an extra cost.

How can I get cheaper pet insurance?

Here’s a few top tips to help you find cheap pet insurance:

  • Look for a higher excess – the more you’re able to towards a claim, the smaller your premiums. Just make sure you keep it affordable if you need to make a claim.
  • Choose a contribution policy – where you pay a percentage of the claim in addition to the compulsory excess.
  • Keep your pet healthy – looking after your pet properly could save you hundreds (or even thousands) of pounds in vet bills. This includes making sure they’re up to date with vaccinations and keeping them on a healthy diet. Look out for signs of fleas or worms to avoid more serious conditions developing.
  • Spay or neuter your pet – this could potentially lower your premiums, as it means pets are less likely to catch or develop various illnesses and conditions.
  • Choose your breed wiselypedigree dogs and cats can make wonderful pets but might be more prone to inherited disorders, which could then make them more expensive to insure.
  • Compare pet insurance quotes – our pet insurance comparison service allows you to compare quotes from a wide range of insurance providers and find the right cover at a great price.

Find more money-saving tips in our guide to the average cost of pet insurance.

Author image Mubina Pirmohamed

What our expert says...

“It’s not just upsetting if your cat or dog is injured or becomes ill unexpectedly – it can be extremely expensive. Knowing you’re covered financially by pet insurance means you can focus on finding the best care for your pet and getting them well again.”

- Mubina Pirmohamed, Insurance expert

What do I need to compare pet insurance?

To compare insurance with Compare the Market, you’ll need to know:

  • Your pet’s age and breed 
  • Whether your pet is male or female 
  • How much you paid or donated for them
  • Whether your pet has been neutered or spayed
  • Whether they’re microchipped.

Frequently asked questions

Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Typically, most pet insurance policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, which are conditions your pet had before the policy started – such as diabetes. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to insure your pet, it just means your pet won’t be covered for claims relating to that condition. We don’t compare policies that cover pre-existing conditions, but you might be able to find a specialist policy.

You may also be able to find a policy that covers historical pre-existing conditions. They’re conditions your pet has suffered from in the past but hasn’t had symptoms or treatment for in a specified period of time – for example, in the last two years. However, these types of specialist policies are rare and may still not cover all conditions. 

How does my pet’s age affect pet insurance?

Insurance premiums often go up as your pet gets older. That’s because they’re more likely to suffer from health conditions, and for insurance providers they’re more of a risk. 

Your policy excess might go up too. For example, if you take out a policy with a £90 excess per claim, it may have a condition that when your pet gets to the age of, say, nine, you’ll need to pay 15% of the claim on top of the £90. 

It’s also worth noting that some providers will change the cover to exclude death by illness as your pet gets older. If you want to insure an older cat or older dog, make sure you shop around and remember that cheap pet insurance may not always be best. Look for the policy that gives you the level of cover your older pet needs.

Do I need to pay an excess for pet insurance?

Yes, for most types of pet insurance policy, you’ll have to pay an excess with each claim. Excess is the amount you pay towards a claim. Pet insurance policies can have:

  • A set excess – £90 per claim, for example
  • A contribution excess – this is a percentage of the claim
  • A combination of the two – so, for example, £90 plus 10% of the claim.

Most providers will specify if the excess is likely to change as your pet gets older.

How do vaccinations affect pet insurance?

By vaccinating your dog or cat, you might find that your pet insurance premiums are cheaper. Keeping up to date with vaccinations and annual boosters will help your pet stay healthy, and they’re far less likely to be affected by the illnesses they’re being protected against. 

If your pet isn’t vaccinated and they fall ill with a disease they could have been protected against, your insurance provider may refuse to pay the claim.

How does my address affect pet insurance?

While your address shouldn’t affect the cost of your pet insurance drastically, vet bills do vary across different regions, so you might find those costs passed on in your premiums. If you live in London, for example, you’ll likely find vet bills are more expensive than somewhere outside of the capital.

Does pet insurance include kennel or cattery fees?

Pet insurance could include cover for boarding your pet in a kennel or cattery if you need to go into hospital and are unable to look after them. There may be a minimum number of days you need to be in hospital for in order to claim. Check the terms and conditions of your policy to be sure this is covered.

Can I get cover that starts immediately?

No, there’s usually a waiting period before your pet cover begins. This is to stop people using their new pet insurance policy to cover conditions they already knew their pet had. Cover usually starts around 14 days after the policy start date. Check the terms and conditions of the specific policy to be sure.

Is it better to pay for insurance annually or monthly?

If you can afford to, it’s usually cheaper to pay upfront in one annual payment. If you pay monthly, it’s likely you’ll be charged interest.

What pets can I get covered?

You can often get pet insurance for dogs, cats, rabbits and horses. But here at Compare the Market, we only compare prices for pet insurance that covers dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens.

If you have another type of pet, you might need to look for a specialist pet insurance provider. In some cases, it’s possible to get cover for guinea pigs, ferrets, chinchillas, tortoises, snakes, lizards, parrots and other exotic animals.

Can I cover more than one pet on the same policy?

Some insurance providers offer multi-pet insurance, so if you insure more than one pet with them, you’ll get a discount. This type of policy could also be easier to manage in terms of paperwork.

Currently, you can’t compare multi-pet insurance with us. But most of the providers you can compare through us have the option of adding a pet to your policy. Once you’ve done a comparison search on our site for one pet and found the policy you want, click through to that policy provider’s site and see if it gives you the option to add another pet to the policy. 

What should I do if my pet goes missing?

If your dog or cat is microchipped, contact the microchipping company to see if they’ve been handed in anywhere. Failing that, get in touch with your local animal rescue centre, ask your neighbours and put the word out on social media. Pet insurance could help if your pet goes missing – some policies offer help with advertising and reward money if your pet goes astray.

Will pet insurance cover life-threatening injuries or illness?

Accident-only insurance will only cover your pet if they have a life-threating accident, however  maximum benefit, time-limited or lifetime pet insurance should cover life-threatening injuries or illness – but there will be cover limits and exclusions. 

Can I still travel with my pet after Brexit?

Yes, you can, but just be aware the rules on taking your pet abroad have changed since Brexit.

Instead of a pet passport, you’ll now need to get an animal health certificate (AHC) to travel to Europe or Northern Ireland with your pet.

If you want to take your pet to a non-EU country, you’ll need to get an Export Health Certificate – you can get this through your vet – and check on individual regulations for the country you’re travelling to.

If you’re travelling to a non-EU country from Scotland, Wales or England, you’ll also need to fill out the Export Application Form (known as EXA).

You should also familiarise yourself with any other rules and restrictions of the country you’re travelling to, before you get there.

For more information on taking your pet abroad, see GOV.UK  

Find out more about pet insurance with overseas cover.

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