What vet fees does my pet insurance cover?

When buying pet insurance, it’s important to understand what it does and doesn’t cover. While you’ll typically be able to claim for some vet fees on your pet insurance, some costs will need to come out of your own pocket. Find out what vet treatment is and isn’t likely to be covered by your pet insurance with our guide.

When buying pet insurance, it’s important to understand what it does and doesn’t cover. While you’ll typically be able to claim for some vet fees on your pet insurance, some costs will need to come out of your own pocket. Find out what vet treatment is and isn’t likely to be covered by your pet insurance with our guide.

Mubina Pirmohamed
Insurance expert
7
minute read
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Last Updated 4 NOVEMBER 2022

What vet bills does my pet insurance cover?

When you take out a pet insurance policy, you’ll get some level of cover for vet fees and medical treatment as standard. But while you’ll be able to claim for emergencies and unexpected illnesses, routine pet healthcare usually won’t be covered.

Vet fees that are typically covered include the cost of diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries to your cat or dog. This normally includes:

  • Vet consultations
  • Examinations and tests
  • X-rays
  • MRI and CT scans
  • Medication and bandages
  • Surgery and hospitalisation.

Pet insurance also often includes the cost of being referred to a specialist vet and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage and herbal remedies.

How much do vet appointments cost?

Vet fees aren’t regulated and each veterinary practice can set its own prices. Costs will depend on where you live, the practice and the type as well as size of pet you have. Vet bills can easily skyrocket, which is why many people choose to take out pet insurance.

A vet appointment alone could cost at least £40, which typically covers a consultation and diagnosis. However, if your pet needs a specific treatment or a surgical operation, the costs are likely to be considerably higher, as the table below shows. Meanwhile, if your pet needs out-of-hours emergency treatment you could end up facing much higher fees, of up to £200 or more for an appointment, before you even start discussing treatment costs.

Here are the prices quoted by not-for-profit organisation Animal Trust1 for some typical vet treatments. Bear in mind that prices for other vets, who do operate to make a profit, are likely to be considerably higher

Fees associated with going to the vets

Typical price[1]

Fracture repair

£929-£1,849

Orthopaedic surgery, such as cruciate repair or hip replacement

£659-£5,900

Eye surgery

£469-£929

Ear, nose and throat surgery

£659-£1,599

Abdominal surgery

£469-£1,599

Dental treatment

£369

X-rays

£369

CT scans

£929

Endoscopy

£929

Spaying and neutering

£89-£269

Although we may want to believe our furry family members are invincible, accidents do happen. Having the right pet insurance in place could help you avoid a hefty bill for emergency treatment from the vet, should the unthinkable happen. And pet insurance doesn’t have to break the bank. More than half of our customers were quoted less than £9.97 a month[2] for pet insurance that covers vets’ fees and treatments for new illnesses and injuries.

[1] Prices correct as of September 2022.

[2] 51% of our customers were quoted less than £9.97 per month in September, 2022 for their pet insurance based on the monthly cost when paying for the policy in one annual payment, excluding any interest charged on instalment payments.

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What vet fees are not usually covered by pet insurance?

This might come as a surprise to some people, but most routine treatments aren’t covered by pet insurance, and you may not be fully protected if your pet has an ongoing condition like diabetes or arthritis.

It’s unlikely that your pet insurance policy will cover the costs of:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Vaccinations for cats or dogs
  • Routine check-ups and treatments e.g. flea, worm and tick treatments and claw clipping
  • Neutering dogs or cats
  • Microchipping
  • Dental treatment (unless accident or injury) for cats or dogs
  • Alternative therapies (unless recommended by a vet)
  • Breeding complications
  • Pregnancy complications.

Always check the details of your policy so you know exactly what your pet is insured for.

Can I get cover for routine vet appointments?

Pet wellness plans could help cover the costs of routine healthcare, such as annual check-ups, vaccinations and flea and worming treatments. As you pay an amount each month instead of a one-off fee each time you visit the vet, this spreads the cost of looking after your pet’s regular healthcare. But they’re totally different to pet insurance plans, and it’s important not to confuse the two.

Most veterinary practices offer pet wellness plans, whereas pet insurance is usually bought from an insurance provider.

What should I think about before getting pet insurance?

Pet insurance could help protect your pet against unexpected vet fees if they fall ill or get injured. But before you take out a policy, it’s important to consider:

  • The cost of insuring your pet: the more comprehensive your cover, the more it’s likely to cost. But the less your policy covers, the more you might have to pay in vet bills if something happens to your pet.
  • Getting the right policy: it’s very important to get the right cover for you and your pet. Pet insurance can vary, so think about how you’d deal with an unexpected bill. Accident only is the cheapest option, but it won’t cover the cost of illnesses. Lifetime pet insurance offers the most cover but is the most expensive.
  • The level of excess: this is the amount of any claim you need to settle out of your own pocket. While you can’t choose your excess for pet insurance, it’s likely that the higher your excess, the lower your premium will be. Just be sure you can afford to pay the excess should you make a claim.
  • Maximum amount of cover: make sure you know the maximum amount of cover your policy provides towards vets’ fees.
  • Risks with your pet: older dogs and older cats can cost more to insure because they have a higher chance of needing medical attention. Some pedigree dogs and pedigree cats could be more susceptible to hereditary conditions and ongoing illnesses that may not be included in your cover.

What types of pet insurance policy are available?

There are four main types of pet insurance policy to choose from depending on your budget and the level of cover you want for your beloved furry friends:

Lifetime

Lifetime pet insurance is the most comprehensive cover available for your pet. As the name suggests, lifetime cover will cover vet fees and medical treatment for emergencies and unexpected illnesses for your pet’s whole life. Lifetime policies do include a maximum cover limit for vet treatment but each year, when you renew your policy, the cap resets. With lifetime pet insurance policies, you also get the peace of mind that if your cat or dog develops a long-term or chronic condition, they’ll be covered for their treatment in the future – so long as you keep up the premiums and pay any excess.

Max benefit

With maximum-benefit pet insurance, you can claim up to a specified pre-set limit for each injury or condition. There’s no time limit, so long as you keep up with your premiums, but once you’ve used up your cover for a particular condition, you’ll have to fund any further treatment out of your own pocket. Max benefit is usually more affordable than lifetime pet insurance but if your pet develops a long-term condition or develops a chronic injury the risk is that you could end up at your cover limit and left footing the bill.

Time limited

Sometimes called 12-month policies, a time-limited pet insurance policy will cover non-routine vet treatment for your pet up to a set amount for one year from when the condition or injury first appeared. Although time limited policies are generally more affordable than lifetime or max benefit pet insurance, if your pet suffers an illness or injury that requires continuing treatment after the policy ends, you’ll be responsible for any future vet bills, and it’s likely to be classed as a pre-existing condition when you take out a new policy.

Accident only

Accident-only pet insurance will only cover emergency treatment, including X-rays and surgeries, for any injuries your pet sustains in an accident. You won’t be able to claim for any vet fees if your pet suffers an illness. Like time-limited pet insurance, accident-only policies typically last a year and they include a maximum cover limit. Once you go over these thresholds, you’ll be left responsible for any further treatment. Accident-only policies are typically the cheapest option because they offer the least comprehensive cover.

Frequently asked questions

Does pet insurance cover dental issues?

Dental cover for accidents like a broken tooth is often included in pet insurance policies. But things like general tooth decay and gum disease tend not to be. These kinds of pre-existing conditions can be more common in older pets, so some policies exclude dental illness because there’s more chance the owner will claim for it.

Does pet insurance cover heatstroke?

Pet insurance will typically cover you for vet fees associated with treating the effects of heatstroke. But that’s on condition your pet didn’t fall ill because you put them at risk. If, for example, you left your dog in a sweltering car on a hot day, your insurance provider could consider this as neglect and wouldn’t pay out.

Can I claim on pet insurance for an ear infection?

Yes, as long as it’s a new condition. If your pet has had an ear infection in the past – before you took out your policy – you might not be covered. If the infection develops into a chronic condition, you might run out of cover if you have a time-limited or maximum benefit policy.

Does pet insurance cover the cost of medication?

Pet insurance should include the cost of tablets, drugs and bandages that are prescribed by a vet to treat an accident or illness your pet suffers. It’s unlikely to pay for medication that is part of a routine treatment, for example worming tablets.

What else can pet insurance cover, other than vet fees?

Depending on the type of policy you choose and the level of cover it provides, you may also be able to claim for the following on your pet insurance:

  • Compensation if your pet dies or goes missing
  • Advertising and reward money to help you recover a missing pet
  • Kennel and cattery fees in case you’re temporarily unable to look after your pet
  • Third-party cover for your dog in case it injures someone or damage property.

Note that accident-only pet insurance policies are unlikely to include any of this extra cover. Make sure to check the terms of any policy carefully before you buy so you’re clear on what’s included and what’s not.

What can I do if I can’t afford to pay my vet fees?

If your pet needs medical treatment but you can’t afford to pay, UK charities PDSA and Blue Cross offer free or low-cost treatment for pet owners who live within the catchment areas of one of their hospitals and receive a means-tested benefit such as universal credit, income support or pension credit. The Dogs Trust provides help for homeless dog owners and Cats Protection offers financial assistance to cat owners who can’t afford to have their cat spayed or neutered.

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