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Pet insurance for pre-existing conditions

Unfortunately, no insurance provider will offer 100% cover for your pet’s pre-existing medical conditions. But some providers do offer policies for historic conditions, with limitations. Here’s what you need to know.

Unfortunately, no insurance provider will offer 100% cover for your pet’s pre-existing medical conditions. But some providers do offer policies for historic conditions, with limitations. Here’s what you need to know.

Written by
Tom Harrison
Insurance expert
Last Updated
20 JULY 2022
10 min read
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What is a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is any medical issue that developed before you took out your pet’s insurance policy. There are two types:

Chronic conditions: sometimes cats and dogs have ongoing conditions, like diabetes, cancer or epilepsy. Pedigree dogs are particularly at risk of developing ongoing medical issues, such as hip dysplasia.

Historic conditions: illnesses or injuries your pet has had in the past, which it has now recovered from. This could be anything from ear or eye infections to digestive problems and skin allergies.

Typically, when it comes to pet insurance, a pre-existing condition is any medical issue your pet has been diagnosed with or received treatment for in the past. What’s considered a pre-existing condition for pet insurance may differ among insurance providers, though, so read your policy carefully.

Does my pet insurance cover me for pre-existing conditions?

Pet insurance policies typically won’t cover pre-existing conditions. Having said that, some do but with exceptions. Polices fall into three groups:

  • Pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions if you haven’t claimed for that condition, or your pet hasn’t had symptoms of it, in a specified time period.
  • Pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions but with very limited cover.
  • Pet insurance that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions at all.

Some insurance providers will cover new treatment arising from a pre-existing condition, as long as your pet hasn’t been treated for that illness in a specified amount of time. Other policies may exclude treatment for a condition that results from or is linked to a pre-existing condition, even if your pet recovered and has been in good health since.

To find out if your pet’s medical issue is covered, check your policy documents and read the terms of any policy carefully before you buy.

Bear in mind that even those pet insurance policies that do cover pre-existing conditions will normally come with substantial limitations. For example, they might not cover any ongoing care or treatment your four-legged friend needs for its existing condition, such as repeat prescriptions, continuing therapy or regular tests and scans to monitor their condition.

Pet insurance for a pet with chronic conditions

Pet owners whose animal has a chronic condition – a medical condition that can’t be cured and requires ongoing treatment for life – will find it harder to get cover for that condition from a new insurance provider.

Examples of chronic conditions in cats and dogs include:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Constipation
  • Allergies
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Epilepsy.

If your pet has a chronic long-term condition that requires regular, expensive treatment, it’s unlikely you’ll find an insurance provider who’ll cover you for that condition. And if you did, the premiums would likely be through the roof.

If you’re struggling to find a policy that will cover your pet’s condition, it’s worth asking your vet if they can recommend an insurance provider who could help. If the cost of treating your pet becomes a real issue for you, contact an animal charity like Blue Cross or the PDSA, who may be able to help.

Pet insurance for a pet with bilateral conditions

Bilateral conditions are those that affect both sides of the body, for instance, hip dysplasia or cruciate injuries. Certain pedigree breeds, such as Labradors and German Shepherds, are prone to hip dysplasia.

If hip dysplasia appears in one hip, it will probably count as a pre-existing condition on your pet insurance if it later appears in the other. This could mean that you’ll find it difficult to get cover for that condition in future.

Pet insurance for a pet with congenital conditions

Congenital conditions are those your pet was born with, which are likely passed down through their genes. These are more common in pedigree dogs and pedigree cats. Pugs, for example, are commonly born with stenotic nares (abnormally narrow nostrils) as well as other medical conditions.

Breeds like pugs, which are known to suffer with congenital conditions, are likely to be more expensive to insure over their lifetime. You might even find that many pet insurance providers refuse to cover you for these conditions.

Do I have to declare my pet’s conditions?

When you search for pet insurance, you’ll be asked questions about your pet, such as their breed, age and whether they’ve been microchipped. You’ll also be asked if your pet has any pre-existing conditions and whether you want cover for them.

Remember that, when it comes to pet insurance, pre-existing conditions could mean any illness or injury that your pet has been diagnosed with or received treatment for in the past, even if they made a full recovery.

It always pays to be honest and upfront about any pre-existing conditions when you compare pet insurance – if you’re later found to have lied or failed to disclose a medical issue, it will invalidate your policy and you could find yourself landed with a hefty vet’s bill.

Does pet insurance increase over time?

If you take out a pet insurance policy when your pet is young, you’ll probably find that your insurance provider starts to increase your premiums over time. Or you may find that they add additional limits, a higher excess or exclusions as your pet becomes susceptible to age-related conditions. Always check your level of cover with your insurance provider.

If your pet insurance premiums start to go up because of long-term illnesses, it can be tempting to cancel your cover. But this could be risky as medication and treatments can be extremely expensive and you could end up covering the cost yourself.

Will pet insurance continue to cover an illness if I renew the policy?

Whether your policy continues to cover you for the same condition depends on the type of policy you’ve bought and its limits. If you’re not sure whether renewing your pet insurance policy will cover you for a pre-existing illness, check with your insurance provider.

My pet has a pre-existing condition. How can I lower the cost of my pet insurance?

If your pet has a pre-existing condition, you could potentially lower the cost of your pet insurance by:

  • Shopping around for pet insurance that offers limited cover for pre-existing conditions
  • Switching to a new pet insurance policy without cover for pre-existing conditions.

But you’ll need to be comfortable with having very limited or no cover on your pet insurance for your pet’s pre-existing condition. This could prove costly in the long run.

Can I get quotes for pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions at Compare the Market?

Most pet insurance quotes we compare do not include cover for pre-existing conditions. However, if your pet hasn’t shown symptoms or received treatment for the condition for over two years, your comparison results might include quotes from Many Pets. All its lifetime policies cover this definition of pre-existing conditions.

Start comparing to check out cover for your cat or dog.

Frequently asked questions

Will my pet insurance cover existing conditions that were undiagnosed when I took out my policy?

If your pet was showing symptoms of an illness or condition before you took out your pet insurance, you likely won’t be covered if they are then diagnosed with a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment. Most pet insurance policies will also include a waiting period at the start of the policy (often 14 days) and they won’t cover any illnesses that are diagnosed within this time frame.

Will my pet insurance cover any new chronic conditions?

Yes, your pet insurance policy should cover treatment for any new conditions that your pet develops after you take out your policy, unless you opt for accident-only cover.

The cover you get for your pet’s condition will vary depending on the type of policy you choose and the policy limits and terms:

  • A maximum benefit policy, will cover your pet’s new condition for treatment up to a certain limit.
  • A time-limited policy will cover your pet for up to 12 months from when the condition is diagnosed or until the policy end date, whichever is sooner.
  • A lifetime policy will cover your pet up to a maximum limit each year.

My pet has developed a long-term condition. What happens when my policy renews?

It depends on your insurance provider and the type of condition your pet is suffering from. If you want to keep covering the condition you may find that your annual premiums go up when it’s time to renew. Alternatively, your insurance provider might decide that they are unable to cover that condition, especially if it requires ongoing, costly treatment.

If that happens, or you can’t afford the increased premiums, you could look for a specialist policy that covers your pet’s condition, or you could choose to take out pet insurance that excludes that condition but covers you for any new illnesses or injuries.

What will happen if I fail to disclose my pet’s existing condition to my insurance provider?

If you try to claim for vet treatment and your insurance provider finds that it’s linked to a pre-existing condition that you failed to disclose, they can cancel your pet insurance policy and you’ll be left to foot the bill at the vets. Your insurance provider will ask to see your pet’s vet records when you make a claim so there is really no point trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

I can’t afford to treat my pet’s existing condition. What can I do?

If you can’t find an insurance policy for your pet’s pre-existing or chronic condition and you can’t afford vets bills, it’s worth speaking to your vet to see if they can recommend any cheaper alternatives. They could, for example, write you a prescription so you can shop around and see if you can find it cheaper elsewhere.

If you’re not able to afford treatment, you may be able to get help from veterinary charities such as PDSA and Blue Cross. Whether they’ll be able to help normally depends on factors such as your income and where you live, but the first step is to ask. The RSPCA can help you find financial assistance for your pet’s treatment depending on where you live.

How can I make a complaint to my pet insurance provider?

If you believe your pet insurance claim has been rejected because your pet’s condition has been unfairly classed as pre-existing, your first step is to make a formal complaint to your insurance provider. It will help if you can get your vet to write a statement supporting your claim.

If you’re not happy with the response from your insurance provider or they fail to respond in eight weeks, you could take your case to the Financial Ombudsman. They will review the policy wording and the evidence and make a final decision on your case.

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