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Pet Insurance: Costs, Exemptions and How to Pick a Great Policy

March 13, 2024
Pet Insurance: Costs, Exemptions and How to Pick a Great Policy

We love our pets, and taking out an insurance policy is a great way to prevent any illness, condition, accident or injury causing harm that you cannot financially deal with.

Our pets age, as hard as it can be, so it's common to find that premiums are easily affordable when they're young pups and sprightly kittens, but less so when they reach their twilight years and need extra care and attention.

Pet insurance premiums can rise frighteningly fast, so it pays to understand the average costs, what you might not be covered for, and how to choose an excellent insurance provider.

This Best10Index guide runs through extended advice from pet insurance experts to help you make informed, smart choices about the policy you decide to buy.

Understanding Pet Insurance Quotes

The first point we'll make is that most pet insurance quotes aren't comprehensive, even if they claim to be on the face of it.

There are two prevalent scenarios when many insurers don't step in to help:

  • Your pet needs dental treatment.
  • Your pet causes damage or harm to another person or their property.

Even though premiums can be high depending on your pet's species, breed, and age, it's necessary to comprehend how good your quotes are and select a policy wisely.

Pet insurance is worth it if you aren't 100% confident you have the finances to cope with an unexpected bill.

The costs can creep into the thousands of pounds, so you should balance the expense of premiums with the prospect of losing your furry friend to a treatable condition.

Vets Bills Pet Insurance

Most policies cover vets bills as a primary focus. This cover is why many people buy a pet insurance policy (sometimes having been stung with an outrageous bill for a routine exam!).

Insurance varies wildly and might cover or exclude:

  • General charges, including treatments for accidents and illnesses.
  • Congenital conditions, many of which are hereditary.
  • Long-term diseases - often only covered under a lifetime policy.
  • Dental care - a common exclusion, even if your pet needs urgent care following an accident.
  • Alternative therapies including physiotherapy and homoeopathy.
  • Breeding risks - if you have a breeding animal, you must be extra careful with insurance.

Spaying or neutering your pet can reduce your insurance premiums. 

Still, it's crucial to read the small print in detail to determine whether this impacts your coverage in any scenario.

Terminology Used in Pet Insurance Comparisons

Over-complicated terms and phrases are the norms in insurance, so getting a handle on what different clauses mean can make a difference in your understanding of how protective a policy is.

Common terminology includes:

  • Behavioural problems - includes professional support or training, as directed by a vet, to address guarding, separation anxiety and aggression issues.
  • Liability cover - the amount you agree to pay as an excess if your pet (normally a dog) causes damage or injury resulting in a claim against you.
  • Emergency treatment - anything you haven't booked in advance, such as an accident during a holiday, falling suddenly ill or needing immediate care following an accident.

Pet insurance can also include coverage for prolonged stays, which normally means treatment in a cattery or kennel with veterinary care for over four days. 

The minimum coverage limit is usually set at £500.

What Does Pet Insurance Usually Cover?

There is a distinct contrast between different coverage levels.

Annual or time-limited pet insurance tends to be based on one year and rolled over every 12 months - so you can switch to a most affordable policy if you wish.

Yearly pet insurance is cheaper but normally less comprehensive and rarely covers any pre-existing condition.

Accident-only cover is the most basic option and will cover an accident (like being hit by a car) but won't help if your pet becomes unwell.

Maximum benefit insurance coverage is calculated per condition, with an upper limit on how much your provider will pay out for an illness or injury during the policy's lifetime.

You might also like: Browse Through Our Selection of Top 10 Pet Food Delivery in the UK

Does Pet Insurance Cover Snake Bites?

A typical error in the UK is to assume that add-ons for snake bites aren't worth having.

However, adders are native snakes, and they are venomous. 

This species won't attack for the sake of it, but if your dog unintentionally disturbs a nest or steps on an adder during a woodland walk, they will bite - and their venom can kill.

There are plenty of treatments and anti-venom options to avoid fatalities, but if you cannot finance private treatment, you must be sure you have adequate insurance.

How to Choose Total Pet Plan Insurance

Total Pet Plan policies are among the best-rated options, including vaccination costs, neutering, microchipping, and other expenses associated with keeping your family pet healthy and thriving.

Is it Worth Getting Lifetime Pet Insurance?

Lifetime pet insurance is designed to offer financial cover for any recurring illness or chronic condition during the life of your dog or cat.

Although you should always check the terms in detail, a robust lifetime policy can protect against other challenges, such as being refused insurance when your pet reaches a certain age or paying high insurance costs against an animal with an ongoing illness.

How Do Pet Insurance Quotes Compare to the Average?

It isn't easy to compare policies on a like-for-like basis since the costs can look very different depending on how the cover is structured.

Therefore, it's wise to look at every cost element; not just the amount you're quoted for your monthly premiums:

  • Excesses can be annual or per-incident. Annual excesses mean you must pay a minimum amount towards vet care before your insurer touches a claim. Per-incident means you pay an extra amount every time you decide to lodge a claim.
  • Coverage percentages. Some insurers have a maximum coverage limit, which could be 70% or 90% - you will have to cover the balance out of pocket.

It's paramount you understand exemptions and excesses, as you remain financially responsible for at least a proportion of your pet's medical care if the need arises.

Is Doge Cover Value for Money?

Many excellent policies cover all of your needs, but the right approach is to think about your animal's age, lifestyle, and breed before you pick a product.

Accident-only can be worth having if you're assured your pet won't ever become ill - but it's only of benefit when incidents occur, rather than because an animal contracts an illness.

Annual policies are perhaps the most common, but the caveat is that you're only covered for that one year.

If you have a maximum yearly benefit, it's easy to reach the limit in a couple of months if your pet needs surgery or find that the premiums skyrocket when it's time to renew.

The key is to look for recurring conditions and establish whether your coverage is sufficient.

For example, if a dog gets an ear infection and then another in the other ear a few months later, will your insurer cover the treatment and medication costs?

What is the Pet Insurance Average Cost UK?

Cheap pet insurance can cost from £5 a month to £100 or above per pet, depending on the cover you choose and the type of policy.

It's normal to pay about £45 a month in insurance for a dog, but other species, including small furries and reptiles, can be massively more expensive.

How Much Should I Pay for a Total Pet Plan Policy?

Without knowing the details, we've listed below the indicative average cover for a Pet Plan based on a time-limited policy (called Essential) and a lifetime policy - looking at the more basic Classic Plus product.

Note that rules differ depending on your pet's species, and equine insurance is normally dealt with separately.

Essential cover, per year, provides coverage of:

  • £3,000 vets fees
  • £500 additional treatments
  • £1 million liability coverage
  • £1,000 illness or injury resulting in death, theft or loss
  • £1,000 boarding or holiday costs
  • £1,000 missing pet expenses

Classic premiums, in comparison, have annual limits of:

  • £4,000 vets fees
  • £1,000 additional treatments
  • £2 million liability coverage
  • £1,500 illness or injury resulting in death, theft or loss
  • £1,500 boarding or holiday costs
  • £1,500 missing pet expenses

What to Look for in Comprehensive Doge Cover Quotes

One of the vital aspects to look at is your excess. Even if the coverage figures are impressive, they aren't worth having if the excess payable is beyond your financial means.

Some insurers hide this a little, with a compulsory excess not necessarily displayed prominently in your premium documentation. Still, if you sign the agreement, you confirm a commitment to pay that minimum contribution.

Evaluating the Pet Insurance Average Cost UK

Much depends on what pet species you have and their age and breed.

As a rough estimate, a dog will cost around £174 per year to insure as a national average, whereas a cat will cost £90 per year on a comparable level of protection.

Breeds with high susceptibility to injury and illness or with a predisposition to certain conditions and pure breeds can cost many times more.

Although those averages are competitive, it's also important to know that over 50% of people using price comparison sites receive quotes of over £173 per year for single dog insurance, so using a reputable provider with truly excellent premiums can make a sizable difference.

Pet Insurance for Reptiles: Does Pet Insurance Cover Snake Bites?

Exotic pet insurance can be another kettle of fish, so it's worth shopping around and contacting several insurers to understand what coverage they offer.

We'd often associate exotic pet insurance with wild animals, lizards and snakes that aren't indigenous to the UK, but this category is surprisingly huge!

For example:

  • Rodents, such as guinea pigs, rats, hamsters and gerbils, are hard to insure - probably because treatment costs are disproportionately expensive given the size and lifespan of each animal.
  • Aquatic coverage for species such as Koi Carp is highly specialist and prices well outside of the norms - treatments are a niche area and can cost several thousands.
  • Even popular pets like budgies and parrots are commonly deemed exotic, meaning their insurance can be steep (but often not as costly as paying for treatments directly).

While exotic pet insurance can cover for bites, that normally applies under the third-party liability umbrella, protecting you against the legal costs of being sued if your animal were to cause somebody else injury.

It would be highly unusual to have healthcare bite insurance in the UK since almost all injuries from common breeds with the potential to cause harm can be treated free of charge on the NHS.

Analysing a Pet Insurance Comparison

Pet protect insurance policies often come with features as standard, so don't be fooled that these are special incentives that add value to your premiums!

Normal standard inclusions are:

  • Paying out for vet fees to cover costs of medical treatment.
  • Covering the charges associated with treating injuries.
  • Third-party liability coverage.
  • Recovery kennelling or cattery costs.
  • Advertising costs for a lost or stolen pet.

The things that aren't always included can be worth far more, such as:

  • Routine veterinary check-ups.
  • Treatment for pre-existing conditions.
  • Preventative medicine to prevent an illness from developing.
  • Help with the costs of behavioural training.
  • Neutering, spaying and microchipping.

How do I Choose the Right Pet Insurance?

If the sheer volume of pet insurance providers and products on the market baffles you, please know that you're not alone!

Best10Index makes it our mission to provide an independent, comprehensive analysis of consumer products, including pet insurance policies.

Visit our top 10 rankings for a snapshot of the best insurers in the UK, or browse by various categories to make it easy to make a safe, informed choice about the best policy to protect the welfare and health of your pet - for now, and the years to come.

Pet Insurance: Costs, Exemptions and How to Pick a Great Policy

Lauren Edwards-Fowle

Lauren is a freelance writer passionate about how we develop rewarding experiences, and overcoming the barriers we face to living our best lives. Lauren writes regularly about the modern world of dating, relationships, parenthood, and social dynamics.