Pet insurance: the basics

How to cover man’s best friend (and other creatures)

1. Pet insurance is offered by most insurers and you can check out the costs on comparison websites like Go Compare. Usually, the policy covers dogs and cats but you can find cover for ‘exotics’ such as lizards with specialists.

2.The major benefit of pet insurance is that it pays vets’ bills (with exceptions and excesses). Often it will also pay out if your animal is stolen or lost: there may be money for advertising your missing pet and a reward, or, ultimately, a replacement. Policies may also cover death due to injury or illness, euthanasia costs or liability if your dog injures someone or damages property.

3. Insurance does not cover yearly inoculations and insurers may demand your pet has these or it could refuse to pay out. Pregnancy and pre-existing conditions are usually excluded.

4. Vets’ bills can be huge, particularly for pedigree pets. The typical vet’s bill can be £300 but will climb if the condition is serious: even x-rays can cost hundreds of pounds. Prices vary depending on where you live as well as the animal.

5. Pet insurance isn’t cheap. While the typical monthly cost for a dog is about £30 a month (half that for a cat), if you’ve a pedigree and live in the south-east, it can easily be four times that amount. But then your animal is more likely to have a serious condition or be stolen.

6. There are different levels of cover. The cheapest is basic accident only (no illness cover). Next is per condition with a time limit. This pays vets’ fees for accident or illness but only for a set time (usually a year) and the amount is capped. If you exceed the limit, you’d have to meet the remainder from your own pocket. Then there’s cover per condition with no time limit – but usually there’s a maximum total payout.

7. The most expensive policy is lifetime cover which is pretty comprehensive with high maximum claim limits. You’ll have to renew the policy each year and you might find the insurer refuses your renewal. Even if they don’t, your premiums will climb with your animal’s age.

8. With all pet insurance, you usually pay the first part or excess, often £50 or £100. Do check if the excess increases with your pet’s age.

9. You can cut costs on pet insurance. As well as spaying/neutering, you should get a reduction for having your pet microchipped with owner details. You are now legally required to have dogs microchipped. See the RSPCA information here.  

10. If you’re on benefits, you might be able to get your pet treated by a charity such as the Blue Cross or People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).


More stuff:

  • Get the lowdown from Which? on which pet policy is best for you here.
  • Find out if pet insurance is actually worth it in this article from the Money Advice Service.
  • Want a dog but haven’t got the time or money to look after it? You can volunteer to do walkies for time-stretched owners at BorrowMyDoggy


Last updated January 2019.