Choosing pet insurance is no easy task. With so many different policy types and cover levels out there, it’s no wonder that people opt for the cheapest and give up reading the terms and conditions altogether.
We’ve looked at a random selection of the best-rated pet insurance policies on the market and they share some surprising exclusions.
We've also designed our policy documents to be easy to understand so you know exactly what is and isn't covered.
1. How soon can you claim on pet insurance?
You won’t be able to make any claims for accidents that happen in the first 48 hours of your policy, or illnesses that show symptoms in the first 14 days of your policy.
2. Does pet insurance cover spaying, neutering or other basic treatments?
It comes as a surprise to some people, but most routine treatments cannot be claimed on your insurance. Grooming, vaccinations, flea treatments, wormers, nail clipping, bathing or de-matting, spaying or castration all are excluded from most policies.
Pet insurance is designed for the unpredictable accidents and illnesses that could happen to your dog or cat.
Many people assume dental care is included as standard, but that is not always the case. Some of the most comprehensive policies, like Bought By Many's Complete, More Than’s Premier and Petplan’s Covered for Life policies.
Of course, these comprehensive policies usually incur higher premiums, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
3. Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?
If your dog has any pre-existing or chronic medical conditions, you are not going to be covered for that condition with most insurers. This can include any symptoms or behaviour changes that you or your vet notice, and any illnesses or injuries which develop from those changes.
However, Bought By Many has launched the only policy on the market that covers pre-existing conditions. Our main exclusion is that we do not cover conditions experienced in the three months before a policy starts. Find out more about our cover here.
Some policies, like VetsMediCover, do cover some existing conditions, providing your pet has not shown any symptoms of or received treatment for the condition for at least 2 years. Always double check this with your provider though, and make sure you declare all conditions fully and accurately to avoid invalidating your policy.
4. In case of... err... accidents
Most policies include some 3rd party accidental damage cover, but More Than and John Lewis Finance won’t pay out if the damage is as a result of your dog “fouling, vomiting or urinating on/in any items”.
Most also won’t pay out if the item damaged belongs to you or a member of your family.
Additionally, if your dog causes any type of damage while being looked after by someone who is being paid to mind your dog, this will likely not be covered by your policy, as the professional dog minder would be expected to have their own insurance in place (though bear in mind they may not have it).
5. Death and cremation
If you want to be covered for putting your dog to sleep or for cremation, you will usually have to add it to your policy. If you choose accident-only cover it’ll certainly not be included.
Once your dog is aged over 8, many insurers will not cover the cost of putting your pet to sleep or cremation, unless it was in an accident – even if you have selected a ‘farewell’ type add-on.
Keep proof of what you paid or donated for your dog, some insurers, like Direct Line, require this.
If you take your pet abroad, you may need an add-on travel policy to be covered and you'll have to adhere to the rules of the Pets Travelling Scheme. However, this is only valid within the EU, so check with your insurance company before you make travel plans.
Forget it. Most insurers will not pay any vet fees if the condition is related to breeding. If you decide to use your dog for commercial breeding, beware that, with some insurers, your entire policy could be invalidated.
The Kennel Club does cover some breeding risks with a specialist add-on policy.
Most pet insurers will not cover any claim linked to pregnancy, even if you're not a breed. However, Bought By Many's policies can cover conditions related to your pet's first pregnancy.
8. Keep your insurer informed
If your pet’s circumstances change, you must tell your insurer. Common changes are moving house, changing owner, getting your dog spayed or neutered, or if you start using your dog for commercial purposes.
So, basically, the rules are simple - always make sure you read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully and in full, to make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered, and be open and honest with your insurer at all times.
However, if your claim was rejected or refused unfairly, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsman through their website.
There are a lot of reasons why a claim can be refused, but overturning the decision is possible, if you can provide the right evidence.
Questions about what is included and excluded from pet insurance
And below we've covered some of the more specific questions about the treatments pet insurance may pay for. Of course, some cover will depend on the policy you have and when your pet experienced the accident or illness.
Does pet insurance cover ear infections?
Yes, as long as the infection is a new condition. If your pet has had an ear infection in the past some insurers may not cover it. Certain dog breeds may be more susceptible to ear infections and if you know you own one it may be worth looking at pet insurance before the pet suffers from one so that you know you'll be covered.
If the infection develops into a chronic condition, you may run out of pet cover if you have a time-limited or per condition policy.
Does pet insurance cover X-rays?
Pet insurance should cover X-rays that are recommended as part of treatment for an accident or illness. However, if you want an X-ray to diagnose an issue and it hasn't been recommended by a vet, pet insurance may not cover it.
Does pet insurance cover drugs?
Pet insurance should cover drugs that are prescribed to treat an accident or illness that a pet suffers from while they are insured. Insurance may not cover drugs to treat an illness experienced before you took out a policy. And pet insurance is unlikely to pay for drugs that are part of a routine treatment such as worming.
It is possible to run out of cover if the cost of the drugs exceeds your policy limits.
Does pet insurance cover MRI scans?
MRI scans are becoming a common part of vet treatment, however, they are expensive. Pet insurance should cover an MRI scan that is recommended by a vet as long as the cost falls within your cover limits.
For example, if you have a £7,000 lifetime policy and your pet needs an MRI scan as part of treatment that costs £4,000 in total you will be covered for it and left with £3,000 of cover for the rest of the policy year. When you renew your cover your limit would reset to £7,000.
If you had a £3,000 lifetime policy, your insurance would not cover the full cost of the treatment.
Lifetime (or ‘yearly limit’) insurance covers vet fees up to the stated limit every year. This can be a good option if you worry about your pet developing a long-term or recurring illness. So long as you renew a lifetime policy each year, the level of vet fees will reset to the full stated limits that you started with.
With a lifetime product, it is important to note that your premiums will increase each year at renewal. This is different to a “Per Condition” policy, where a particular condition can become excluded once the condition limit is reached.
Which pet insurers pay 100% of the vet bill?
Pet insurers that have no excess will pay 100% of the vet bill as long as it falls within your cover limits. Bought By Many has a zero excess option and will pay the vet directly.
Other pet insurers will pay the full cost of the vet bill minus your excess. Pet insurers will not pay vet bills for routine appointments like check-ups.