Pet Insurance- Always read the small print

We are often asked to recommend an Insurance Company, to which we are obliged to reply 'No'.  The reason for this is because FSA regulations introduced in 2005 prevent vets giving owners specific advice about pet insurance or recommending insurance companies.

We would like to highlight an estimated price of common procedures: a Cruciate operation is in the region of £4000 and an MRI scan is in the region of £1500 - £2000. These are significant costs and you will need to check that the Insurance Policy provides sufficient cover for these types of procedures.

However, we always advise our clients to thoroughly research the Policies available to them and to ensure that the Policy will provide Life Time cover in the event of a long term health problem.  There are some useful pointers below in what to look for:

Questions To Ask about Pet Insurance Cover

What important points do I need to consider closely when choosing my pet's insurance policy?

The premium.

The basic level of cover costs less than you may think. The more comprehensive the level of cover, the more expensive the policy is going to be. Take care however that you are not paying for cover that you are never going to use; for example paying for travel cover under the pets passport scheme if you will never be taking your pet abroad! 
Premiums are usually set in the following ways: :
Rated by the species, breed, age and where you live; ie. tailored to your circumstances.
A standard rate what ever your circumstances, which may mean that high-risk animals are subsidised by low-risk animals.
You can usually tell how a company sets it’s premiums by the questions it asks. If you are asked more details about your pet and where you live you are probably being rated on an individual basis.
Premiums will generally rise as your pet gets older.

The level of veterinary fees covered.

Do the fees provide for life long cover for each condition? Usually a set amount for each condition reinstated each policy year.
Or cover each individual condition for a set amount with no time limit?
Do the fees cover each condition for a set amount for 12 months in total?

The policy excess.

This is the amount you pay when you make a claim.
Most pet insurance companies require payment of an excess in every year for each condition claimed.
The amount you pay may be a fixed amount per condition, or a fixed amount plus a percentage of the fees, or simply a percentage of the fees.
The amount you pay may depend on where you live, the breed and age of your pet.
Some companies give you the option of a lower premium and a higher excess, or a higher premium and no excess.
Most companies will ask you for a bigger excess payment once your pet reaches a certain age.


Make sure you check the exclusions to ensure the cover provided meets your needs.

Possible exclusions
Preventive/elective treatment eg. vaccinations, neutering and worming. 
Certain dental treatments. Certainly worth checking as dental disease is one of the most common problems treated by vets.
Diet foods.
Behaviour problems.
Illnesses arising in the first 10-30 days of the policy date.
Home visits.
Congenital/hereditary conditions.
Pre-existing conditions.
Working dogs and dogs restricted under the Dangerous Dogs Act. 
Traveling abroad.

This is not a complete list. Please read all policy documents carefully
Is 3rd party cover automatically included?
Most pet companies offer 3rd party liability cover for damage caused by your dog for which you may be legally liable.
Some companies offer 3rd party cover as an optional extra
With some companies 3rd party liability carries a higher excess.
Some companies only charge an excess for veterinary fees and boarding fees.
Does the policy cover veterinary fees for whelping & kittening?
Some pet insurance companies offer cover as standard for such costs or have policies designed for breeders.
Does the policy provide cover for Euthanasia (Not all companies will provide cover for euthanasia).
Does the policy cover Death from Accident or Illness?
Many pet insurance policies do provide cover for Death from Accident only and some will include Death from Illness.

Age of your pet.
Check the policy to see what happens when your pet gets older. The premiums and/or the excess may increase.
It is important to note that many companies have a lower age limit for certain higher risk breeds, either to start the insurance or when the excess changes.

What other cover might be provided?
Holiday cancellation.
Hospitalisation of the owner- cost of boarding fees if you are hospitalised for a specified time.
Cover abroad if travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme.
Retrieval cost if you pet goes missing.

Many companies offer a discount if more than one pet is insured, or if the policy is purchased online.