Unfortunately there is no NHS for animals and therefore it is our responsibility, as owners, to care for them. Having pet insurance allows you to be able to offer your pets the highest level of care without having to worry about the cost.

Pet insurance isn’t just for dogs and cats; it is possible to insure rabbits, birds and reptiles with some insurance providers.

Glossary of commonly used terms

There are four main policy types:

1. Lifetime policies

  • Cover is provided up to a set amount for veterinary fees, which is renewed each policy year.
  • No time limit on how long you can claim for each illness or injury, as long as you renew the policy each year without a break in cover.
  • Ideal for ongoing conditions, such as diabetes.

2. Time-limited policies (sometimes known as a 12 month/annual policy)

  • There is a 12-month limit, meaning conditions will only be covered for the first 12 months.
  • After 12 months the condition will be excluded from the policy.
  • Generally the cover amount is per year rather than condition. So a limit on the time but all from one pot of money too. Of course this varies from company to company, but more often than not you’ll find it is a 12 month limit or £3k (for example) whichever comes first.

3. Maximum benefit policies

  • Cover is provided up to a maximum amount per condition.
  • Once you have claimed up to the maximum amount, that condition is excluded from the policy.

4. Accident only

  • This type of policy will only cover your pet in the event of an accident. Illnesses will not be covered.

Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions, that occurred before the start of a policy, so it’s important to get the right cover for your pet from the start.

Age restrictions
Most companies will start insurance cover from 6 weeks of age. Sometimes breeders will have prearranged 4 weeks free insurance through their provider. Most insurers have a maximum age up until which you can take out a new policy e.g. 8 years of age. If you are already insured, most insurers should continue the cover for the rest of your pet’s life. It is a common procedure for you to pay a percentage of the claim once they have gone over a certain age.

Other terms used
Premium – this is the amount you pay a year for the policy. Paying by direct debit is easy and ensures the policy doesn’t accidentally lapse.
Excess – this is the amount which you pay for each claim. This is usually an excess per condition, per policy year and may be a fixed sum, or a percentage of the claim, both. If you claim for the same condition more than once in the same policy year then you would usually only pay the one excess.

What is covered?
This depends on your insurer and policy. In general vets bills for medical/surgical treatment are covered under the ‘Vet Fee Benefit’ amount by the majority of companies as standard. Do check your policy documents as to the limits and type of cover you have.

Alternative Treatments – some companies will cover alternative treatments such as treatment for behavioural issues or supportive treatments such as physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Some policies will include cover for prescription diet food, but many do not.

Dental Treatments – this varies quite a lot between companies. The majority will only cover treatment after accidents. Some do provide more comprehensive cover but no companies that we are aware of cover for scaling/polishing as this is considered to be a preventative treatment.

Third party Liability – This is important for dog owners in case your dog causes damage or injury and you are legally responsible.

Claims process
Your insurance company will usually send you a claims form with your documentation. Alternatively some are available to print online, or you can phone the company to request one. There are sections for the owner to fill out and then one for the Veterinary Surgeon to complete. We ask that you fill in your section and sign it, and then we will do the same for our part, print out the relevant invoices and then post them.
Direct claims: This is where the insurance company pays the Veterinary Surgery direct. Please be aware that it is our normal policy for clients to settle their account with us at the time of collection and then reclaim the fees from their insurance company.

Choosing an insurance company
We appreciate that what suits one person will be completely different for another. We suggest that you ask all the right questions if you decide to shop around for pet insurance to make sure you get the policy which suits you and your pet the best. Here are a few questions to think about when considering insurance:

  • How long are the claims paid for per condition? What is covered under the title ‘vets fees’?
  • What is the policy excess? Does the excess change as the animal gets older?
  • Find out if your premium will increase if you make a claim.
  • Check if the policy provides cover for congenital, hereditary, dental and behavioural conditions.
  • Do you (as a pet owner) want third party cover in case your pet causes an accident? If yes then be sure to ask if this is included in your policy.

Starting insurance or changing insurance company

It is important to be aware that when getting insurance for the first time, or changing insurance company, that any pre-existing conditions will likely be excluded from cover. When taking out a new policy there is also usually a time period when only injuries will be covered. This is to prevent people only taking out insurance once their pet has been diagnosed with a problem.

This information has been put together by Greenbay Vets and is aimed at helping you to make a good and informed decision when taking out pet insurance. We hope that we have explained some of the common loopholes and pitfalls, and if you have any further questions then please do not hesitate to contact us.