Getting a new pet is an exciting time but there are often a lot of additional costs involved. If you have just got a new pet you may be considering pet insurance and whether you need it. In this article, we take a look at how pet insurance works, how much pet insurance costs and why you should consider starting a pet insurance policy.
Should you get pet insurance?
Pet insurance is designed to cover the cost of an unexpected vet bill should your pet require treatment for an illness or injury. The majority of UK pet owners do not have pet insurance and a 2016 survey conducted by Statista found that half of the British public assumed that the cost of owning a dog over its lifetime would amount to a total between £1,000 - £5,000 when in reality, it is actually estimated at around £27,000.
Pet insurance offers peace of mind in knowing that your pet is covered should they fall ill but it also means you have the reassurance of the vet bill being paid for.
What is pet insurance and how does it work?
With pet insurance, you pay a monthly premium or a lump sum annual fee. Should your pet become ill or injured you can contact the insurance provider to claim back any costs covered in your policy for the treatment of your pet. There are different types of pet insurance available and below are the most common policies :
- Lifetime cover - This policy covers your pet for any illness or condition for the duration of your pet’s life (limits apply)
- Maximum benefit - This policy covers you for a set amount of money for each condition. Once the limit is reached you will have to fund any further treatment.
- Time-limited cover - This policy covers you for a condition for a set period of time, after this period you will have to fund any further treatment.
- Accident-only - This policy covers you for any treatment required due to an accident and doesn’t cover the cost of any illnesses.
What does pet insurance cover?
The pet insurance policy you select will determine how much you pay and this amount varies between providers. It is important that you thoroughly research the policy before you decide to take out cover to ensure you understand what you are covered for and the terms and conditions if you should need to make a claim.
Most pet insurance policies cover your pet for:
Veterinary bills- treatment for injuries, illnesses or accidents
Death by accident or illness- some policies pay out in the event of your pets death (there are some limits depending on the age of your pet). Individual policies may also cover euthanasia and cremation
Public liability - available with most dog and horse insurance in the event of your pet injuring someone else or their property
Kennel or cattery fees - some insurers also offer cover should you need to stay in the hospital for a few nights
What is not covered by pet insurance?
A typical pet insurance policy will not cover your pet for the following:
Routine care - such as worming and flea treatment
Vaccinations - regular routine vaccinations
Birth or pregnancy complications - complications due to pregnancy or birth are usually not covered by insurers
Dental treatment - some providers may cover for dental treatment from an accident or illness but routine treatment is not generally covered
Pre-existing conditions - unless you have a specific lifetime cover policy you will not be covered for pre-existing conditions. Most insurers won’t cover for any conditions prior to taking out a new policy with them
Older pets - some insurers refuse to cover pets over a certain age due to their susceptibility to illness
How much does pet insurance cost?
If you are thinking of taking out a pet insurance policy you may be wondering how much it costs. Typically the more comprehensive the pet insurance cover you opt for, the more expensive the policy. According to the website Statista, there are 3.6 million pet owners in the UK with a pet insurance policy, 97% of which are for cats and dogs. £2.2million is paid out each day in the UK for pet insurance claims, with the average individual pet insurance claim totalling £793.
Research conducted by Compare the Market in June 2021 found that from the policies opened via the comparison site, the average pet insurance policy for dogs was around £171 a year in comparison to £85 a year for cats. In the tables below, we take a look at the different costs associated with dog and cat insurance.
Average pet insurance cost for dogs
The table below shows the average annual cost of a pet insurance policy in the UK per breed. The data was conducted by Compare the Market and is based on the top 5 quotes made between October 2020 and January 2021.
|Breed||Average annual premium cost (£)|
|Chihuahua (smooth coat)||£159.87|
|Chihuahua (long coat)||£161.55|
|West Highland Terrier||£235.83|
|Old English Bulldog||£499.44|
*Data compiled by Compare the Market
Average pet insurance cost for cats
The below table shows the average cost of pet insurance for your cat. A moggy is a mixture of cat breeds and will be significantly cheaper than pedigree cats. This is similar to dogs in that pure breeds have an increased risk of developing an illness or condition due to the lack of gene diversity. This data is from 2019 Stickee data and MoneySuperMarket and is correct as of June 2020.
|Breed||Average annual premium cost (£)|
|Snow leopard Bengal||£390|
*Data compiled by MoneySuperMarket
Vet bill costs
The cost of pet insurance varies based on a number of factors such as breed, age and location. You may think that pet insurance seems expensive, particularly if you don’t end up claiming however below we take a look at examples of the average cost of veterinary care in the UK should your pet become ill.
|Treatment||Average cost for cats||
Average cost for a medium-sized dog
*Data compiled by Royal & Sun Alliance plc for claims on policies in 2018
Not having a pet insurance policy in place if your pet becomes ill or injured could mean that you are unable to gather the money together to cover the cost of the treatment that your pet has received and find yourself in debt. Or alternatively, your pet will not be able to receive the treatment it needs.
How to get a good deal on pet insurance
If you are still not yet convinced to protect your pet against any emergencies or unexpected costs, here are a few ways to lower the cost of pet insurance premiums
- Spay or neuter your pet - this can reduce the risks of certain conditions
- Pay a higher excess amount - but ensure you select an amount you can afford
- Pay a co-payment in addition to the policy excess - you can select to pay 10 - 20% towards the vet bill to lower your monthly premiums
- Get the right cover - check the policy suits your needs so you only pay for the cover you require
- Get a multi-pet discount - some insurers offer a discount if you insure more than one pet
- Shop around - use comparison sites and shop around online for the cheapest deal
Pros and cons of pet insurance
Pros of pet insurance
- You are financially protected against unexpected vet bills
- Offers peace of mind
- Helps towards the cost of a lost pet
Cons of pet insurance
- Can be expensive if you do not need to claim
- Policy may not cover all incurred expenses
- Does not cover routine expenses
Alternatives to pet insurance
There are two alternatives to pet insurance:
An alternative to pet insurance is self-insurance. This is the process of putting away a regular amount of money each month to cover the cost of your pet becoming ill or injured. The problem with self-insurance is that it can take a long time to save a large amount of money. For example, if you had a vet bill for £1,500 and you saved £184 a year (the average annual cost of a dog’s lifetime policy) it would take you just over 8 years to save the amount to cover the cost of the surgery. The problem with this is that you may need to cover the cost of the treatment before you have reached the £1,500 saving goal.
If you do not have a pet insurance policy and your pet needs expensive veterinary treatment that you cannot afford there are some charities that are able to help. These charities however are designed to help those on benefits or income support and therefore should not be used by those that can afford to pay. A list of some of the charities can be found below: