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Pet Insurance Explained

We understand that navigating the world of pet insurance can be confusing. Choosing the right insurance can sometimes feel overwhelming with all the options, policies, and information out there. Here is a quick and simple explanation of what it is and how it works.

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> Deciding if Pet Insurance is right for you

> Savings account vs a Pet Insurance Policy

> The different types of Pet Insurance

> FAQs

Deciding if Pet Insurance is right for you

Rather than questioning if you can afford pet insurance, try reframing the question: Can you afford to go without it? This may help you understand the potential importance of pet insurance for your own lifestyle and your pet's welfare.

As pet owners, we all reach a point where we have to decide whether or not to invest in pet insurance. This question doesn't have a universal answer since it depends on your unique situation. Some prefer having everything organised, while others are okay with taking some risks and avoiding spending on uncertainties. How much our concerns about the future impact our happiness varies from person to person. When contemplating the decision to acquire pet insurance, carefully consider potential issues and devise strategies for addressing them.

When reviewing the value of pet insurance, you should also review your own financial situation and your emotional investment in your pet's well-being.

Financially, the evaluation comes down to this: Can you afford unexpected veterinary bills, without significantly impacting your lifestyle? Depending on your income or savings, the impact could be minor or major. Ultimately, it's about determining your comfort level with potential financial setbacks.

For example, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) presented the following average claim data from 2022:

★ The average cost of a claim compared to 2012 has risen 39% from £555 to £771

★ Claims for spinal surgery are the most common high value claims, often costing £8,000 - £10,000

★ A fractured femur for a pedigree cat cost over £8,000

★ The most common ongoing claims are to treat diabetes and skin conditions

★ Treatment for arthritis in a dog can cost over £2,000; typically, £1,000 to treat diabetes in a cat

Emotionally, consider if you lack the disposable income to cover the bill, how might that impact your overall well-being?

Simply put, the worth of pet insurance depends on your own circumstances. Can you handle the potential financial and emotional effects of not having it? If you need the financial security and peace of mind it provides, then insuring your pet may be the best choice for you.

The difference between Pet Insurance and Savings

Occasionally, pet owners contemplate whether a savings account might serve as a preferable alternative to pet insurance. Self-insurance is a valid consideration that's worth exploring, so let's delve into a scenario to compare:

John and Amy are neighbours and dog-walking companions. To cover future unexpected veterinary expenses, John decides to set up a savings account for his 2 year old dog Milo. Amy on the other hand buys a pet insurance policy for her 2 year old dog Hugo.

Seven months later: John has saved £196 and Amy has spent the same amount on pet insurance premiums. During a dog walk, both Milo and Hugo ingest something harmful, requiring veterinary care to remove the foreign objects. As a result, John and Amy face a £1,280 vet bill.

As John has no insurance, he covers the entire £1,280 cost for Milo's treatment. On the other hand, after approving her claim, Amy's insurance provider pays the full amount, minus her policy's excess.

Now that Milo and Hugo are safe and healthy at home, how much have their owners spent?

Infographic - the financial difference between a savings account and pet insurance

Figures presented are based on a like for like scenario. Excess amount is based on Lifetime Pet Cover's current premium amount (Accurate as of May 2024)

Five months later, Amy has continued to pay her monthly premiums, totaling £535 and has saved £745. Hugo's lifetime policy also allows Amy to relax; she knows that treatment related to this incident may continue to be covered each year she renews.

The Types of Pet Insurance

There are four key primary types of pet insurance policies available in the UK:

Accident Only: 

This policy covers veterinary treatment for accidental injuries like broken bones or ingestion of harmful substances. It typically does not cover illnesses or pre-existing conditions.


Time-limited policies provide cover for both accidents and illnesses, but only for a limited period. Typically, this is up to 12 months from when the condition first appears. Once the cover period ends or the financial limit is reached, no further coverage will be provided for that condition or anything associated with it. This exclusion continues at renewal.

Maximum Benefit: 

Maximum benefit policies provide coverage up to a set financial limit per condition. After reaching this limit, the policy ceases to cover the condition and anything associated with it. This exclusion continues at renewal. However, the policy will continue to provide coverage for other conditions up to their respective limits.


Lifetime policies offer the most comprehensive coverage for accidents and illnesses, for as long as the policy stays active. These policies usually have a yearly spending limit that starts fresh every year when you renew the policy. Unlike the other main types of pet insurance, a lifetime policy continues to cover ongoing conditions each year. This is so long as they weren't present before the policy began.

Please note that while policies may share the same name, different providers offer varying versions. Although the core principles stay the same among providers, there can be significant variations in coverage and pricing. For instance, one Lifetime policy may cover dental accidents and illnesses, while another might only cover dental accidents.

Lifetime Pet Cover only offer lifetime pet insurance policies.

Infographic comparison between 4 key types of pet insurance policies

What is the best type of Pet Insurance for you?

Pet insurance does not offer a "one-size-fits-all" solution, and there is no singular "best" pet insurance policy. 

Everyone values a product differently; you must find the right balance between what you pay and what you expect to get in return.

When evaluating your options, there are a host of types, benefits, cover levels, and providers to choose from. Do your research thoroughly so your policy fits your current needs and budget, as well as any future expectations.


Do I have to have pet insurance?

There is no law requiring you to buy pet insurance, unlike microchipping, which is mandatory for both dogs and cats.

What happens if I don’t have pet insurance?

Without pet insurance, you will be responsible for covering all veterinary treatment costs for your pet yourself. For dogs, this will also apply to any legal costs if they are liable for any property damage or injury to a third party.

How much does pet insurance cost?

The cost of your pet insurance policy will depend on various factors beyond just the type of policy you choose.

  • Age: Older pets are typically more expensive to insure, as they tend to require more/longer term medical care. Policies for senior pets can often come with more restrictions, and pre-existing medical conditions are usually not covered.
  • Breed: Certain breeds are more prone to specific health issues, which can affect your premium. For example, French Bulldogs can be prone to breathing problems, leading to higher insurance costs, whilst West Highland Terriers can be more prone to skin conditions. Generally, larger breeds and pedigree dogs/cats are more expensive to insure, due to their susceptibility to hereditary illnesses compared to crossbreeds.
  • Location: Veterinary costs vary by region. In areas like London, where vet bills are higher, you can expect your pet insurance to cost more accordingly.

By considering these factors, you can better understand what influences the cost of insuring your pet.

What is a policy excess?

An insurance excess is a fixed amount of money that you need to contribute towards the cost of a claim. If your claim is successful, your insurer will then cover the remaining costs up to the policy limit. The excess amount can be dependent on the policy you select.

What is co-insurance?

Co-insurance (sometimes referred to as “co-payment” or “variable excess”) is an additional excess that is applied on top of the standard policy excess and is typically a percentage based amount. When or if this applies can be dependent on several things, such as your pets age, breed, or policy you choose for your pet. It is best to check the policy terms to see when or if this would apply to your pets policy, as it does mean you will need to pay more towards a claim.

What age should I insure my pet?

Different providers and policies have varied age limits for starting a new policy but is typically from the age of 6 – 8 weeks. Some providers will have a maximum age limit to start a new policy but once insured, will continue to be insured beyond any age limit. This means if you are considering insuring your pet, it is worth doing so as early in their life as you can. Leaving it until your pet is older could leave you in a position where any condition previously treated or diagnosed, will not be covered under most insurance policies.

What counts as a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is any illness or injury your pet showed symptoms of, or received treatment for, prior to your policy beginning. Although a small volume of pet insurers will cover pre-existing conditions for an additional premium, this is not common in the industry at present.