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Everything you need to know about pet insurance

One in three pets need veterinary treatment each year. You are more likely to claim on pet insurance than any other type of insurance you have. Therefore choosing the right policy is extremely important. This fact sheet aims to highlight important points so you can make the right decision for you, your pet and your pocket.

Lifetime policy versus 12-month policy

With a lifetime policy your pet is covered for the rest of it’s life, whereas with a 12-month policy your pet is just covered for those 12 months. Even if you renew a 12 month policy annually, any condition you have claimed for in one year will be excluded the following years. Obviously the more comprehensive the cover the more expensive it is.

Eg. If a two year old Labrador develops allergic skin disease requiring long term treatment, the Lifetime policy will pay for any skin treatment year after year, however with a 12 month policy the year after the skin disease was diagnosed, the company will have put an exclusion on for skin problems and you will no longer be able to claim.

Level of cover

This is the amount of money that the insurance company will pay out. Some companies pay per condition and some pay per year. This seemingly small difference may actually make a big difference to you.

Eg. If in one year a cat develops diabetes and her treatment costs £750 and then she is hit by a car and needs surgery, which costs £1500, her total bill would be £2250. If her level of cover is £1500 per year she will only be covered for £1500 of her £2250 bill. However if her cover is £1500 per condition then her total bill will be covered.


The excess is the part of the claim that you pay for. The main purpose is to prevent people claiming for minor ailments that only cost a small amount but would cost insurance companies a lot in time and money to process. The excess can be a fixed amount or a percentage.

Eg. If you have a fixed excess of £60, you will pay £60 regardless of whether your claim is for £200 or £1500. If you pay say a 10% excess, you would pay £20 for a £200 claim and £150 for a £1500 claim.


Exclusions are veterinary costs that the insurance company will not pay for. Most companies will not pay for ‘preventative’ healthcare (such as vaccinations, neutering, flea products and wormers). Other exclusions vary from company to company, but commonly include costs associated with pregnancy, home visits (unless essential for the animal’s welfare), special diet foods and dental treatment.

Pre-existing conditions

If your pet is no longer a puppy or kitten but you have decided to take out an insurance policy, the company will need to know about any pre-existing conditions that your pet may be suffering from. Different companies will interpret this information in different ways.

Eg. A spaniel with arthritis in his left knee joint, may be excluded from any problems regarding that left knee by one company or be excluded totally from arthritis by another company.

Changes in terms for older pets

Ensure you read the small print as some companies will increase the premiums or the excess as a pet ages.

Age limit

Again read the small print as some companies will stop insuring at specific ages, and by then your pet may be too old to allow you to take out cover with any other company.

Direct payment

Although most companies state that they can pay your claim direct to your vet, it is worth checking with your practice if this is the case. At Summerhill (as with most practices) FSA guidelines mean that we can only process direct claims from one particular company.

Eg, A cat with a bladder stones may have a bill of £1200. Normally you would have to pay the vets then await your settlement from the insurance company. With direct payments the company pays your practice direct, cutting you out as a middle man.