Published On: Thu, Apr 11th, 2024

Pet owners warned of six insurance pitfalls and how to avoid them | UK | News

Being a can be a lot of fun, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. And taking good care of your furry friend can get expensive, especially if they get ill or injured.  

One way to manage this financial risk is to get pet insurance. Similar to human health insurance, pet insurance can be used to reimburse you for vet bills and sometimes other forms of care. 

However, there are many nuances to pet insurance, which can make it easy to make mistakes, starting from picking a pet insurance policy, to managing claims, to renewing your pet insurance.

Luckily, consumer champion Which? has shared their top pet insurance tips to help you avoid pet insurance mistakes to mark National Pet Day on Thursday.

1. Pre-existing conditions 

A pre-existing condition is a health concern that was present before you took out a policy. 

However, Which?’s research, found that only a small proportion of policies potentially cover them – 29 per cent for dogs and 21 per cent for cats. 

Taking out a policy without this type of cover may be fine if you purchase it when your pet is healthy. But if you wait and your pet has illnesses to purchase cover, you might find the condition is then excluded or you have to pay more. 

It also means customers wanting to switch providers – because their premiums have gone up, for instance – end up having to downgrade cover when they move to a new policy.

Of the few insurers that do consider covering a pet’s pre-existing medical conditions is dog insurer K9 Cover. It has seven policies rated as Best Buys. K9 Cover uses an online medical screening process where you can declare any condition and be given an immediate quote.

K9 Cover told Which? that its system works on the logic that the more you know about the animal, the greater the chance of understanding the level of risk. 

They believe that more insurers will begin to adopt a similar system and cover for pre-existing conditions will become the norm within five years.


2. Ongoing conditions

If your pet falls ill with the same condition more than once, you’ll want to know that the policy will cover any treatment they need.

Lifetime pet insurance covers ongoing illnesses every year unless you cancel your policy. But that’s not the case with other types of cover. 

With a maximum benefit policy, you can only claim for each condition once, even if it reoccurs. Unlike lifetime pet insurance, the maximum amount per condition isn’t reset each year. 

Time-limited policies also restrict you to claiming just once for each condition and there is also a time limit, typically 12 months, before the condition is excluded. With a time-limit policy, even if your cash limit for a particular condition wasn’t reached, the condition would eventually be excluded after a year. 

So, while these other types of cover may be cheaper, you could find yourself paying more in the long run if your pet ends up being prone to long-term illnesses.


3. Waiting period 

When taking out pet insurance, you’ll likely want your coverage to start as soon as possible. But if you look carefully, you’ll likely notice something called a ‘waiting period’. This means you can’t claim on the insurance until your coverage kicks in. 

The reason insurers do this is because they want to make sure owners are taking out cover for healthy pets only and not purchasing the policy because they know something is wrong.

While all of the pet insurance policies we looked at included a waiting period as part of their coverage, the length varied. For the majority, it was 14 days before you could claim for illness. But a small number of policies offered 10 days – seven per cent for dogs and seven per cent for cats.

Some policies also impose a waiting period for accidents and injuries, but it’s usually no more than 48 hours from when you start the policy.

4. Preventable diseases and pregnancy 

Don’t ignore those text and email reminders from the vet to get your dog or cat vaccinated. 

If you haven’t kept up to date with its annual jabs, you might find that your insurer will refuse to pay out when your furry friend falls ill with a disease that could have been prevented.

The only exception might be if your vet advises against vaccination for medical reasons.

Not taking measures to prevent your pet from getting pregnant is also not covered by most insurance providers. Although there are some that specialise in this for breeders. Agria and The Kennel Club, for example, both provider cover for this purpose.


5. Dental cover

Costs of dental treatment can vary depending on the work required, the type and size of pet and the vet you’re using. 

Most pet insurance policies we scrutinised include dental cover for injuries and accidents (for example, your dog fracturing a tooth while gnawing on a toy), but 12 per cent of dog and cat policies won’t cover dental treatment resulting from an illness.

Even if you have a policy that does, you’re often expected to arrange and pay any ‘routine’ dental procedures (such as cleaning or a scale and polish) yourself. And where you need to make a dental claim, you’ll need to be able to prove that your pet has been receiving annual check-ups.

The good news is that if you’re looking for a policy that does cover dental treatment for both accidents and illnesses, all our Best Buys include it.

6. Holiday cancellation

Pet insurance can also pay out if you have to cancel a holiday at the last minute because your four-legged friend gets critically ill at the point you’re due to travel. 

Thankfully, 78 per cent of dog policies and 87 per cent of policies covering cats offer holiday cancellation, although the amount paid out varies from £250 to £5,000. 

The criteria for making claims on this cover are often restrictive – with it usually being necessary that the pet’s illness is ‘life threatening’ – in order for the insurer to pay out.

Before buying holiday cancellation cover, check that you’re not already covered under your travel insurance.

Sam Richardson, Deputy Editor of Which? Money said: “We all want the best for our pets, but when it comes to choosing the right type of cover, it can be quite tricky to determine which plan is going to offer the best value for money, while still catering to all your pets’ needs in the long-term. 

“If your pet has pre-existing conditions, it may seem simpler to opt for a policy that doesn’t cover them or to not declare them. However, this means you’ll potentially be on the hook for any costs related to that condition. 

“Likewise, while time-limited policies may appear cost-effective initially, they may not provide coverage for recurring conditions. In comparison, lifetime policies, which are the only policies we award Best Buy status to, offer comprehensive coverage for the rest of the pet’s life, and ensure ongoing illnesses are covered annually.”

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