A Guide to Pet Insurance Small Print and Exclusions

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What You Need to Know

  1. You will not be covered for any of your pets pre-existing conditions, even if you were unaware of them.
  2. If you get a ‘time limited’, once the policy is over you will receive no more payouts, even if your pet has developed an ongoing condition.
  3. If you have a ‘lifetime’ policy you can renew it year on year, without a limit to the number of claims you can make.
  4. It is best to cover your pet from the earliest age possible as premiums are lower. For older pets you may have to pay a percentage of your claims, on top of the excess.
  5. Have your pet checked out before taking out a policy. If a condition becomes apparent that is found to be hereditary or congenital (from birth), it will not normally be covered.
  6. Check the small print for odd stipulations. You may find your cover for foreign insurance is not valid unless you tell the insurer where and when you are travelling.
  7. Common sense actions that you may overlook can invalidate your pet insurance. For example if your dog is stolen you must report it immediately.

Pet insurance has become increasingly popular in the last few years, however, whilst more and more people are realising the importance of pet insurance, many are still unaware of the ins and outs of the policies they pay for. Our guide is here to highlight some of the common exclusions and points of small print you should look out for.

Pre-existing conditions

No matter the animal, whether you are buying rabbit insurance or dog insurance, it is important to make it known if your pet has any pre-existing health conditions. Failing to do this could result in your policy being invalidated.

All the standard policies from the big name pet insurance providers will not pay for any expense relating to a condition that existed before the policy was taken out, or, in some cases, if it started soon after (this period varies between policies, but is often 10 days or so).

Time Limits

With a ‘lifetime’ cover plan your pet will continue to be covered as long as you continue to renew the policy year on year and there are normally no limits to the number claims you can make (though the value of potential claims will be capped per year.)

Cheaper ‘time-limited’ policies do not work this way. Most provide payments up to a set limit and limit the amount of claims you can make during a 12-month period. Furthermore the policy will only pay out within this period.

It is vital to understand how this relates to ongoing conditions. For example, if your pet developed a condition which required a year of treatment six months into your policy, you would have to pay for the last six months of treatment yourself.

Furthermore, once your ‘time-limited’ policy runs out, you will not be able to find an insurer to cover the costs of treating the illness because, as previously discussed, most pet insurance companies won’t cover current conditions.

The Age of Your Pet

For all animals the pets age will affect the premium you pay to insure them. Many pets have to reach a minimum age (10 weeks or so) before they can be insured. Once they reach this age it is wise to insure them as soon as possible, when rates are lower.

There are insurers who, for example, will, on top of the standard excess, require you to pay a percentage of any veterinary work for a dog over 6 years of age.

Likewise, many insurers will no longer pay out on the death of a pet due to illness if it is over a certain age, commonly 9 years for a dog and 11 for a cat.

Excluded Conditions and Treatments

Though they can be expensive, policies do not cover standard procedures such as splaying and vaccinations (although failing to have these procedures done can invalidate your insurance.) Preventative and elective treatments are also generally excluded. Dental problems are normally only covered if they are the result of an accident.

Be careful with regards to hereditary illnesses (those that run in the animals family) and congenital diseases (those your pet was born with) as these are often excluded in the small print. Be sure to find out what conditions your pet has before taking out a policy.

Check Definitions and Statements on Separate Pages

When looking through the paperwork relating to your policy always be aware that the definitions of terms given on one page may effect a statement made on another page. For example, your policy may state that you will be paid your pet’s market value if it dies, then on a separate page you might find a stipulation that you’ll get 25% less if your dog was neutered.

Other Areas of Cover

Many comprehensive policies cover other possible mishaps such as 3rd person cover, dog knapping and foreign trips. These areas also come with some common exclusions and unusual stipulations.

3rd party cover, which protects you against the cost of your pet attacking or causing an accident for somebody else, does not normally apply to members of your own family, people who care for your pet, or work colleagues, though they are persons you’d logically most want to insure.

If you have cover for foreign travel you should also check the fine print. Your cover may only apply to certain countries and sometimes, though you have already paid for the cover, you have to inform your insurer exactly when you are going abroad.

These days policies will even cover the cost of you having to cancel a holiday due to a pet’s illness. But think, given the terms and conditions, is this worth having? Often only the cost of the owner’s holiday will be covered. This isn’t particularly helpful if you have also booked for three kids who can’t go without you.

Common Sense

Many of the terms in a policy are common sense, though they can easily be overlooked. You may be covered for the cost of advertising a lost pet or offering an award to whoever finds it, but unless you clear these costs with your insurer first they will not pay for them. Therefore, it is not wise to go paying for lots of posters to be made promising a reward the moment you notice your pet is missing.

On the other hand, if you suspect your dog has been stolen it pays to act quickly. Many insurers will not pay out for a stolen dog unless the theft was reported within 24-48 hours of the crime.

Further Reading

  • For more information on pet insurance you can refer to the RSPCA
  • The PDSA can offer a wealth of health advice for your pet.

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