Pet insurance explained: What doesn’t pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance explained: What doesn’t pet insurance cover?


Pet insurance should protect us and our pets, so when a claim is denied it's annoying and worrying. How can we make sure this doesn't happen?

We receive thousands of pet insurance reviews from pet owners, every year. Many are happy with their insurance cover, but many are not. 

In many cases where the pet owner is unhappy it’s clear from their review that they found out too late what their policy wouldn’t cover, so what should you check when choosing the right insurance for you?

Read our guide to find out what to check.  

Pre-existing conditions

In most cases any condition or illness your pet has had before a new pet insurance policy is taken out will not be covered by your new insurer. 

There are a few exceptions to this such as VetsMediCover and Many Pets but there are usually strict qualifying criteria. Both these insurers require your pet to be symptom and treatment free for the pre-existing condition for 24 months before you claim.   

Vaccinations and parasite prevention

Pet insurance policies do not cover routine vaccinations and parasite prevention treatment. You will always need to budget for covering these costs yourself. Some vets allow you to spread the cost of routine treatment by paying a monthly amount to cover the total annual cost, so it's worth asking your vet if they offer such a scheme.

Pregnancy and giving birth

Pregnancy and giving birth are not usually covered by pet insurance. However, Agria Pet Insurance offer a Breeding Risk Cover policy for dogs and cats, and Kennel Club pet insurance offer a Breeding Risk Cover policy for dogs, too.Both insurers allow you to add this cover to your pets existing Lifetime Policy. There is a 12 week exclusion period so you should take out this policy well in advance of the next planned pregnancy. 

Typically, these specialist policies cover the mum and her litter with vet fee cover for complications during pregnancy and birth including caesarean section, death benefit if the mother sadly dies and cover for fertility examination. 

Petplan offer a breeding risk policy too, with fewer cover options.  

Spaying and castration  

Pet insurance policies do not cover spaying and castration so if you feel it will be important to neuter your pet then you’ll need to cover this cost yourself.   

Policy type 

If you buy an Accident only policy, then illnesses are not covered at all. 

If you buy a Maximum Benefit or Time Limited policy each condition or accident treatment is covered up to the vet fee limit or time from first claim (Time Limited policy) and then won’t be covered anymore. Therefore, if you pet develops a chronic condition that needs regular medication there will come a time that your policy won’t cover the costs of treatment or drugs for that condition, once the vet fee limit or time limit is exhausted.

Waiting periods  

Pet insurance policies usually have a waiting period. This is a period of time from the day you take out the policy when cover is NOT provided.

Many insurers won’t cover accidents for a couple of days after the policy becomes active, and most don’t cover medical conditions for around two weeks from the start date of the policy.  Each insurer is different, so check the wording on your policy to be sure.  

Some insurers impose different waiting periods for specific conditions such as cruciate ligament issues. So, if you have a pet prone to these issues check the waiting periods on your policy carefully. 

Inner limits  

To keep insurance costs down, some insurers impose “inner limits” on their policies. This means that for certain diagnostic tools such as scans and for certain types of treatment there are lower pay out limits than the vet fee cover you’ve purchased. 

It’s common to see an inner pay out limit for CT and MRI scans, special diets, alternative treatments such as hydrotherapy, cruciate ligament treatments, behavioural treatment and dental treatments. It’s important you look for the details of any inner limits and make sure you are comfortable with them.    

Dental treatment

Many policies only cover dental issues caused by an accident. They won’t cover routine care such as teeth cleaning even if it requires an anaesthetic, and teeth removal required due to dental decay or old age. It can be expensive to get the dental care your pet needs if they require an anaesthetic and several teeth removed, so it's good to be aware of any dental restrictions in your policy.   

There are some insurers that will cover dental treatment needed due to illness such as Lifetime Pet Cover, Tesco Pet Insurance, Agria Pet Insurance and Kennel Club Insurance, but there are often restrictions and conditions attached so please check the wording carefully. 

Excess payments and co-pay arrangements   

Most policies have an excess which works in the same way as your motor insurance excess. In most cases it means you must pay a certain amount towards every claim you make; in some more expensive policies it is only paid once a year.

Excess amounts vary policy to policy, so it is worth clecking the excess amount and if it applicable to each claim or applied less frequently.   

In some cases insurers have an excess amount you need to pay and a co-pay amount. This means that you pay the excess amount on each claim, and you’ll pay a percentage of the rest of the costs of that treatment. In some cases a co-pay percentage is optional, but in some cases it is compulsory. It tends to be more common in policies for older pets. 

For example: If you have a policy with an excess of £99 and a co-pay of 10% this is what you’d pay for a claim totalling £500. You pay £99 excess plus 10% of £401 which is £40.10. The insurer would pay £360.90 of the claim.    

As you can see if your claim is larger, you’ll pay more, so this is an important feature to consider when choosing the right insurance for you.

Death of your pet

Not all pet insurance policies provide compensation when your pet dies or is stolen. Some don’t cover euthanasia if you must make the difficult decision to have your pet put down. 

Some will also provide funds for trying to find your pet if they are lost, stolen or stray and some stretch to providing funds for a reward, such as Vetsure. 

Behavioural restrictions 

We are starting to see lower cost policies that have behavioural restrictions for dogs. I have to say that the restrictions are quite wide-ranging stating that the policy won’t cover any dog that has ever exhibited any type of aggression to a person or another dog. This includes food related aggression, fear aggression, guarding aggression, reactive aggression and several other definitions.     

This is an important restriction to check as many dogs have been aggressive at some time or another for a particular reason and if you’ve had this issue and discussed it with your vet, you may not be covered by these policies. 

Age limits

All policies have age limits. Most policies will cover pets from 8 weeks of age, and some such as Many Pets cover pets from 4 weeks of age.

When insurers stop offering cover can vary. Some insurers will not insurer dogs that are 8 years or older and cats that are 10 or older. Many policies will continue to cover pets over these age limits if the policy has been in force before they reach this age and has been renewed without a break in cover.

Special diets and alternative treatments

Some insurers will cover special diets and alternative treatments such as hydrotherapy, but most that do impose limits on the contribution they will make. 

Always read the restrictions before buying

Pet insurance is a good way to protect our finances and our pet’s health. However, it is always important to read the policy restrictions and details of what is not covered to check it provides the level of protection you are looking for.

Hopefully this review of common exclusions will alert you to the features you need to check when buying pet insurance.  We hope it helps!  

Dog at the vets.