Pet insurance – what should you look for in a policy?

8 min read
May 16, 2023

British people are renowned for their devotion to their pets. So it’s not surprising that we’re willing to spend considerable amounts on making sure they are fit and healthy.

As the cost-of-living crisis bites, Resolver has heard from increasing numbers of pet owners concerned about vets’ bills and rising insurance costs. Given that pet insurance is there to provide peace of mind for pet owners, it’s important to know what policy is best for you. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the main types of insurance, a few things to watch out for, and some tips to help you if you’re struggling financially.

And if you’re thinking about switching, our partner QuoteZone’s insurance comparison tool will help you find the best pet insurance policy and save you time and money.

Pet insurance – what you need to know

People are more likely to make a claim on pet policies than any other type of insurance. While you might decide to put off making a claim on an old sofa, you probably wouldn’t avoid a claim for your beloved dog’s medical treatment. In recent years, many pet owners have expressed concerns about rising costs and lack of choice when it comes to policies, as lots of insurers left the market.

The good news is that many more insurance companies have come onto the market in recent years. Yet at Resolver we still hear from consumers who wish to complain about high prices or confusing contracts. 

As with all forms of insurance, there are lots of different types of policies that you can buy to protect your pet. Prices vary considerably too so it’s important to shop around to find the best deal for you.

You can compare and save on pet insurance policies through Resolver here: 

What are the different types of pet insurance? 

There are four main types of pet insurance:

  • Lifetime cover 
  • Maximum benefit cover
  • Time-limited cover
  • Accident only cover

Lifetime policies

The best policy you can buy is a lifetime policy. This covers your pet for treatment for life in almost all circumstances, usually for a set amount each year. These are the priciest policies but make the most sense for pet owners who want total peace of mind. 

These policies cover your pet for new illnesses and accidents, but not pre-existing conditions. Lifetime policies will also pay for ongoing treatment as long as the agreement stays in force – i.e. if you renew the policy each year.

The insurance covers various ailments – so your cat could be treated for two separate illnesses in a year, However, each illness will have a maximum policy limit.

The amount paid out by the insurer is capped each year, so bear in mind that these policies don’t cover limitless expenses for veterinary treatment.

Maximum benefit policies

If lifetime policies are a little too pricey then the next best policy is the maximum benefit or ‘money limited’ policy.

Just as with lifetime policies, pre-existing conditions are generally not covered. Maximum benefit policies will pay out a capped or fixed amount for each potential medical condition your pet might have. You’ll be able to make claims up to the policy limit for each condition. 

The big difference here is once you’ve hit that limit, that’s the maximum amount that will be paid out even if the condition is ongoing – though there tends not to be a time limit if you’re under the claim limit. You’ll still get payouts for new illnesses or conditions but only if they are unrelated to the previous claims.

Time-limited policies 

Though time-limited policies look similar to maximum benefit policies, there is one key difference. The insurance works by setting a fixed limit for each medical treatment. However, as the name suggests, the policy will only cover you for a set time frame from the start of treatment (usually a year). 

So unlike a maximum benefit policy, once you hit the maximum payout or cross the time deadline, the claim ends.

Accident only policies

The cheapest policy you can buy only covers accidents, not conditions that might be diagnosed by a vet.

The policy should set out fixed limits for each type of injury and treatment. Some policies also have a time limit for ongoing treatments. Look for policies that offer emergency treatment for some illnesses too. 

With these last three policies, if you find that you’ve maxed out your limit for a medical condition, you may still be able to get a good policy elsewhere, however, this will exclude the treatment that you’ve already claimed for.


Think you may be paying too much for your pet insurance or don’t have the right kind of coverage? Check out our  Pet Insurance comparison tool. 


What should be covered?

It’s not just medical treatments that are covered by pet insurance. Here are some other things to look for in your pet insurance policy.

Traveling abroad. Surprisingly, your policy might cover illness or injury that happens to your pet while abroad. You’ll need to have followed the rules of entry to that country though – so no sneaking your cat onto the Eurostar. 

Pet accommodation. Some policies cover the cost of your pet going into kennels, a cattery or other shelter if you fall ill or are hospitalised and need to make alternative care arrangements for them.  

Third-party cover. As with other forms of insurance, third-party cover is there should your pet injure someone or damage something. This covers legal costs, the other person’s bills, and other expenses.

Death payments. No one wants to think about this eventuality, but it’s worth pointing out that most pet insurance pays a sum in the event of your pet’s death to cover the amount you paid when you purchased it (or what your pet might be worth if it was sold). After a certain age, these policies will not pay out. 

Euthanasia and other death costs. Cremation and euthanasia can be surprisingly expensive, so look for this in your insurance contract.   

Problems and things to think about 

Much like human illnesses, most complaints about pet insurance involve ongoing medical treatments, such as disputes over whether a ‘new’ condition is related to an older one and ‘non-disclosure’ – when the insurer feels you haven’t disclosed a previous medical condition. 

As with all general insurance products, terms and conditions are very much open to interpretation. If your insurer is relying on unclear or ambiguous terms to reject a claim, you should complain. In addition, if the insurer is giving more weight to their veterinary experts than your vet, you should push back. 

In recent years, we’ve seen some quite unusual treatments recommended by vets. Again, as with humans, treatments for pets need to be generally accepted as effective and practical. Check with your insurer to find out if the treatment is approved before you pay for it upfront. 

Other things you might assume are covered may not be, like ‘preventative’ treatments. This can be anything from spaying, anti-flea treatments and grooming. Some policies will cover dental treatment, though you should expect limitations on when the policy will pay out. The whole process of your pet giving birth may also be excluded.

Common concerns and financial difficulties

A lot of the pet owners we hear from don’t want to think about their pet getting ill and, aside from some basic injections and treatments, avoid speaking to a vet until something bad happens. We’d really encourage anyone with a pet to get to know their vet. The security of knowing that the surgery is there, its opening hours and where to go if you need emergency treatment is vital – even if you are fortunate enough to never need to use it. 

It is worth speaking to your vet before signing up for a policy to ensure that their fees will be covered. There’s quite a lot of variation with vet fees – and if yours is pricey, you should check with the insurer how much they’d be willing to cover.

If you are experiencing financial difficulties, it might be more affordable to try to put aside some money every month to cover unexpected bills. You could also speak to your vet to find out if there are any subsidised or support services in your local neighbourhood. The RSPCA may be able to offer advice and means-tested support if you need help with your pet’s medical treatment.


What if you are unhappy with a claim?

If you need to make a claim, speak to the insurer and tell them about the vet’s costs that you’ve been quoted asap. Some vets may recommend ‘experimental’ treatments that aren’t covered. (We’ve seen dogs sent for hydrotherapy treatments that turned out to be frolicking in a paddling pool in a shed for hundreds of pounds.) So make sure you look into what every treatment involves and how it helps the underlying medical condition.

If the business turns down your claim in full or in part, then tell them you want to make a complaint. Resolver can help you raise your complaint for free.

The business must write to you with their decision on the claim. Set out what you don’t think is fair in your own words and ask the firm to reconsider its decision. You can ask your vet to get involved too if the insurer is ignoring their advice. 

Ultimately, you can take your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service. The ombudsman will look at your complaint impartially and often overturns claims decisions. 

If you think you’re paying too much for your insurance or don’t have the right coverage, go ahead and use our Pet Insurance comparison tool and make the switch now!

If you have any thoughts on this topic, or any other consumer issues you would like us to cover, feel free to get in touch with us at


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