Direct Line magazine

Does your pet need insurance?

Updated on: 14 June 2021

A dog and cat relax on a brick wall.

Occasionally pets get ill and have accidents. They can eat stones or poisonous plants on a walk, get ill or suffer an injury. If this happens, you'll want them to get the best care possible, which might include the help of a vet. Unfortunately, this comes at a price as there's no animal NHS to foot the bill.

Pet owners might be shocked at how much a trip to the vets can cost, with medical bills for emergency treatment and long-term care often running into hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. And medical care for pets isn't getting any cheaper. According to The Association of British Insurers (ABI), the average pet insurance claim in 2018 was £793 – an increase of £36 compared to 2017. Over the past 10 years, the average claim amount has increased by 75%.

The good news is that pet insurance can provide cover for medical care and more.

What does pet insurance cover?

As animal lovers, we want our pets to get back to normal when something happens. This usually involves a trip to the vets. With insurance, you're covered for accidents and illnesses, as well as for the ongoing costs of medication and consultations for pets with long-term conditions. Unfortunately, many providers won't cover pre-existing conditions.

With Direct Line Pet Insurance, we offer the following on all plans:

  • Cover for complementary treatments. This includes things like physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, which are becoming more popular ways to treat pets.
  • Free 24/7 online access to a UK vet with PawSquad. You'll be able to speak to a vet via online video or text chat at any time of the day.
  • Additional support. We're here to help you when you need it. Our policies include practical legal advice and bereavement helplines.

Depending on your level of cover and add-ons purchased, you can also get additional help towards:

  • Dental treatment for gum and tooth disease (included with Advanced pet insurance)
  • Putting your pet to sleep (included with Advanced pet insurance)
  • Advertising and rewards if your pet goes missing or is stolen
  • Pet boarding if you need to go into hospital
  • The cost of your pet if it's lost or dies due to illness or injury
  • The cost of having to cancel a holiday due to your pet needing emergency treatment or going missing within seven days of your trip
  • Third-party liability for dogs
  • Overseas travel

How much are vet bills?

Vet bills tend to be what most people claim for and can vary greatly depending on what treatment your pet needs. As we've already covered, the average pet insurance claim in 2018 was £793.

You love your pet like one of the family, so we understand that dealing with vet bills is the last thing you want to think about, especially when considering the cost. We get thousands of claims every year and want to make it as stress-free as possible.

At times, getting your pet the right care may be expensive, so knowing you've got insurance will give you added peace of mind.

Different types of insurance

Insurers offer different types of cover, so you need to think about which is right for you and your pet. You'll be able to choose from:

Accident-only policies

These tend to be the cheapest. They offer limited levels of cover, as you'll only be covered if your pet is involved in an accident. The terms and conditions are different depending on the provider, but check if they cover emergency illnesses too.

It's likely there'll be a fixed sum of money for each accident/illness. Time limits will probably apply too. In other words, treatment will only be covered for a certain length of time.

Condition based

There's a claim amount limit applied to each separate condition your pet may have. After your pet has been treated by a vet, there'll be an amount you can claim for that condition. If it costs more than the limit, you'll have to pay for the rest. Providing the insurance stays in place, each specific condition will be covered until its maximum fee limit is reached.

Time based

There could be limits on how long you can claim for each treatment after it first happened. If your pet needs additional treatment for a condition once the time limit has been reached, this won't be covered.


Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive option. It'll still have set payout limits each year, but these renew annually. These limits could be per condition or one total limit for all claims. While the policy is active, your pet will be covered for life.

With all policies, the quote you're given can be affected by:

  • The excess (how much you pay towards a claim)
  • The pet's breed and age
  • Where you live
  • Pre-existing conditions

It's worth bearing in mind that limits, cover and excesses will vary between insurers, so always check the cover is suitable for your needs. They could apply to just time, condition, or both.

There's also the choice to self insure. Save some money each month, and If something happens, you can dip into this to pay for treatment.

If you choose this approach, you'll only have as much money as you've managed to save. This means, should your pet need treatment after only a few months, you might not have enough saved to cover the costs. With pet insurance, you'd have up to the policy's cover limit.

However, it won't cost you anything if your pet doesn't get ill or injured.

What if my pet has a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is anything your pet has been treated for before you insured it. If they've shown symptoms and you've taken your pet to a vet, you'll need to tell your insurer. This includes any signs or symptoms of illness and injury as well as diagnosed conditions. Most insurers won't cover pre-existing conditions.

Hereditary and congenital conditions could be covered as long as you were unaware of them before you took out the policy.

Insure your pets today

We hope you now have a better understanding of pet insurance and why it could be a good choice for you and your pets.

If you're already a Direct Line customer, you can benefit from a 10% Introductory discount on pet insurance. In addition, you'll save 12.5% when you insure more than one pet on the same policy, online.

Discounts are applied consecutively and are for the first 12 months of the policy.

Related articles

A dog cuddles a cat.

How to choose a pet insurance policy

To get the right pet cover policy for you, explore our tips on comparing pet insurance benefits and limitations including excess, exclusions, age limits.
A dog with a bandaged paw.

Guide to First Aid for Dogs

When something happens to our faithful friends, panic can hit. With this guide, you'll learn the best course of action to make sure your dog has the best chance to make a speedy recovery.
A grey cat is sat on a wall outside.

Cat theft - how to prevent your cat being stolen

In this guide we explore why cats are taken, how to stop theft and what to do if the worst happens.