Direct Line magazine

What is pet insurance?

Updated on: 21 August 2020

A family plays with their dog.


The principles of insurance are generally simple and have long been founded upon common sense – it’s the risks of many covering the mishaps of a few. So, instead of everyone paying out of their own pocket every time something goes wrong, everyone clubs together, spreads the risk and pays a fraction of what they would otherwise have had to.

The principles of pet insurance are the same as any other general insurance. You pay your premium and hope that your pet stays healthy for the rest of its life. However, if your pet should unexpectedly fall ill, have an accident or even swallow something that it shouldn’t, your insurance company will pay to put it right out of the collective money pot.

Although pet insurance will cover your pet against life’s unexpected emergencies, it won’t cover you for routine or preventative treatment for your animals such as worming tablets or their regular injections. This is no different from any other form of insurance though, for example, you can’t claim for your car’s regular service on your car insurance, but you can claim for repairs if you have an accident.

Pet insurance has been around since 1947 when breeders of pedigree dogs were offered specialist cover. Now, there are over 80 providers all offering different pet insurance policies, which can be bought on the Internet or by telephone.

Pet insurance

The most important aspect of a pet insurance policy and the main reason why people insure their animals, is to cover veterinary fees. Essentially, there are three levels of cover offered, though there are different variations available. It’s therefore important that you are clear on what type you are buying.

Veterinary fees

  • Level 1 – Reinstatement policy – This is where companies offer a fixed amount of cover for vet fees each year and then reinstate this amount each year when the policy is renewed. This type of cover can be expensive but may be suitable for long term, ongoing conditions.

  • Level 2 – The second type of pet insurance policy involves a maximum limit on the amount paid out for each condition, so, you can claim for as long as it takes to reach this limit. This is generally less expensive than level one and is also suitable for long term conditions.

  • Level 3 – This type of cover has a maximum monetary limit per condition and a maximum time limit that a condition can be claimed for (normally 12 months from its onset). Once the maximum monetary or time limit has been reached the condition will no longer be covered. This is commonly referred to as a 12 month policy.

There are also additional options you can include in a pet insurance policy:

A typical pet insurance policy will cover:

  • Treatment for your pet if it suffers illness, injury or disease

  • The purchase price if your pet dies due to an accidental injury

  • An element of third party liability cover, usually applicable to dogs only, for injury to third parties or damage to their property

Third party liability

Many pet policies offer third party liability cover for dogs for whatever damage they cause to someone else or their property for which you are legally liable. For example, if your dog was to get hit by a car, not only would you have the cost of your pet’s injuries to deal with, you may also be liable to cover the cost of damage to the offending car and this can run into thousands of pounds.

A pet policy may also cover:

  • Holiday cancellation or curtailment – cover in the event that you need to cancel or cut short a holiday break due to loss, illness or injury of your pet

  • Hospitalisation of the owner – the cost of boarding kennel fees if you are hospitalised for a specified period of time

  • Death from illness up to a certain age – cover for purchase price should your pet die due to illness

  • Cover abroad if travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme – the cost of vets fees abroad, quarantine kennelling in the event of the pet’s microchip failing, financial help should the Pet Health Certificate get lost while you’re away and third party liability cover abroad. (You can read more information about travelling abroad with your pet on this website).

  • Retrieval costs – money towards advertising, reward and repatriation if your pet is lost or stolen. (Read more about dog theft and how to keep your dog safe).

  • Alternative treatments – some policies provide cover for your pet to receive alternative treatments or therapies such as homeopathy and hydrotherapy. (Read more about alternative health for pets).

So there’s a lot more to Direct Line pet insurance than meets the eye and if you want to find out more, then read on…

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