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7 myths about pet insurance that you can't afford not to know

As a pet owner, it can sometimes be hard to know whether pet insurance is worth the cost. Here, we’ve looked at the common myths surrounding pet insurance and why having cover is vital for looking after your animal companion.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Sep 26, 2022

Couple with dog

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Whether you’ve got a dog, cat, a couple of furry bunnies or a collection of reptiles, your pets will be a much-loved addition to your family, and you’ll want to do anything you can to keep them happy, safe and healthy. This means providing them somewhere comfortable to sleep, food to eat and caring for them if something happens to them. 

When a beloved pet gets ill or injured, it can be a very worrying time, and that can be made worse by the sudden costs of veterinary treatment. This is where your pet insurance steps in. If you already have pet insurance, you’ll know it can take the financial stress out of caring for your pet, covering the cost of most or all of their treatment. Unfortunately for some pet owners, the spiralling costs of tests, medication and appointments can prevent their pets from getting all the treatment they need. 

If you have a pet and are considering taking out pet insurance, you may have been put off thinking it’s expensive, complicated, or that your pet isn’t covered. There are lots of misconceptions around pet insurance so to help you make the right decision, we’ve researched some of the most common myths. 

To help debunk some of these common myths, PDSA vet Claire Roberts has answered some of our Mumsnetters’ biggest concerns surrounding pet insurance. From how much it costs to what pets it covers, we’ve debunked some of the most common pet insurance myths to help you find the right cover for your special companion.

Myth #1: Pet insurance is too expensive

This is probably one of the most common misconceptions. Pet insurance is generally a monthly cost so committing to it can feel overwhelming and something you think you may not be able to afford. 

However, you will be able to find cover to suit your budget. You’ll know up front what you need to pay each month and can budget for it accordingly. This will be much more manageable financially than having to pay out a lump sum for treatment further down the line. 

Advice from PDSA

“I was wondering this the other day? Is there a pet insurance that helps low income families? I know the PDSA helps them but sometimes pet insurance is expensive and there is an excess. Families in a lower income would still like to have a lovely pet but might not be able to afford it?” LidlCinnamonBun

Claire Roberts says: Most providers offer a range of cover levels so that you can choose one that is affordable to you. Having a policy with a lower level of cover could be better than not having any cover at all if your pet needs veterinary care. 

You can also use comparison sites, although remember that not all insurers are found on these sites. As always, make sure you check that your chosen policy has all the cover you require and that you will be able to afford the excess in case of an emergency.

You can check if you are eligible for free or low-cost veterinary treatment at PDSA online.

Myth #2: It only covers dogs and cats

Some people wrongly believe that pet insurance is only for your usual dogs and cats, but most species can be covered. From reptiles to guinea pigs, you will be able to find suitable cover for your pet. 

Different insurers may offer different cover so it’s worth doing your research first to ensure you find one that will suit your pet and budget.

Advice from PDSA

“Which policies are best for rabbits? When they go through it can be very expensive and pretty sudden.” goingpearshaped

Claire Roberts says: Rabbits can be very good at hiding illnesses, so they can appear to get very sick quickly. Costs can add up for their treatment and care, so it is a good idea to consider insurance. 

Insuring rabbits is very similar to insuring a cat or a dog, with options including lifetime cover that could cover vet fees over the whole life of your rabbits, including chronic (long-term) conditions or annual policies that cover vet fees up to 12 months from a new injury or illness. 

As rabbits are social animals that should be kept in groups or pairs, it is worth looking for multi-pet insurance discounts to ensure peace of mind that your bunnies are covered.

Woman feeding rabbits

Myth #3: It doesn’t cover all the costs

Depending on the policy you choose, pet insurance can cover most of the costs of your pet's treatment and needs. You can even get pet insurance that covers other things too , as explained by PDSA below.

When looking for pet insurance, you can choose what costs you want to include and the amount your pet is covered. As with any insurance, the more you pay each month, the more coverage you will get. Even if you have to make some extra payments, these will be much more affordable than having to find hundreds, maybe thousands of pounds if the worst does happen. 

Advice from PDSA

“We are considering getting a dog, but slightly concerned about the costs involved! We would definitely buy pet insurance, but what are the main things I would need to make sure I have covered?” MsLadyMojo

Claire Roberts says: Choosing pet insurance can seem complicated, but there are only a few types of cover (but different providers can give them other names!). Accident-only insurance will cover your pet in the event of an accidental injury like a broken bone but will not cover any illnesses. 

Time-limited cover (sometimes called annual cover) includes vet fees for each new condition for a set amount of time, usually 12 months from when symptoms are first seen. Lifetime policies will continue to cover ongoing conditions year after year, up to the maximum amount included in your policy, for as long as you keep your insurance up to date. Make sure to carefully read your chosen policy's terms and conditions.

Costs to look for when you are choosing a policy include:

  • Excess - the amount of money that you will have to pay when claiming vet fees
  • Co-payments- sometimes, especially with older pets, policies may require payment of a percentage of your vet fees in addition to the excess

As well as vet fees, some policies may also cover loss or theft of your pet and boarding fees for them if you become ill and cannot look after your pet. Third-party liability for if your pet causes an injury or an accident is also something to look out for, mainly available for dogs.

Other handy benefits to look out for include 24/7 access to veterinary helplines at no extra cost and payments being made direct to your vet.

You should also look at exclusions for your policy, such as any pre-existing conditions. These are medical issues that were present before you took out insurance.

Finally, your pet's breed can affect your premiums, so you can consider this when looking for your new dog.

Myth #4: Pet insurance is a waste of money

If your pet has never needed treatment, it’s easy to think you’ll never need pet insurance. 

However, veterinary treatment can come with a high price tag and while you may not need it right now, a simple accident could quickly land you with a hefty vet bill. This financial worry can add to an already stressful time.

Advice from PDSA

“Having paid monthly charges for vets’ fleaing and worming of cat and dog we found the cost of insurance prohibitive and avoided it. Both our cat and dog are over the age of ten and we would not have claimed once during that time. How can you convince me that for future pets insurance is worthwhile? Or have we just been lucky?” fishnships

Claire Roberts says: It is great to hear that your pets have reached ten without having any significant health issues! As with all types of insurance, it is always nice if you don’t have to use it, but it is a fantastic safety net if you do ever need it. 

Unexpected accidents like broken bones can happen to any pet at any time, as can illnesses and disease. Having insurance means that costs are one less thing to worry about when your pet is sick or injured. Unfortunately, veterinary care for complicated conditions, including referrals to veterinary specialists, time in intensive care units and expensive diagnostic tools such as MRI scans can be cost-prohibitive to many people without insurance.

Rabbits in garden

Myth #5: Choosing a policy is confusing

There’s a wide variety of different pet insurers and plans to choose from, which can feel overwhelming when it comes to picking the right cover. It’s important to do your research and compare different insurers. You may find it useful to go through a comparison website, but remember not all insurers will be on there. PDSA have made it quick and easy to get an insurance quote online.

Advice from PDSA

“I found getting pet insurance quite confusing to be honest, and can't even remember the type of cover we got (it's with sainsburys). Can you explain about the lifetime cover - do you have to be with the same insurer and will you then get screwed on the renewal costs? I worry about a longer term health issue and how this will be insured if you move insurer to try and better your deal…” mindtheGAAP

Claire Roberts says: Pet insurance can be really confusing, with lots of different names used and lots of terms and conditions.

If you have a lifetime cover policy and your pet gets an ongoing disease such as diabetes or arthritis, the vet fees will be covered by your policy (up to a set amount per year) for the rest of your pet’s life, so long as you keep renewing the policy. This is compared to an annual policy, which will cover a condition for one year only.

You are right that if you have claimed for an issue on your lifetime cover policy, you will likely need to stay with that insurer to continue claiming. The primary purpose of insurance policies is to cover you for unexpected losses so, if you move to a different provider, you will have to declare this issue as a pre-existing condition and it may not be covered. This can therefore be a risky move to take.

However if your pet has not had any illness or injuries then you can move between insurance policies to try and find a better deal. If doing this, you should take into account that if your pet has shown a symptom of an illness then this may be classed as a pre-existing condition, even if you haven’t claimed on your insurance before, so make sure your pet has been entirely healthy if you are considering this.

Myth #6: There are too many exclusions

As with any insurance, there will be some exclusions. However, while it can be more difficult to insure older pets and animals that may be considered high risk for certain illnesses, you should still be able to find cover. Most providers won’t cover pre-existing conditions, but you should be able to insure your pet for new illnesses. It’s important to understand that in these cases the premiums may be higher. 

Advice from PDSA

“I presume the older the pet (a dog in my case), the higher the insurance premiums? Is that correct, or are any other factors taken into consideration?” DoNutSweatTheSmallStuff

Claire Roberts says: You are correct that the insurance cost usually increases with your pet's age. This is because our pets can become more prone to certain illnesses like arthritis and cancers as they age.

Other factors affecting the cost of insurance include breed, where you live and whether your pet has a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment.

​​Myth #7: Pet insurance doesn’t cover dental treatment

Teeth are an important part of an animal’s health and like any treatment, the costs can easily rise if your animal companion has any dental issues. While some insurers may not cover dental health, search around and you will be able to find some that do. 

Advice from PDSA

“I wondered what your view is on cover for dental disease as some insurers won’t cover it… Our vet considers dental health vital to animal well being and I agree.” Investicat

Claire Roberts says: Dental health is really important for our pets, just as it is for us. Dental disease can lead to bad breath, difficulty eating, tooth loss and can even contribute to some more serious illnesses. 

It is a good idea to look for insurance policies that will cover dental issues. These might have certain requirements, such as regular dental check-ups, so read the policy terms and conditions carefully.

You can help prevent dental issues in your cats and dogs with dental chews or toys, and even by regularly cleaning their teeth with special toothpaste and toothbrushes!

Woman with dog

Your questions, answered

“Our cats insurance is very expensive as he's 16. We've spent ££££££ on insurance. Is there any no claims types of pet insurance? We've never needed to claim and as he ages it's getting more expensive.” Sleepybumble

Claire Roberts says: No claims bonuses don’t exist for pet insurance, as insurance companies do not want anyone to be put off getting treatment for their pets. Some policies may have advantages when your pet hasn’t needed any veterinary treatment that year, like cash back or no increase in premiums.

“Do many providers offer cover for life for pre-existing conditions that aren’t scarily expensive?” ipswichwitch

Claire Roberts says: The main purpose of pet insurance is to cover unexpected costs. Pre-existing conditions exist before you take out your pet insurance policy. They can be of two types: ongoing chronic conditions , such as diabetes, and historical conditions, such as a healed fracture. This also includes previous illness or injury complications or if symptoms were seen before the insurance was taken out.

Insurance that covers pre-existing conditions is likely to be more expensive as your pet will likely need ongoing veterinary treatment and care. Some historic conditions may be covered if they have not required treatment recently (1-2 years depending on the policy).

This is why it is important to insure your pets when you get them so they are covered from the beginning of their time with you.

“Does microchipping pets reduce the cost of insurance?” WomensLandArmy 

Claire Roberts says: Microchipping might reduce the cost of insurance from some providers and under certain conditions, such as if you take your pets abroad. It may also be necessary for some insurance policies. Microchipping for dogs is a legal requirement in the UK, so all dogs  aged over  eight weeks should have a microchip already. 

The Government is now planning to introduce compulsory microchipping of cats over the age of twenty weeks. We recommend microchipping for all cats as it increases the likelihood of being reunited with your cat if they get lost while they are out adventuring! Remember to keep your details up-to-date with the microchip company.

About PDSA

“We have the top level cover for our boy through the PDSA and they are brilliant. Never had an issue my boy needed emergency surgery only 2 months after taking it out costing nearly £3500 they paid out not a problem. And I pay £15pm I also have a full breed KC registered dog.” Mommymooo

At PDSA we understand the role pets play in our lives, from the joy and laughter they bring to the worries and concerns we have when they aren’t well. As a charity that cares for the most vulnerable pets in society, we believe no pet should suffer because their owner can’t afford treatment.

But vet bills can be costly, so that's why it is important to insure your pet should the worst happen.

With PDSA Pet Insurance, there’s a range of policies available to suit all budgets and needs. Managing your policy and making claims is easy through our online portal, and with 24/7 access to our veterinary helpline, Petcall, friendly advice is never more than a phone call away.

Plus, every policy sold contributes to PDSA’s life-saving charity work.