What is dog insurance and where can you get the best deals?
There’s no NHS for dogs so if your beloved pooch falls ill or is in an accident it could cost you hundreds or even thousands of pounds to get it the veterinary treatment it needs. Dog insurance can help you avoid unexpected bills.
What is dog insurance?
Dog insurance covers you for the cost of getting veterinary treatment for your dog if it’s ill or injured.
Depending on the policy you choose, it may also cover you for legal costs if your dog is responsible for injuring others or causing damage to property, certain alternative therapies, tests to diagnose illnesses, the cost of advertising to find your dog if it’s lost, kennel fees if your dog needs to stay there for recovery or you can’t look after it, and putting your dog to sleep if necessary.
It doesn’t usually cover any pre-existing conditions your dog has, routine or preventative treatment, such as vaccinations, neutering your dog, pregnancy, dental treatment, behavioural problems or the cost of cremating or burying your dog if it dies although you can pay more for certain add-ons.
How does dog insurance work?
You pay a monthly or annual premium to a pet insurer in return for protection if you have to pay for vet bills for your dog if it becomes ill or gets injured.
There are four main types of dog insurance:
- Accident-only – this only covers you if your dog has an accident, not if it gets ill, and is usually the cheapest type.
- Time-limited – this covers any new conditions your dog develops but only for a limited period, such as 12 months. This means that if the condition recurs after this you won’t be covered for it.
- Maximum benefit – you can claim for each condition up to a set amount of money but there is no time limit. Once this per-condition limit runs out you won’t be able to claim for it again, even if you renew with the same insurer.
- Lifetime – this is the most expensive type. You’re covered for all conditions throughout your dog’s life but you can still only claim up to the policy limits each year. To be able to claim for the same conditions again if you switch you’ll need to take out a more expensive policy from a specialist insurer to get cover for pre-existing conditions.
Dog insurance pros and cons
- You’re covered if your dog needs veterinary treatment for illness or injury, which can cost thousands.
- Policies usually include third-party liability as standard, which means your legal fees would be covered if your dog is responsible for causing damage to property or injury to others.
- You can claim again for the same conditions throughout your dog’s life if you choose lifetime cover.
- Pre-existing conditions are not covered as standard.
- Dog insurance becomes more expensive the older your dog gets.
- You’ll have to pay a certain amount of each claim you make or per year if you claim more than once depending on the policy. This is known as the excess and helps to keep the cost of your policy down. You may also have to pay a percentage of each claim minus the excess. This is known as a co-payment and can reduce the cost of your policy even more.
- You’re not usually covered when you first take the policy out – known as the waiting period. This is usually the first 14 days.
Which dog insurance comparison site can save you the most?
We gathered dog insurance quotes from the four biggest price comparison sites – Compare the Market, Confused.com, Go Compare and MoneySuperMarket – for three different scenarios to give you an idea of how much you might pay and how quotes differ.
The quotes below are the lowest on each comparison site for lifetime cover for accident and illness for a 2-month-old, 3-year-old and 6-year-old male labrador retriever bought for £800. Policies have at least £3,000 of cover per year with either no per-condition limit or one that is the same as the annual limit.
Prices are per year. The cheapest quotes for each scenario are shown in bold.
Some comparison sites offer rewards when you take out certain types of insurance with them. Compare the Market is the only one of the four we looked at to give you rewards for taking out dog insurance. Details are included below.
Dog insurance comparison site costs compared:
|Comparison site||2-month-old||3-year-old||6-year-old||Comparison site rewards|
|Compare the Market||£215.68 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||£239.11 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||£367.94 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||2 for 1 cinema tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; discounts on takeaway food and eating out|
|Confused.com||£215.68 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||£239.11 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||£367.94 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||None|
|GoCompare||£279.01 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £7,000 annual limit||£893.37 (Scratch & Patch), excess £75 per illness/injury per year, £4,000 annual limit||£476.01 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £7,000 annual limit||None|
|MoneySuperMarket||£269.60 (Bought by Many), excess £99 per year, £3,000 annual limit||£240.24 (Purely Pets), excess £160 per illness/injury per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||£372.48 (Purely Pets), excess £160 per illness/injury per year plus 20% of the remaining amount of each claim, £3,000 annual limit||None|
Notes: Quotes gathered on 16 June 2021 for a policy starting on 1 July 2021.
As you can see in the table, the cheapest quotes can vary significantly between comparison sites. This could be because of the different insurers they work with or what’s included in the policies they quote you for.
Quotes can also change regularly so the comparison site that gives you the cheapest quote on one day might not be the same on another. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use more than one comparison site to get the full picture.
You should make sure a policy meets your needs before you take it out and not just choose it because of any rewards you get from the comparison site.
Dog insurance FAQs:
How can you get the best dog insurance quotes?
Use two or three comparison sites when gathering quotes to get the best price for your needs and make sure you’re comparing like for like when deciding between policies.
You may want to consider shopping around each year to see if you can save money but you wouldn’t be covered for issues you have claimed for on your current policy if they recurred as they would be classed as pre-existing conditions so you could be better off sticking with the same provider.
Which comparison site works with the most dog insurance providers?
Compare the Market works with the most pet insurance providers at 32 followed by MoneySuperMarket (24), Confused.com (23) and GoCompare (21). Working with more insurers doesn’t necessarily mean a comparison site will give you the best quote so you should always use more than one.
How much does dog insurance cost?
In our scenarios above you can get a lifetime policy for a two-month old puppy for just £215.68 a year, which works out at around £18 a month, but you’ll pay more the older your dog is.
According to Confused.com you could get accident-only cover for a two-year old dog for as little as £3.84 a month (around £46 a year).
How can I reduce the cost of dog insurance?
The age and breed of your dog and where you live all affect the price of your policy but these are aspects you can’t change.
To get a cheaper policy, consider taking out accident-only cover rather than a policy that includes illness as well or take out a time-limited or maximum-benefit policy rather than a lifetime one. You can also agree to pay a higher excess or make a co-payment.
Make sure your dog is up-to-date with its vaccinations as this can reduce your premium and do everything you can to keep your dog healthy as you’ll be less likely to have to claim, which will keep your renewal costs as low as possible.
If you have more than one pet you could save money by taking out a multi-pet policy.
What does dog insurance cover?
Dog insurance covers the cost of veterinary treatment if your dog is in an accident or becomes ill and also usually includes third-party liability cover and advertising costs to find your dog if it’s lost. It doesn’t cover pre-existing medical conditions or preventative or routine treatments.
What alternatives are there to dog insurance?
Instead of taking out insurance you could regularly put money into a savings account to pay for treatment if your dog needs it but there’s a risk that you won’t have enough to cover what your dog needs or to pay for longer-term treatment if it develops a chronic condition.
You may be able to get help from animal charities such as Blue Cross and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), which run free or low-cost animal hospitals for pets owned by people on low incomes who receive certain benefits.
Is dog insurance worth it?
Veterinary treatment can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds so dog insurance is well worth having to help you pay for unexpected bills.
You should weigh up the cost of taking out a policy for your dog versus how likely it is to need treatment – the older your dog gets the more expensive insurance will be but the more likely it is to develop health conditions.