A hefty vet’s bill is often the trigger to think about taking out pet insurance. Wait until that moment, however, and you could find that cover for your beloved Fido or Felix isn’t quite as comprehensive as you’d like.
Whether we’re talking about asthma or skin problems, the risk of a recurring problem means that most pet insurers will automatically slap an exclusion on treatments for ailments or conditions from which your pet has already suffered.
This means you’ll have to foot the bill yourself for further treatment for that condition and, in some cases, any other health issues that may result from it. This blanket approach can leave big gaps in your pet’s cover. A handful of insurers, however, take a more considered approach and provide cover where they can.
Some, for example, impose a moratorium on pre-existing conditions. The details vary but, generally, this means your pet may be covered for its pre-existing condition in the future, providing it remains symptom-free for a certain length of time during which it didn’t require treatment.
With insurers such as Lifetime Pet Cover and VetsMediCover, your four-legged friend will need to notch up a two-year period without any symptoms before cover for that condition begins again. This is ideal if the pre-existing condition you’re hoping to cover tends to be a one-off, such as an ear infection, for example.
Other insurers review pre-existing conditions on a case-by-case basis. For example, Petplan will exclude treatment from your plan if an illness is likely to affect your pet for the rest of its life (such as arthritis, for example).
But where a condition is less likely to result in a permanent health issue, for instance kennel cough or a perforated ear drum, the insurer will offer cover once it’s comfortable the condition isn’t likely to come back. This might require a symptom-free period of three months for kennel cough, or 12 months following surgery for a perforated ear drum.
A similar approach is taken by Scratch & Patch on its Champ policy. Following an online screening during the application process, it will tell you which of your pet’s pre-existing conditions it can insure and how much cover you’ll get. Note that, in some cases, you might only be able to claim up to £500 for a pre-existing condition.
Another type of policy is pre-existing medical conditions pet insurance from Bought By Many. This sets out to cover pre-existing conditions almost from the off. It takes a slightly different approach, covering your pet’s pre-existing conditions, providing you haven’t had any veterinary treatment or advice in the three months before you take out the policy.
Again, there’s a trade-off that helps the insurer manage its risks. In the first year of cover, you’ll only have £500 of cover for all pre-existing conditions. This increases to £1,000 in the second year, providing there are no claims for a pre-existing condition. Get through the first 24 months without needing to claim for these conditions and the restriction is lifted.
Understand your pet
When you’re looking for cover, it’s worth understanding what type of pre-existing conditions your pet has.
Unfortunately, a pre-existing, chronic condition such as diabetes or a kidney problem that will need ongoing treatment is unlikely to be covered by any insurer. The inevitability of claims for treatment means premiums would be huge.
The way insurers treat chronic conditions means that, if you already have cover in place when your pet develops a chronic condition, then it’s usually worth hanging on to.
A maximum benefit or time-limited policy will have a cap on the amount (or length of time) you can claim for a condition, but cover is much more generous on a lifetime policy. The latter are more expensive. But, in return, you have the reassurance that the annual limits are reinstated every year, even for chronic conditions.
Where you don’t have this safety net in place, you’ll need to consider funding treatment for a chronic condition yourself and your vet will be able to discuss ongoing costs and options with you. If money is tight, you may be able to get some help from an animal charity such as the PDSA, RSPCA or Blue Cross.
Where you’re looking to cover a one-off pre-existing condition, such as an ear infection or dental problem, then any of these pre-existing condition policies are worth considering.
There may be restrictions such as reduced cover and a waiting period before you can claim, plus, premiums may be a little higher to reflect the flexibility. But it is definitely worth getting some quotes from these providers to see how they stack up against policies with blanket exclusions on pre-existing conditions.