Pet insurance – is it worth it?

According to one UK credit comparison site, the lifetime cost of caring for our beloved pets may well work out to be more than we imagine! At this site you can calculate the likely cost of taking care of your pet, and see the ‘average’ results they calculate. Notional lifetime care costs are as follows, and remember that these only take into account the provision of routine preventative veterinary care:

  •  Small dogs £22,344
  •  Large dogs £19,577 (lower life expectancy)
  •  Cats £15,147
  •  Rabbits £7,405
  • Hamsters £1,052

Of course, friends of The Ralph Site know that welcoming a pet into your life is not to be undertaken lightly, and cost is only one factor affecting the decision. Yet it is true that financial considerations are very important to address, and this is even more crucial when considering how you might deal with an unexpected vet bill.


Specialist veterinary care is, by necessity, expensive and there is no NHS for pets. According to Money Super , the average vet bill is now £300, with costs running into the thousands for emergency surgery and prolonged treatment of ongoing conditions. Choosing whether or not to insure your pet against unforeseen accidents or illness is always a personal decision, but we recommend that every pet carer considers the pros and cons very carefully. We’ve put together this simple summary of the types of policy available, but this is only a general introduction and you should always research the right policy for you, checking the small print carefully to ensure that cover is adequate for your needs.

There are three main types of pet insurance:

  1.  Lifetime cover. As the name suggests, such policies run indefinitely for as long as you continue to pay the premiums. They offer comprehensive cover for your pet for life, giving you the ultimate peace of mind. Lifetime policies are the most cost effective option if your pet has a condition requiring regular care.
  2. Annual policies. These last for a year, after which your insurer will propose a new premium if you wish to continue cover. If you have made a claim in the previous year, the monthly costs may increase and conversely, the amount of cover for future use may decrease. Most insurers set limits for the maximum amount they will pay out, either for a particular condition or in a calendar year. It’s very important to check what these limits are before taking out your policy, as if your dog requires monthly treatment or expensive drugs for the rest of his / her life, but your policy only covers £4,000 of care per condition, you’ll soon find that funds have run out. It’s worth noting that most insurers will exclude any pre-existing conditions from cover when a new policy is taken out, so check carefully before switching providers if your pet is current being / has been treated for a specific condition.
  3.  Accident only. Any treatment for illness is excluded from cover, which can make premiums very low. Do think carefully about choosing this option though – a survey of Which? members showed that 70% of pet insurance claims were for illnesses.

In addition, most policies offer compensation for some or all of the following:

  •  Death by accident or illness (usually for cats aged up to 10 years or 8 years for a dog)
  • Advertising. If your pet goes missing you can claim back the cost of putting up posters and paying a reward
  • Third-party liability (dog policies only). If your pet chews a valuable rug whilst visiting relatives, your insurer will cover the cost. Cats are legally considered to be ‘free spirits’ and thus their carers cannot be held liable for any damage they cause!
  • Overseas travel cover
  •  Cattery and kennel fees if you are hospitalised for at least two consecutive days
  •  Euthanasia, cremation and burial
  •  Dental treatment

Ultimately, only you can decide whether pet insurance is right for you and your pet. Whilst it may seem like an unnecessary expense when your pet is well, we think that the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you will never have to compromise the care given to your pet should the unthinkable happen is priceless.

Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.

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