If you have an older pet which is not currently insured, you may think that they would not be eligible for cover or that at their age insurance would not be worthwhile due to prohibitive premium prices. However, older pets are much more likely to need treatment for illness; the last years of their lives can be the most expensive for owners. Fortunately there are companies which offer affordable insurance for older pets and we highly recommend finding the best policy you can.
What are the main policy types?
Only covers injury and not illness; these policies often have cheaper premiums and at least do cover injury but bear in mind your pet is more likely to get sick than in an accident.
Provides cover for a 12 month period from the onset of the condition. Again, these policies are slightly cheaper and can provide cover for short term illnesses but will not cover your pet for chronic illnesses which could last a lifetime.
Each condition will be covered up to a certain amount with no time limit as long as the policy is active. These policies are typically cheaper than a lifetime policy and can provide good cover if they have a large allowance per condition. However, these policies are not good for chronic, lifetime conditions which may exceed the maximum benefit.
Covers your pet throughout their life as long as the policy is renewed each year. Typically these policies off a high amount per condition which renews each year and a good policy will cover the cost of major trauma, chronic illnesses and referrals. These will have higher premiums.
Which policy should I choose?
Ultimately this is your choice. Choose a good policy from the start and take note of your renewal date each year so that it isn’t allowed to lapse. This is especially important if your pet has ongoing health conditions covered by lifetime insurance, it may be difficult to find cover once the policy has lapsed.
Are ‘senior’ pet insurance premiums higher?
Policies for older pets tend to have higher premiums; one way insurers keep prices down is to include a ‘co-payment’. This is a percentage of the total bill that you will need to pay which means your excess amount for costly treatment could be high. Be sure to check if your policy includes this or not.
Will cover be immediate?
When you first start a new policy there is a ‘deferment period’ of typically 10-14 days. During this period your pet may not be covered against illness, be sure to check this when you take out the policy.
What will be excluded on my policy?
If your pet has pre-existing conditions, insurers may choose to exclude these from the cover or may not offer cover at all. Pre-existing conditions does not just mean conditions that have been treated by a vet. A chronic condition like arthritis appearing a day after a policy is in effect is unlikely to be covered as it is an illness that does not develop overnight. There are companies which do offer cover for pre-existing conditions if your pet hasn’t shown any symptoms or had treatment for a certain amount of time and a lot of companies offer ‘Senior Pet’ policies specifically for older pets.
There may also be some age related exclusions; pets over a certain age may not be covered for certain things such as death due to illness. Read the policy documents thoroughly so you know what you’re buying.
Are there any other considerations to make for older pets?
Older pets are more likely to need dental work later in life, check to see if your insurance would cover this should the need arise. There may be a requirement that your pet has their teeth checked annually.
If you choose not to vaccinate your dog as they are getting older, be aware that this could invalidate your policy, be sure to check the small print carefully.
What extras might my insurance cover?
- Third-party liability.
- Advertising costs if your pet is lost or stolen.
- Holiday cancellation cover if your pet is sick.
- Complimentary medicine, like hydrotherapy.
Some policies include cover for putting you pet to sleep, cremation or bereavement counselling, which with older pets may be an important, if unpleasant consideration.
What if I decide not to insure my pet?
If you decide you would rather not have pet health insurance, consider saving money each year towards the cost of future treatment costs. Bear in mind that chronic conditions like arthritis or hyperthyroidism could cost up to £1500 a year and a referral to a specialist can cost up to £2500.