the ins and outs of pet insurance

The Ins and Outs of Pet Insurance

Written by Ryan Gliozzo


Do you know the ins and outs of pet insurance? In this blog, we hope to give you the key things you need to know and look out for when you are getting your pet insured.
A woman sitting on a step with her dog


Insurance is changing, and with it the way in which we traditionally shop around. Pricing is a constantly changing factor and we’re seeing insurers come up with new ways to offer policies at lower prices. 

This has had a knock-on effect meaning pet insurance in the UK is getting more and more complicated, full of confusing jargon and terminology with a range of new policies constantly entering the market.

We want to make sure you are aware of a key things you need to be on the look out for.

1. What is this term “coverage”?

Keep in mind that the main reason for buying pet insurance is to 'cover' vet bills, and when you see the word 'coverage' this relates to the maximum amount of money that an insurer will pay for the vet bills. The other termed used for cover is 'limit' or 'Annual Limit'

For example, if you buy a policy with a coverage limit of £1,000, and you receive a vet bill for £1,500. You will be able to get your insurer to pay out £1,000, and you will have to pay for the remaining £500.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the average claim for pet insurance is now over £700. If you have two claims in a year (at the average claim rate) that would mean £1,400 and three claims £2,100… you get the idea.

So when looking at coverage, you need to consider the type of costs your pet is likely to incur, breed, inherited breed conditions, and chronic conditions in mind. If unsure, seek out advice from your breeder, similar dog owners, and a vet.

The Waggel way: Not all pets are the same, and we want to make sure everybody can get a policy to suit their particular pet's breed and age. Our coverage starts at a minimum of £1,000 and goes up to £15,000. You are also able to adjust your Annual Limit every year at renewal.

2. Types of policies

There are four main types of pet insurance policies on the market:

  • Accident-only

  • Maximum benefit

  • Time-covered

  • Lifetime

Let’s say that your pet has a claim for diabetes for £500 with a coverage limit of £2,000 as an example. How would this work with these different types of policies?

Accident-only: These policies only cover accidents, so you wouldn’t be able to claim on this type of policy.

Max benefit: You will be covered for £500 and will only be able to claim for another £1,500 for diabetes. Once you have claimed for the remaining £1,500, the condition will excluded from your policy, and you will no longer be covered for diabetes again. 

Time-covered: You will be able to make a claim for £500 and from the date of the claim, you now have 12 months to claim for everything related to diabetes for the remaining £1,500. After the 12 months are up, you will no longer be able to make a claim for diabetes again, and this will be noted in your policy as an excluded condition.

Lifetime: You will be covered for £500 and will have £1,500 of coverage for diabetes for the remaining policy period. If you renew the policy, the limit refreshes, and you will be able to claim up to £2,000 again for anything related to diabetes again.

The Waggel way: We only offer Lifetime policies, as people can end up with nasty surprises with the other policies. We want to be there for you and your pet throughout their lifetime.

3. Per-condition limit vs Annual Limits

Now you know the different types of policies that exist, the next is figuring out how the coverage limits works. There are two ways limits works: Per-condition and Annual Limit.

We’ll use an example to give you an idea of the difference.

Example: Let’s say that your policy has a limit of £1,000, and your pet has to go to the vet three times in the year for entirely unrelated conditions, the first time vet bill for a broken leg = £500, the second one is for diarrhoea = £300 and the third is for skin allergies = £500. A total of £1,300

Per-condition limit: you have £1,000 worth of coverage for each condition, which means that every condition will be covered.

Annual Limit: you have an annual “pot” of a £1,000 which means that you will be covered for £500 for the broken leg, £300 for diarrhoea and will only have £200 covered for the skin allergy, which means you would have to pay the remaining £300.

While it might sound like the Per-condition limit is better, insurers know that most owners will only really make a claim once or twice a year, and that most of the time it is for the same conditions.

You will also find when you are shopping around that a £1,000 Per-condition policy is around the same price as a £2,000 Annual Limit policy.

Going back to the example above then, a £2,000 Annual Limit policy would cover all your costs, and you would have £700 remaining to claim from for the rest of the year.

The big thing to note for Per-condition policies is the term bi-lateral conditions, which states that anything that happens to one side of your pet will also count for the other.

So let’s say your pet goes in for a problem to their right hip that ends up costing £700. The right hip leads to issues on the left, so you have to take your pet to the vet, and you receive a bill for £500 for the left hip.

Per-condition with £1,000 limit: You will be covered for the first £700 bill, and because left and right are seen as the same due to bi-lateral conditions, you will now only have £300 left for hip conditions, meaning that you will have to pay out £200 of the second £500 bill.

Annual Limit with £2000 limit: You will be able to claim for both hips, and will still have £800 left to claim for other conditions.

To make things even more complicated, insurers have now started to combine Per-condition and Annual Limits as a means to offer cheaper policies. 

This means that a policy that provides £500 per condition with an Annual Limit of £2,000 is saying that you can have 4 conditions to the maximum of £500, which would then reach your annual limit of £2,000. Confusing, right?

The Waggel way: We only offer Annual Limits as we believe that is the easiest to understand. Simple as that.

4. Pre-existing conditions - The inability to switch

One of the major things to be aware of when select pet insurance is pre-existing conditions, and the future implications of them.

If you have made a claim on a policy, and then look to switch to another insurer that has a better price, the next insurer is likely to deem any conditions you have claimed for as pre-existing. Meaning, you won't be able to claim for the condition or anything related to it.

Make sure you have done your research, and understand the values of the insurer. It is most likely a relationship that you are going to be stuck with for the entirety of your pet's life.

The Waggel way: We want to be a partner on your pet's journey. We never claim to be the cheapest, and our prices are carefully worked out so that you don’t get any nasty surprises like unjustified price hikes. We want our customers to stay and renew with us as much as possible.

5. Co-payment

Co-payment, also referred to as co-insurance, usually only applies to older pets, but is becoming increasingly frequent by insurers to make insurance more affordable.

Let’s say that you have a policy with an Annual Limit of £2,000 and an excess of £100. Your dog receives their first vet bill of £1,000 for a new condition.

You will have to pay the original excess, of £100, and 20% of the total bill, which is £200 (£1,000 x 20%). This means your total payment towards the bill will be £300, and the insurer will pay the remaining £700.

If your pet goes back to the vet during the same policy period and receives a vet bill of £500 for the same condition, you will only have to pay the 20% co-payment, as you have already paid off the £100 excess. That means you will have to pay £100 (£500 x 20%) and the insurer will pay the remaining £400.

Make sure you read your policy carefully, as a majority of insurers have this co-payment mandatory for older pets around the age of 8 for dogs and 10 for cats.

The Waggel way: Waggel has eliminated co-payment all together, as it was confusing and unnecessary.

Unfortunately, pet insurance has evolved over the years to become a mesh of confusing coverage options mixed with complicated terminology. Waggel aims to cut through all of this by providing pet owners with a policy that is simple and easy to understand.

Have any questions? Get in touch with us today and we’d be happy to help!

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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