Whether your latest family member is a properly pampered pooch or a cat who loves scaling the neighbours' gates, you'll want to do everything you can to protect them.
This is, of course, where pet insurance comes in. Our animal allies aren't fortunate enough to have a national health service of their own, so it's up to us to foot the bill for the unexpected.
It's no-one's favourite monthly expense, but the small cost beats being forced to choose between paying out and putting down.
Thankfully, we've done the hard work so you can maximise your time with your furry friend. Here is everything you need to know to find the best pet insurance for you, including pet insurance reviews:
What does pet insurance actually cover?
As you might expect, no pet insurance is created equal. Most policies will cover large, unexpected costs as standard (ie broken bones and accident-related injuries) but may not include illnesses that are equally unpredictable. It is best to look out for plans which cover both, as well as third-party liability cover (it handles the cost of advertising and reward if your pet goes missing).
Unless you opt for comprehensive cover (often called ‘lifetime cover’, though it differs among providers), your pet is unlikely to be covered for routine injections, check-ups, worming treatments, anti-flea medications, whelping costs and pre-existing conditions. Always check the small print.
Is pet insurance worth it?
Like all insurance policies, they are there to protect you and your pet from the unexpected. And if Hollywood’s many canine capers have taught us anything, pets are beacons of the unforeseen.
Vet fees can be incredibly expensive. Hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, for a single treatment expensive. However priceless your pet may feel, you don’t want to risk clearing your savings out for them when you can prevent it (a lesson these uninsured pet owners learned the hard way).
If you’re unable to drop a couple grand at a moment’s notice, pet insurance gives you the assurance that you won’t need to.
How much is pet insurance?
Pet insurance prices depend largely on the animal you’re insuring and the specific policy you decide on.
For most people’s needs, £20 to £30 per month would afford your pet comprehensive cover. Then again, if you want to go for something cheaper, accident-only pet insurance for cross-breed dogs can cost under £5 a month.
It is worth noting that prices tend to increase as your pet gets older, whether you've claimed or not. Within their lifetime, dog insurance can be hiked five times higher than the same pet’s puppy insurance.
Pet insurers also charge a premium for policies bought in London and South East England as the average vet bill skyrockets in the areas. (Here's why vets charge the prices they do.)
For dog insurance specifically, mixed-breed dogs are cheaper to insure than their pedigree alternatives and both smaller or female dogs, respectively, cost less than bigger, male dogs.
Do all vets accept pet insurance?
Not all of them, so this is where you need to do your research beforehand. Once you decide on the best pet insurance plan for your needs, ring your local vets and check not only if they accept insurance, but if they accept it directly.
Most pet insurance companies are happy to pay vets directly, but some vets will only accept payment from a pet owner at the time of treatment. While the treatment cost may still be reimbursed by an insurance claim, you must factor the initial financial demand in when choosing the best vet for you.
Best pet insurance providers
Dog, cat, rabbit, multipet, equine and exotic insurance
PetPlan is a crowd favourite pet insurance provider, not only offering long windows for claim submissions but paying 90 per cent of claims within just five days. Their plans have no lifetime or 'per condition' claim limit and the Petplan app makes it easy to support claims via iOS and Android.
Cat and dog insurance
Tesco's five-star rated premier pet insurance policy is hard to beat. With first year discounts, their cat and dog insurance plans let you choose an excess amount to suit your needs and they even offer great Lifetime plans for older pets. Dental work included.
Cat and dog insurance
As you might expect, Argos offers great value for money. Whether you're choosing a Time Limited or Lifetime plan, vet limits range from £2,500 to £7,000 and they don't take pet age into account whatsoever. Currently, they give you £20 to spend in-store when you take out a new policy.
Cat, dog and puppy insurance
More Than offer a sizable 25 per cent off their policies when booked online and boast a number of tailored pet insurance plans. Even ones covering euthanasia. Additional benefits include 10 per cent discounts on each pet in a multipet plan, 24/7 assistance from vetfone to seek advice about poorly pets, and direct-to-vet payments.
Cat, dog and multipet insurance
While Direct Line don't have a Lifetime plan available, they do offer a decent twelve months to submit claims and offer frequent online discounts, like getting 12 months for the price of 9. Complementary treatments like hydrotherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy may be of particular interest for some pet owners.
Cat, dog and multipet insurance
Like More Than, Sainsbury's offer 25 per cent off new pet insurance policies plus an extra discount for Nectar card holders of up to 12.5 per cent. For loyal customers, the fact you receive double base points at Sainsbury's while your insurance policy is in force (max of 20,000 points per month) makes the policy a no-brainer.