How to get pet insurance: Is it required and where to find the best cover

An anonymous veterinarian embracing a little dog at the clinic
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to get pet insurance offers peace of mind. It means you are far less likely to worry about future veterinary bills which become inevitable as pets grow older and become more prone to health problems. After all, there’s no getting around the fact that treatments are often expensive. You won’t want the added stress of working out how you’re going to pay.

Before taking the plunge and trying to find the best pet insurance, however, it’s also a good idea to address the question, “how does pet insurance work?”. You’ll want a good idea of the different policies and what they will cover. This is vital when you’re looking for an insurance policy which works well for you and your pet.

So let’s look at how to get pet insurance and whether you can even get cover for your pets in the first place.

Should I get pet insurance?

You may be surprised to learn that insurance doesn't appear to be all that widespread. According to statistics by Global Data, only 24.9% of dogs and 11.9% of cats are insured in the UK. And, in North America, according to Naphia (the North American Pet Health Insurance Association), just 5.36 million pets are insured which represents about 4% of dogs and 1% of cats.

The numbers have been rising, however, year-on-year, since 2018. It could be due to a general rise in pet ownership but it’s encouraging news nonetheless. Why? Well, pet insurance is not just about protecting your pet's health. Pet insurance providers go further, paying out for pets who are lost or stolen as well as those who die or cause damage to property. 

As you can imagine, given what we’ve said so far, we would advise that you at least consider getting pet insurance. One of the crucial trends noted in recent years is that, while average premiums have been rising, especially for dogs, according to Naphia, claim payouts have increased too.

This is reflective of increased treatment costs so while the vast majority of pet owners in the US pay for veterinary bills out of their own pocket, for instance, there's no getting around the fact that the costs are continuing to go up. And that means you’re going to have to dig deeper and deeper into those pockets to pay for treatment.

Why are vet bills rising?

Everything has been increasing in price and treatment costs are no exception. In fact, in some countries such as the UK, it would appear vet fees are rising faster than other goods and services

There are a number of reasons from backlogs caused by the Covid pandemic to a fall in the number of qualified vets. But bills have always been on the high side anyway. Treating Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome can cost an average of £1,686 in the UK. A five-day stay in a US pet hospital could set you back an average of $1,500 to $3,500 with X-rays costing between $150 and $250 and oxygen therapy $500!

Do vets recommend getting pet insurance?

Yes. You’ll find that 80% of vets recommend getting pet insurance, as veterinarian Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS points out when listing 7 reasons to get your pet insured with the best policy possible. And while some people may prefer an alternative option of setting money aside, those savings pots can take time to build. Even then, you can't be sure that you'd have enough in there.

Of course, the benefit to a savings pot is that, if nothing untoward happens, you have a wodge of cash to spend. Yet in reality, that's not going to be likely – pets do get ill and bills will rack up. But, if you are still wondering, “is pet insurance worth it?” take a look at our guide by vet Catherine Barnette DVM which breaks down the pros and cons. And remember, there are different policies to suit different circumstances and budgets.

Can you get pet insurance with a pre-existing condition?

vet checking over dog

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Insurance is all about risks. So if you have a pet with a pre-existing condition, insurance companies know the risk of them paying out will be higher and that the cost of having your pet as a customer is unlikely to be worth their while.

So the answer is that, yes, you can get pet insurance with a pre-existing condition but you’re going to struggle to find an insurance company that will do it. What’s more, the best pet insurance for pre-existing conditions is also likely to prove costly.

But a lot depends on what the condition is and the problems it causes. A company may simply decide not to cover you for that particular problem or anything related to it but offer insurance for other problems. And. if a pre-existing condition has not been an issue for a long time, then there's a chance it could be insurable again.

Where to get pet insurance

dog lying in bed with owner

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best place to get pet insurance is online where you will find dozens upon dozens of companies willing to offer you a policy. The big benefit of browsing for insurance is the ability to compare and analyze policies from the comfort of your home, ensuring they work well for you and your pet. There's no pressure to make snap decisions.

Before you go looking, however, it's important to know how to choose pet insurance. You should also check out our guide to the best pet insurance so that you have an idea of what's available. 

One thing you don't need to do is go from website to website, constantly tapping in your details to discover prices. Instead, the easiest way to make sure pet insurance is a perfect fit for you is to try a financial services comparison site such as GoCompare. Just input the level of cover you require and you can obtain quotes in seconds from respected brands.  

David Crookes

David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.