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Best pet insurance: protect your animal companion and give yourself peace of mind

Best pet insurance
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your pet becomes ill or injured, it can potentially prove rather costly which is why you need to take out the best pet insurance you can. After all, vet bills will need to be covered and there is certainly no free health care service for pets. By buying suitable insurance, you'll not only ensure you can provide effective timely treatment or surgery for your furry friend, you'll also prevent your pocket from being hit hard.

According to the Association of British Insurers, the cost of medically looking after our animals has been rising, due, in part, to the increased sophistication of treatments. Thankfully more than four million pets are protected in the UK and yet the figure is much lower in the US where just 2.82 million pets are insured, albeit representing an annual rise of 22.1 percent. 

Such numbers, given the size of the US, is worrying especially since 1 in 3 pets will need emergency veterinary treatment each year with many more requiring minor attention for common health issues, including infections that require antibiotics. Pet insurance is a safety net against unexpected expenses and they sure can add up.

As if to underline just how costly treatment can be, cat accidents cost on average £644 to treat, according to Tesco Bank in the UK. Tumours can cost £942, with the 10 percent most expensive averaging an eye-watering £2,730. Treating a dog's cruciate rupture can cost £4,383.

What's more, that's just for the treatment. There will be aftercare and maybe even accommodation costs to consider, all of which will be covered by the best pet insurance. When you consider that premiums cost around £10 to £20 depending on how comprehensive the cover will be, it's hard to come up with reasons why you shouldn't take out insurance. 

If you still need convincing, vet Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS explains more in our guide. We also look at the five things you should look out for when shopping for the best policy. Top and tail, though: always read through the policies and ensure that likely situations are covered. If your dog breed is prone to teeth troubles, for instance, dental care would be a must. Here we round up some of the best.

PetsRadar's pick of the best pet insurance

  • Best overall pet insurance: Bought By Many Complete
  • Best for multiple pets: PetPlan
  • Best for value: Waggel
  • Best for multiple conditions: Animal Friends
  • Best supermarket pet insurance: Tesco Pet Insurance Premier
  • Best discounted pet insurance: petGuard
  • Best for high levels of cover: More Than Pet Insurance
  • Best for live chat and video support: Direct Line

Bought By Many

(Image credit: Bought By Many)

Bought By Many Complete

Best overall pet insurance

Type of animal: Dogs, cats | Level of cover: £15,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes **Covers pre-existing conditions?** Yes | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

Extremely comprehensive cover
Access to video vet service
Covers pre-existing conditions
Can be expensive for young, healthy pets

One name that comes up time and time again when speaking to pet owners about top insurance is Bought By Many.

The ‘complete’ option is described as the UK’s most comprehensive pet cover – so it’s safe to say you won’t get much more from an insurance policy elsewhere.

An annual vet fee limit of £15,000 should suit almost any breed, and as a ‘lifetime’ policy, you’ll also be covered for any condition that occurs after you take out the policy, so long as you renew annually. The good news is that Bought By Many also covers pre-existing conditions that have ended more than two years ago, while you can also quote for more recent conditions (so long as the treatment ended more than three months ago).

Access to a 24/7 video vet, included in the cost of your policy, adds peace of mind should you want a second opinion, and can avoid pricey trips to the actual vet for minor problems that can be easily solved.

The downside of such a comprehensive policy is the price. This is not a cheap monthly cost, so owners of young and otherwise healthy dogs will almost certainly be able to find cheaper options elsewhere. However, other owners tell us that the policy price tends to stay roughly the same throughout the lifetime of the animal, whereas other policies may be cheap at first, but may increase dramatically once you’ve needed to make a claim.

PetPlan pet insurance

(Image credit: PetPlan Insurance)

PetPlan

Best for multiple pets

Type of animal: Dogs, cats, rabbits, exotic | Level of cover: up to £12,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes **Covers pre-existing conditions?** No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

Covers many types of animals
Multi-pet discounts available
No penalties for claiming
Can be expensive
Pre-existing conditions not included as standard

Another popular name in the pet insurance industry is PetPlan, who have been recommended to us by multiple pet owners. They’ve also won several awards over the years, so you can feel secure in the knowledge that you should be getting good service from this company.

PetPlan is a great option for lots of different types of pet owners, but particularly if you’ve got more than one animal, as you’ll get a multi-pet discount.

According to PetPlan, 98% of claims are paid out, and it even has the backing of the “SuperVet”, Noel Fitzpatrick. PetPlan offers “Covered For Life” policies, which means that should your pet require treatment for ongoing problems, they’ll be covered so long as your cover is continuous. That can be really important if they develop an expensive problem.

You can choose the level of cover you get here, and that will determine the price you pay. If you can afford it, it’s always worth going for the highest level of cover you can – vet bills can quickly mount up.

As another comprehensive policy, it’s not particularly cheap. However, you do need to consider the value that a comprehensive policy brings with it, should the worst happen and you need repeated expensive trips to the vets. You can check out our full review of Pet Plan here. 

Waggel pet insurance

(Image credit: Waggel)

Waggel

Best for value

Type of animal: Dogs, cats | Level of cover: up to £10,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes **Covers pre-existing conditions?** No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

Access to video vet
Easy-to-use smartphone app
Discounts for related products
Doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions
Dental fees limited

One of the newest pet insurance companies on the market, Waggel promises to be as transparent as possible to make pet insurance simple.

Getting a quote is easy, and you can adjust the amount of cover you require in order to get the best value quote. If you’ve got a young or healthy dog, you might want to consider a relatively low amount of cover (say £2000), and benefit from cheaper premiums. If you can afford to pay a little more, you can choose a higher level of coverage – we’d always advise you to get the highest level of cover you can.

Waggel has a smartphone app with a 'dashboard' for following any claims you’ve made. You’ll be able to track the progress of your claim so you know exactly when a payment is made.

If you don’t need to make a claim – which hopefully you won’t – you can still take advantage of plenty of member benefits, including money off food, free behavioral consultations and access to a 24/7 video vet (one of only a handful of companies in the UK to offer such a service).

Finally, a nice touch is that Waggel supports charities, donating on your behalf from unclaimed premiums.

(Image credit: Animal Friends)

Animal Friends

Best for multiple conditions

Type of animal: Dogs, cats | Level of cover: up to £6,000 per condition | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes **Covers pre-existing conditions?** No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: No

Free vet video consultations
Cover limit per condition
Donates to charity
Dental fees excluded
Can be expensive if you make a claim

Animal Friends is another insurer that has been mentioned several times by dog owners. It’s a well-liked company that trades off its ethical stance, annually donating money to charity. It has more than 20 years of experience and has won multiple awards.

Like some of the others mentioned in this round-up, you get access to a free video vet, which can save you an expensive trip to a standard vet (especially out of hours) and help give you peace of mind.

Unlike most policies, Animal Friends give you the option to cover your pet on a “per condition” basis. You can choose up to £6000 cover per condition, with no limit on how many different conditions you can claim for per year – if your pet develops a number of different problems throughout the year, this can be seriously helpful. The limit resets annually, so long as the cover is kept active. Your vet is also able to claim online on your behalf, which can save time and stress.

Animal Friends does not cover any pre-existing conditions, so if you’ve previously claimed that is something to be aware of. Some also tell us that once you’ve claimed, or the pet reaches a certain age, Animal Friends policies tend to get very expensive – but that is common among many insurers.

Tesco Bank pet insurance

(Image credit: Tesco Bank)

Tesco Pet Insurance Premier

Best supermarket pet insurance

Type of animal: Dogs, cats | Level of cover: up to £10,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes **Covers pre-existing conditions?** No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

Free vet video consultations
Covers dental fees
Highly rated by independent experts
Must use “preferred referral network” vets

A household name, not everyone is aware that Tesco also provides a wide range of financial services. Several pet-lovers we spoke to insure their pets with Tesco and have had good experiences when it comes to claiming and renewal prices.

This is another policy that comes complete with access to a 24/7 vet helpline who can give you advice on whether you need to visit an actual vet or not. This can be particularly helpful out of hours when vets charge a premium (and consultation fees won’t be covered by your premium).

Up to £10,000 worth of cover is available, which renews each year that the policy is active. There are different types of cover available, including the popular ‘Lifetime’ which is more expensive, but we’d recommend it as it protects you against recurring illnesses. If you’re on a tight budget, you can also look at “Extra”, “Standard” and “Accident & Injury” cover.

Dental cover is included, but pre-existing conditions won’t be covered. It’s also worth noting that Tesco requires you to use vets in its preferred referral network – if you use anyone outside of it, you will be liable for the first £200 of the vet bill yourself, in addition to your policy excess.

Image of petGuard homepage with dog and cat sitting on grass and trees in behind

(Image credit: petGuard)

petGuard

Best discounted pet insurance

Type of animal: Dogs and cats | Level of cover: up to £12,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes | Covers pre-existing conditions?: No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

Interest-free monthly payments
Coverage of additional costs
Generous discount on annual plans
No coverage for pre-existing medical conditions

With over 37 years of experience protecting cats and dogs, petGuard offers pet insurance that you can trust. Claims are easy and straightforward, with bills paid straight to your vet and interest-free monthly payments help make cover accessible and affordable. 

While petGuard doesn’t cover pre-existing medical conditions, new long-term and chronic conditions are covered and you can also claim financial help with additional related costs, such as complementary treatments and emergency boarding. 

We love that petGuard offers a multi-pet discount, covering multiple pets on one policy to save you time and money. And speaking of discounts, they have a special one just for PetsRadar readers with 20% off the cost of an annual policy. You’ll also get access to FirstVet, a 24/7 online service that lets you seek free expert advice and support when you need it. 

Whether you have a kitten or cat, a puppy or dog, petGuard prides itself on delivering a personal service to every pet parent and their furkid. With great customer service and affordable policy options, this pet insurance brand is well worth considering. 

MoreThan pet insurance

(Image credit: More Than)

More Than Pet Insurance

Best for high levels of cover

Type of animal: Dogs, cats | Level of cover: up to £12,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes **Covers pre-existing conditions?** No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

Vet 24/7 careline
Covers dental fees
Discounts if you already have other insurance
Must use “preferred referral network” vet
Excess increases when pet turns 9

MoreThan is a trusted name in the insurance sector, and the same can be said for its pet insurance policies. You get up to £12,000 worth of cover with its 'Premier' option (also known as Lifetime).

If your budget is more restricted, you could also consider either reducing the amount of cover you have (a £4000 option is available) or go for one of the even cheaper options such as 'Classic' and 'Accident Only' – just make sure you’re aware of the limitations and exclusions that the policy provides.

Like some other providers, you have access to a 24/7 phone line to answer queries and concerns about your pet without necessarily having to visit your vet in person. Like Tesco, MoreThan requires you to use a vet within the preferred referral network, or be liable for the first £200 of the vet bill. Most people will find a vet in the network relatively close by, but it’s something to consider.

If you have an older dog, the price of the policy will increase, and you will also find that the excess (the amount of the claim you’re required to contribute yourself) will also increase.

Those who already have existing policies with MoreThan (such as Home or Car insurance) can claim a discount, while new customers also get 25% off.

Direct Line Pet Insurance

(Image credit: Direct Line)

Direct Line

Best for live chat and video support

Type of animal: Dogs, cats | Level of cover: Up to £8,000 | ’Lifetime’ cover: Yes | Covers pre-existing conditions?: No | Pay monthly option available: Yes | Covers dental: Yes

24/7 live chat and video service
Affordable monthly premiums
Covers complimentary treatments, like physiotherapy
Dental coverage included
No coverage for pre-existing conditions

Direct Line offers affordable pet insurance across both its Essential Cover and Advanced Cover plans with prices ranging from £6.50 to £10.50 per month. Plus, as a bonus, you get a great discount when you purchase your plan online which gives you 3 months of your first year’s coverage free. 

The Essential Cover plan enables you to claim up to £4,000 in vet fees, as well as providing cover for diseases, accidents, and injuries, but there is a 12-month time limit per condition. The Advanced Cover plan gives you all the perks of the Essential but with dental disease coverage and no time limit for medical conditions. Pre-existing medical conditions are not covered under either policy. 

With Direct Line you’ll also get free access to PawSquad, a 24/7 live chat and video service that connects you with UK vets who can see your pet and offer help and advice. Their partnership with Pet Drugs Online means you can also save on the cost of prescriptions, medications, and access discounted pet food, toys, and general health products. 

How to choose the best pet insurance

Pet insurance is not a legal requirement, but it’s highly recommended since vet bills can easily rack up to the thousands if the worst happens.

Choosing the right policy can be overwhelming though, as you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the best possible cover for your pet.

We would always recommend that you do as much research as possible and check the small print of any policy you’re considering buying.

‘Lifetime’ cover is always worth considering since any illnesses or conditions that develop with your pet will be covered (so long as you renew the policy). It can be more expensive on a monthly basis, but it could save you a small fortune if you need it down the line.

Existing conditions can be covered by some insurers, but it’s rare. Some will cover pre-existing conditions so long as the treatment ended some time ago. If your pet has been treated before, think seriously before switching insurance companies and always double-check with any new insurer if anything is excluded.

You should always check to see if dental cover is included too. Some include it as standard, while others exclude it. Those that do include it may have a limit on the amount they will pay out.

It’s also worth looking out for those that offer a phone line for advice, or better yet, a video service. Small concerns that can be addressed over the phone can save you a pricey midnight trip to the vet, for example.

Finally, have a look at how much ‘liability’ cover you get. That is, how much your insurer will pay out if your dog damages somebody else’s property or injures another animal or person.

If your pet is suffering from a long-term issue and you're struggling to find a policy that will cover it, take a look at our guide to the best pet insurance for pre-existing conditions for some suggestions.