Perhaps you adopted an older dog, or never thought of insurance until recently and your dog is considered “senior” now. Or maybe your insurance costs rose as your pet grew old and you are starting to wonder if it is even worth it anymore.

There are many reasons to consider pet insurance for a geriatric dog and, ultimately, you are the best person to decide if it is in the best interest of your pet and your wallet. After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what needs to be considered and what options are available and will be well equipped to start comparing different policies and make an informed decision that benefits you and your four-legged best friend.

How old is an old dog?

Most insurance companies will consider a dog to be senior from the age of 8. Some large breeds, though, have a lower life expectancy and can be considered senior at a younger age, so always check with each insurance provider when looking for cover.

Do pet insurances even accept older pets?

Unfortunately, similarly to people, as dogs get older the likelihood of suffering from medical conditions is higher. Conditions like osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are extremely common in older dogs.

Higher need for veterinary care reflects a higher number of claims at a higher cost, which makes it riskier for insurance companies to provide cover. Like with car, life or house insurance, higher risk comes at a cost for the client, and some insurance providers even have upper age limits.

Although some companies do not offer senior policies and the ones that offer are, naturally, more expensive when compared with policies for younger dogs, veterinary bills can be very costly and insuring your pet may still be an advantageous choice. 

What should I consider before deciding if and how to insure my older pet?

1. Exclusions

The majority of the companies will exclude previous conditions from the policy. For example, if your dog suffers from allergies when you get a new insurance policy, they will very likely never pay for the treatment of that condition.

However, if a condition has not been present for a certain period (for instance 2 years), some companies will look at the clinical history individually and reconsider.

2. Types of cover

– Lifetime cover: this policy has an annual limit per condition which renews every year. For example, if the cover limit is £4,000 per condition, then you can claim £4,000 for the treatment of arthritis, plus £4,000 for investigation and treatment of diabetes, etc. This amount will be reset, and you will be able to claim another £4,000 for the same conditions in the following policy year. Although this is the most expensive type of cover, it is also the most complete and may be the right choice for your pet.

– Maximum benefit: in this policy, you have a set amount you can claim for a certain condition in the life of your pet. For example, you may have £10,000 to cover for osteoarthritis; after you reach this limit, the condition is excluded and you cannot claim for it anymore.

– Time-limited pet insurance: this policy lasts a certain period of time (usually 12 months) after your first claim towards a certain condition, then the condition is excluded from the policy. For example, if your dog is diagnosed with dementia and needs lifelong treatment, this policy will cover the first year of treatment and, after that, dementia will be excluded, and you will need to cover the costs yourself. Because older pets tend to get chronic illnesses that require life-long treatment, a time-limited policy is usually not the best option.

– Accident only cover: this policy only covers for accidents such as foreign-body ingestions, road traffic accidents or poisoning. It is the cheapest option however, as discussed above, older pets tend to get chronic medical conditions and are usually not as prone to accidents as younger dogs. For these reasons, accident only policies are usually not suitable for an older dog.

3. Excess

With any insurance policy, you need to pay an excess, which is a set amount to be payable towards the diagnostics or treatment of a condition, when opening a claim. Excesses can vary but are usually between £50 and £250. A higher excess will almost always lower the monthly cost of your insurance, but will increase your costs when opening a claim.

4. Co-insurance

Co-insurance is when the client pays for a set percentage of the veterinary costs when opening a claim. For example, a policy may require you to pay for 20% of your pet’s treatment, in addition to the excess. In a practical example of a £1500 claim for pancreatitis, with a policy with a £100 excess and 20% co-insurance, the owner would pay a total of £400 and the insurance company would pay the remaining £1,100.

5. Extras

There are a few conditions or situations that are not covered by all insurance policies and may be important depending on yours and your pet’s personality and lifestyle. These should, therefore, be considered individually when looking for pet insurance.

Extras include dental care, payment in the event of the dog’s death, bereavement counselling, advertising and reward if your pet is lost or stolen, kennel fees if you have to stay in hospital and can’t look after your pet, and holiday cancellation cover if you need to cancel or curtail a trip because your pet is ill. Policies may even include third-party liability (this covers legal costs, expenses and the claimant’s expenses if your dog harms someone or damages property), overseas travel cover, complementary therapies like hydrotherapy.