There are so many different types of pet health insurance (PHI) policy out there on the market to consider, that sometimes it can, understandably, be utterly bewildering in terms of options. A good place to start, and something to form an opinion on, is the basic principle of whether you wish for complete health cover, or if you just wish for accident-related cover only. In this article we take a look at the differences, so that potential customers are alert to the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Broadly Speaking…

Complete policies

Complete policies are designed to be just that! Well, at least as good as they realistically can be. Typically, such policies offer a generous amount of lifetime veterinary fees cover. And they may even have elements of dental cover included as standard. Under such a policy, you may also be able to claim for an amount to cover for either the loss or theft of your pet, and potentially also the purchase price of your pet.

Accident only policies

Comparatively, accident only policies cover just purely for costs arising from accidents. As such, an accident only pet policy is often a basic and reasonably (cheaply) priced policy to purchase. It will cover and pay out if your pet is involved in an accident (such as a road traffic accident or trauma). But it will not cover for anything else; such as any investigation into an illness (whether acute or chronic) or treatment associated with an illness.

Accident-only cover will therefore provide a fixed amount of cover per injury, if your dog or cat has an accident

Some rare policies may also cover emergency treatment of illnesses due to injury too; but that is pretty unusual (and would be worth a check of the policy small print to see if it is the case). 

There will often be a financial cap and/or time limit on the cover as well. Practically speaking this means that you will be able to claim up to the amount stated on your policy, perhaps with a caveat also of a certain time frame. As with any insurance policy, to remain continuously covered, the responsibility lies with you, the pet owner. You should remember to renew your pet insurance policy at the end of its policy period and keep any direct debit payments up to date. 

Accident only policies may also have cover for accidental poisoning and also third-party liability; but such terms and conditions must be carefully identified when any policy is bought.

Accident only pet insurance is perfect for some owners

It all depends on your individual needs and expectations from your insurance. Understanding firstly, which type of policy you want, and secondly, which you have purchased, is pivotal. Having a theoretical “pot” of insurance funds may provide pet owners with peace of mind, that should their pet unexpectedly have an accident, they have the means to fund, what maybe, quite critical or lifesaving treatment. Furthermore, if day to day finances are relatively stable, an owner may argue that they could afford to absorb any cost of investigating and treating illness on a month-by-month basis. As such, the additional benefit of a complete PHI policy is wasted or not worth the increase in monthly premiums.

Given accident only policies are typically the simplest of the pet insurance policies, with the least cover, they often work out the cheapest and hence most affordable to some owners.

As is typical for any insurance policy, any pre-existing condition will not be covered. Of course, the scope for these within an accident only policy is limited anyway. 

Other types of insurance to consider

Lifetime Policies

Typically, with a lifetime policy, both illnesses and injuries (including accidents) will be covered for your pet’s lifetime, up to the insured limit, every year, providing you renew your policy. Often considered the gold standard of insurance, these policies will provide the most comprehensive health cover for your pet.

Time-restricted Policies

These policies will allow you to claim up to a specified amount, per illness or injury, within a set time period. (Usually 12 months from the date first symptoms were noted/found). However, once you reach the fixed sum or the time limit (whichever comes first), your pet will not be covered for that condition anymore in the future. An intermediate level of cover, therefore, for many owners.

Financially-restricted Policies (also known as maximum benefit) 

Each illness or injury has a maximum fixed amount of cover. But there is no time limit over when this can be used. Such a policy is beneficial in that it allows you to claim for the same condition more than once; doing so until you reach the financial cap. Thereafter, any additional costs incurred fall to you to pay. Again, another mid-range option.

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