Surprising pet insurance exclusions that can cost you thousands

20 December 2021 - 7 min read

It's important to know about pet insurance exclusions, especially the ones that aren't so obvious.

We'll tell you about all the pet insurance exclusions you need to be aware of. It'll help you make an informed decision when choosing a policy and help you avoid having a claim rejected.

The exclusions you should be aware of:

  • How soon can you claim?

  • Neutering, spaying and basic treatments

  • Pre-existing conditions

  • Accidents

  • Euthanasia, burial and cremation

  • Travel

  • Breeding

  • Information updates

Choosing pet insurance is no easy task. With so many different policy types and cover levels out there, it’s no wonder that people opt for the cheapest and give up reading the terms and conditions altogether.

But those policies won't give you the same level of cover as the best pet insurance policies, so instead we want to help you understand exactly what you get with each policy.

We've designed our policy documents to be easy to understand so you know exactly what is and isn't covered.

1. How soon can you claim on pet insurance?

With most insurers, you won’t be able to make any claims for accidents that happen in the first 48 hours of your policy, or illnesses that show symptoms in the first 14 days of your policy.

ManyPets has removed this industry standard 14-day waiting period for claims for pet owners who switch insurers, after being insured with them continuously for 12 months or more with no gap in cover. This means you can claim for vet treatment and illness within the first two weeks if you need to, or for accidents in the first 48 hours of starting a new policy with us.

2. Does pet insurance cover spaying, neutering or other basic treatments?

It comes as a surprise to some people, but most routine treatments cannot be claimed on your insurance. Grooming, vaccinations, flea treatments, wormers, nail clipping, bathing or de-matting, spaying or castration all are excluded from most policies.

However, ManyPets Flea, tick and worm plan offers treatment that can protect your pet against these parasites. You’ll get a discount on the plan and you don’t need to have an insurance policy to buy it.

Pet insurance is designed for unpredictable accidents and illnesses that could happen to your dog or cat.

Many people assume dental care is included as standard, but that is not always the case. Some of the most comprehensive policies, like ManyPets's Complete, More Than’s Premier and Petplan’s Covered for Life will cover necessary dental treatment for illness.

Of course, these comprehensive policies usually incur higher premiums, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

3. Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

If your dog has any pre-existing, recently diagnosed or chronic medical conditions, you are not going to be covered for that condition with most insurers. This can include any symptoms or behaviour changes that you or your vet notice, and any illnesses or injuries which develop from those changes.

ManyPets has a policy that covers pre-existing conditions as long as your pet hasn't needed any treatment, medication or advice for that condition for at least three months.

And all our vet fee policies cover conditions that ended at least two years ago.

Some policies, like VetsMediCover, do cover some existing conditions, providing your pet has not shown any symptoms of or received treatment for the condition for at least two years. Always double-check this with your provider though, and make sure you declare all conditions fully and accurately to avoid invalidating your policy.

A cat with its arm on a woman, they are looking at each other

All our policies cover conditions that ended at least two years ago.

A cat with its arm on a woman, they are looking at each other

4. In case your pet causes damage

Some policies include some third-party accidental damage cover, but More Than and John Lewis Finance won’t pay out if the damage is as a result of your dog “fouling, vomiting or urinating on/in any items”.

Most also won’t pay out if the item damaged belongs to you or a member of your family.

Your policy is also unlikely to cover any type of damage your dog causes while being looked after by someone who you're paying to mind your dog. The professional dog minder would be expected to have their own insurance in place.

5. Does pet insurance cover euthanasia and burial?

Some insurers such as ManyPets, Healthy Pets and Animal Friends, include some cover for putting your dog to sleep, as long as it's deemed necessary by the vet.

Cremation and burial costs are not included by Healthy Pets, Animal Friends or Petplan. MoreThan's includes it with its Premier policy and offers it as an optional add on on its other policies.

At ManyPets, farewell cover is included as standard on all our policies. This will cover you for the vet fees associated with putting your pet to sleep, burial or cremation costs.

Once your dog is aged over nine some insurers will not cover the cost of putting your pet to sleep or cremation, unless it was in an accident – even if you have selected a ‘farewell’ type add-on.

Keep proof of what you paid or donated for your dog. Some insurers, like Direct Line, will ask for this.

6. Travelling

If you take your pet abroad, you may need an add-on travel policy to be covered.

7. Breeding

Forget it. Most insurers will not pay any vet fees if the condition is related to breeding. If you decide to use your dog for commercial breeding, beware that, with some insurers, your entire policy could be invalidated.

The Kennel Club does cover some breeding risks with a specialist add-on policy.

Most pet insurers will not cover any claim linked to pregnancy, even if you're not a breeder. However, ManyPets policies will cover conditions related to your pet's first pregnancy, as long as your pet has been insured with us for 6 months or more.

8. Keep your insurer informed

If your pet’s circumstances change, you must tell your insurer. Common changes are moving house, changing owner, getting your dog spayed or neutered, or if you start using your dog for commercial purposes.

So, basically, the rules are simple - always make sure you read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully and in full, to make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered, and be open and honest with your insurer at all times.

However, if your claim was rejected or refused unfairly, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsman.

There are a lot of reasons why a claim can be refused, but overturning the decision is possible if you can provide the right evidence.

Questions about what's included and excluded from pet insurance

We've created a list of answers to some of the most frequently asked pet insurance questions.

And below we've covered some of the more specific questions about the treatments pet insurance may pay for. Of course, some cover will depend on the policy you have and when your pet experienced the accident or illness.

Does pet insurance cover Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)?

At ManyPets we will cover BOAS surgery as long as it's not a pre-existing condition or shows clinical signs within the exclusion period, at the start of cover. Treatment should be recommended by a vet.

Other insurers should also cover treatment for BOAS and surgery, as long it's not a pre-existing condition or shows clinical signs within the exclusion period.

Does pet insurance cover ear infections?

Yes, as long as the infection is a new condition. If your pet has had an ear infection in the past, some insurers may not cover it. Certain dog breeds may be more susceptible to ear infections and if you know you own one it may be worth looking at pet insurance before the pet suffers from one so that you know you'll be covered.

If the infection develops into a chronic condition, you may run out of pet cover if you have a time-limited or per condition policy.

Does pet insurance cover X-rays?

Pet insurance should cover X-rays that are recommended as part of treatment for an accident or illness. However, if you want an X-ray to diagnose an issue and it hasn't been recommended by a vet, pet insurance may not cover it.

Does pet insurance cover drugs?

Pet insurance should cover drugs that are prescribed to treat an accident or illness that a pet suffers from while they are insured. Insurance may not cover drugs to treat an illness experienced before you took out a policy. And pet insurance is unlikely to pay for drugs that are part of a routine treatment such as worming.

It is possible to run out of cover if the cost of the drugs exceeds your policy limits.

Does pet insurance cover MRI scans?

MRI scans are becoming a common part of vet treatment, however, they are expensive. Pet insurance should cover an MRI scan that is recommended by a vet as long as the cost falls within your cover limits.

For example, if you have a £7,000 lifetime policy and your pet needs an MRI scan as part of treatment that costs £4,000 in total you will be covered for it and left with £3,000 of cover for the rest of the policy year. When you renew your cover your limit would reset to £7,000.

If you had a £3,000 lifetime policy, your insurance would not cover the full cost of the treatment.

Lifetime (or ‘yearly limit’) insurance covers vet fees up to the stated limit every year. This can be a good option if you worry about your pet developing a long-term or recurring illness. So long as you renew a lifetime policy each year, the level of vet fees will reset to the full stated limits that you started with.

With a lifetime product, it is important to note that your premiums may increase each year at renewal.

Which pet insurers pay 100% of the vet bill?

Pet insurers will pay the full cost of the vet bill minus your excess.

Depending on the policy type and insurer, once your excess has been deducted, 100% of the bill may be paid on future claims.

ManyPets only charge one excess a year, so you'll pay your excess on your first claim, and for the rest of your policy year, there'll be no excess charged on claims.

Pet insurers will not pay vet bills for routine appointments like check-ups.

Pet training - dog jumping through hoop illustration

A Regular policy with £7,000 of lifetime vet fee cover

Pet training - dog jumping through hoop illustration

Digby Bodenham
UK engagement team lead

Digby is an experienced journalist in various fields but has specialised in insurance for more than six years. Before joining ManyPets in 2013 he was part of the editorial teams of various magazines, including Retail Week and Drapers. He has a degree in journalism and a cat called Potato.