Pre-existing condition pet insurance is a type of coverage that will fund treatment for issues that were known about before the policy was taken out, or during the waiting time that applies before a claim can be made. There are a few companies in the UK that offer pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions, but most do not.
In a bid to prevent pet owners from only taking out insurance when they need treatment, most insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions and those that do charge a higher premium.
Some also only cover pets under a certain age meaning pet owners can end up stuck with the same provider for years being charged higher and higher amounts.
There are scores of common conditions that would fall under a pre-existing condition. Some of these include cataracts, conjunctivitis and other eye issues including infections; cruciate ligament injury, hip replacement, back pain and other mechanical issues; ear haematoma otitis and other ear issues; heart murmur; gastroenteritis; cancer; allergies; liver issues and seizures.
Pre-existing conditions can become historic conditions if a set time has passed without the need for treatment, assessment, medication or advice. This is usually two years. After this time, a few pet insurance companies will begin covering the animal once more. But most will not.
Frustratingly it is common for insurance companies to consider some conditions bilateral. That means if an animal has more of one body part (for example ears), both will be considered as having a pre-existing condition even if only one of them had the issue in the first place.
Registered veterinary nurse Lizzie Gorman, said: “It is possible to get cover for pre-existing conditions, but usually there is a limit to the amount of cover that the insurer will give you. This may increase with time. It’s certainly worth speaking to insurance companies to see what they can offer and a quick online search will give you some options.
“It’s worth noting that veterinary records are a legal document, so we are obliged to record anything found during a clinical examination. Many insurers will offer cover for pre-existing conditions after an exclusion period in which your pet has no symptoms or treatment for the condition.”
What pet insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions?
There are a few pet insurance companies that cover pre-existing conditions in one form or another: Scratch & Patch, Bought by Many, VetsMediCover and Lifetime Pet Cover.
They are not all as comprehensive as each other, with VetsMediCover, for example, only covering pets up to eight years old (although those renewing policies with them can continue to be covered after this age). And some only cover pre-existing conditions after they’ve become historic for at least two years.
Meanwhile, other policies have restrictions on the vet fees they will pay during a set time, for example, the first two years.
Scratch & Patch’s ‘Champ’ insurance for pre-existing conditions has three levels of cover with vet fee limits of either £2,500, £4,000 or £8,000 – which is reset each year. Each level has so-called ‘inner limits’ which means the insurance company will only pay up to a certain limit for some conditions, despite the overall limit being higher.
Its website offers an online screening system where it asks pet owners to explain all issues the animal has and then it tells them whether or not that condition would be accepted. Amazingly other providers don’t offer this, so customers could be buying a product with no guarantee their pet will be covered.
Every case is analysed on its own merits, meaning it is not just a tick box exercise. Its website states: “We don’t operate a flat yes or no either like other providers. Our comprehensive cover is based upon your answers to medical questions we ask.”
This answer before taking out a policy gives peace of mind to a customer on taking out a policy.
Scratch & Patch doesn’t require a coinsurance payment for claims, but sometimes it will require an excess between £75-£200 paid for some accepted conditions.
All of Bought by Many’s pet insurance policies should cover pre-existing conditions if the animal has been treatment, medication and advice free for two years. But its dedicated pre-existing conditions policy also covers pre-existing conditions as long as the pet hasn’t had treatment, medication or advice for them in the three months before the policy starts.
It offers £500 cover for pre-existing conditions in the first year of a policy and this increases to £1,000 in the second year and £7,000 in the third.
If the pet needs a second round of treatment for the pre-existing condition within the first two years, there will be a cap of £500 for vet bills.
It also offers up to £7,000 lifetime vet fee cover for new conditions.
However, dental treatment is only available on its ‘complete’ package, a comprehensive review of Bough by Many found.
Under its lifetime policies, VetsMediCover offers protection for pre-existing conditions only if 24 months have passed without:
- The pet showing symptoms for the condition.
- The owner has not consulted a vet about the condition.
- The pet has not received treatment for, or in connection with, the condition.
Lifetime policies – and this type of pre-existing condition cover – are offered with VetsMediCover’s gold, platinum and diamond policies, but not with silver under any circumstances.
VetsMediCover does not insure against animals that are over eight years old when the policy begins. However, it will cover older animals if the policy is being renewed.
Lifetime Pet Cover provides just that – protection for lifelong or chronic conditions up to a certain limit set annually. Beware, the policy only covers conditions that pre-date the policy if two years have passed without treatment.
To pass this two-year barrier so a condition is no longer deemed pre-existing, the pet must:
- Have been treated and the pet fully recovered, with no susceptibility to future problems or underlying weakness.
- Not have received treatment for or in connection with the condition for 24 months.
- Have had no symptoms or vet advice sought for the condition for 24 months.
This package includes dental treatment and doesn’t have an age limit.
It clearly states that premiums will rise if the health of the pet changes, and Lifetime Pet Cover only covers cats and dogs.