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Best pet insurance 2022: The best pet insurance policies to cover vet bills for your cats and dogs

Jane Hoskyn
19 May 2021

Cover vet bills with the best UK pet insurance providers and policies to protect your cats and dogs – and even your horses

There's no national health service for animals. So the best pet insurance doesn't just cover your vet bills when your beloved dog or cat has been in an accident, it also covers illness, even if your furry friend has pre-existing and hereditary conditions. You can also opt to include costs such as dental treatment, kennel costs and even annual jabs, all of which add up to eye-watering annual expenses.

The key to choosing the best pet insurance product for you, as with any insurance, is finding a policy that's affordable enough to save you money in the long run, but comprehensive enough to provide the protection and payment you need, quickly and with minimal hassle.

Read on for our pick of the best pet insurance providers, and details of what they currently offer. First, though, here’s our guide to choosing the ideal pet insurance provider to protect your puss, pooch… or parrot.

Best pet insurance: At a glance

  • Best pet insurance for comprehensive coverage: PetPlan | Get a quote
  • Best lifetime insurance for young cats and dogs: Waggel | Get a quote
  • Best pet insurance on a budget: Argos | Get a quote
  • Best pet insurance for older cats and dogs: Tesco Bank | Get a quote
  • Best pet insurance for multiple pets: Direct Line | Get a quote
  • Best pet insurance for accident-only cover: More Than | Get a quote

How to buy the best pet insurance for you and your animals

How much does pet insurance cost?

Costs vary wildly, depending on the coverage you want and the pet you're covering. Around £20-£30 per month should be enough for comprehensive (“lifetime”) cover for one pet. You could pay as little as a fiver a month for accident-only insurance for a chipped and neutered young cat, or well over £50 per month to fully insure a large pedigree dog.

That might sound a lot, but the Association of British Insurers says that the average pet insurance claim is a cool £822. Many claims are a great deal higher. A bill for unexpected veterinary surgery can cost thousands of pounds.

Everything from your pet’s age and condition to your location and whether or not you’ve got a cat flap will influence the cost of insurance. So getting a quote is not as quick and easy as insuring, say, your phone, and you’ll have to hand over your details as well as your pet’s. But your dog is a heck of a lot more unique than your phone, so it’s worth going that extra mile to get the right coverage.

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What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance coverage is as varied as pets. It’s worth having a chat with your vet to find out what you should definitely include in your policy, and what factors you should mention about your pet when getting your quote.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing your provider and policy:

Dental cover: Most insurers now let you cover your pet’s dental bills, either after an accident or – for a higher premium – as a result of decay and gum disease. Insurers may insist that your pet has regular dental check-ups before providing this cover.

Lifetime cover: If you go for the lifetime (comprehensive) cover option, you may be covered for pretty much every vet bill you ever pay – including routine injections, check-ups, worming treatments, flea treatments and pre-existing conditions. But always check the small print before assuming this stuff is covered.

Direct vet payments: Some insurers pay the vet directly rather than paying you, which may sound convenient, but some vets only accept payment from a pet owner at the time of treatment. So check with your vet.

24/7 vet helpline: Many providers partner with vet organisations to provide 24/7 helplines, and even video access to vets, for their policy holders. With so many of us unable or unwilling to venture out to the vet at the moment, this is a brilliantly helpful extra.

Death by accident or illness: If your pet dies prematurely, you may get back the cost of what you paid for him or her. The age limit is typically seven to 10 years for a cat, and seven to eight years for a dog. Many insurers will also cover the cost of euthanasia, as well as cremation or cemetery burial if your pet passes away.

Missing pet cover: Most insurers will cover the cost of putting up posters and paying a reward if your pet goes missing. Some insurers will then match the cost you paid for your pet if they sadly don’t turn up.

Third-party liability (dogs only): This is an amount paid out by the insurer if your dog injures a third party or damages their property. This covers legal costs, expenses and the claimant’s expenses.

Overseas travel cover: This is effectively travel insurance for pets, and will make sure you’re covered in case your pet falls ill or has an accident when abroad.

Cattery and kennel fees: Insurers tend only to cover these fees if you’re in hospital. You’re unlikely to get your kennel fees paid if you’re off on holiday!

How did we compare our recommended pet insurers?

We wanted to compare costs like-for-like from each of our recommended pet insurance providers. So we applied for a quote from each one, using the same details each time:

  • A nine-year-old, healthy moggie cat
  • Chipped, neutered, adopted, no pre-existing conditions
  • Accident and illness cover with no extras
  • Monthly payments for one year (aka time limited, as opposed to lifetime or per-condition cover)
  • Single-pet household with no children or cars, and outdoor access
  • South-East UK location

If your dog or cat is younger than our nine-year-old, and if you’re not in London or the South East, then you may pay less than our quoted fees. But you may pay more if you have a pedigree or large dog, or if you go for comprehensive lifetime cover.

We also researched feedback from real pet owners who’ve had experience of making claims through each provider. After all, that’s the most important factor when deciding whether an insurer is really doing its job.

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The best pet insurance to buy now

1. PetPlan: Best pet insurance for comprehensive coverage

Example price: £22/mth (1yr cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from PetPlan

UK pet insurance pioneer PetPlan receives consistently good feedback from pet owners, who hail its long window for claim submissions, attentive customer service and fast payouts. It also covers a much wider range of animals than most insurers, including special equine insurance for horse owners.

PetPlan’s quote for our cat was marginally the most expensive of the lot. However, even though we tried to compare like-for-like, PetPlan offered more coverage than any of the others. Dental work, behavioural and hereditary conditions, physiotherapy and prescription meds were all covered, even in our one-year time-limited plan. Ideal for extra reassurance, but if your pet is young and healthy it may be worth exploring more flexible options before you choose a provider.

Key specs – Excess: £85 + 20% per illness/injury; Vet fees covered per year: £3,000; Contract options: 12 months; lifetime

Buy now from PetPlan

2. Waggel: Best lifetime pet insurance for young cats and dogs

Example price: £20/mth (lifetime cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from Waggel

Like PetPlan, Waggel is a pet insurance specialist whose quote is a little higher than average. But in this case, it’s because the company only offers all-inclusive lifetime cover, and not time-limited (one year) cover or flexible premiums. Its user feedback is unusually enthusiastic, with policy holders reporting that the London-based company is “caring and helpful” throughout the claims process.

Waggel’s one-size-fits-all cover, which includes dental treatment and 24/7 video vet access, may not be flexible enough to suit older animals, or those with pre-existing conditions. But if your dog or cat is still relatively young and healthy it could save plenty of money over his or her lifetime. The quote process is also unusually quick, because it asks for so few details.

Key specs – Excess: £100 (up to £250 available); Vet fees: £2,000 (£1,000-£10,000 levels available); Contract options: Lifetime

Buy now from Waggel

3. VetsMediCover: Best time-limited pet insurance for young cats and dogs

Example price: £10/mth (1yr cover for 7yo cat) | Buy now from VetsMediCover

VetsMediCover wouldn’t let us enter a birth date earlier than 2013 for our cat, so it’s clearly not happy insuring older animals. So we had to knock a couple of years off his age, and the result was a very affordable £10 per month. We weren’t asked for any information about pre-existing conditions, but the policy does include “hereditary and congenital defects cover” and dental treatment.

People who’ve made claims via VetsMediCover report that the application process is friendly and efficient, and customer support is excellent.

Key specs – Excess: £90 (£250 third-party liability); Vet fees: £2,000 (up to £10k cover available); Contract options: 12 months; lifetime

Buy now from VetsMediCover

4. Argos Pet Insurance: Best pet insurance on a budget

Example price: £14/mth (1yr cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from Argos

If you're looking for a more stripped-back insurance policy, then Argos is well worth a look. Its detailed quote process allowed us to reduce the maximum vet bill cover to £2,500 to slash our monthly premium, and we could have reduced it even further by opting for Argos’ “per condition” cover, which most providers don’t offer.

Key specs – Excess: £99 per condition; Vet fees: £2,500 (£4k and £7k cover also available); Contract options: 12 months; lifetime; per condition

Buy now from Argos

5. Tesco Bank Pet Insurance: Best pet insurance for older cats and dogs

Example price: £17.65/mth (1yr cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from Tesco Bank

Tesco Bank’s quote to insure our cat was about average after its 20% online discount (policy holders get Clubcard discounts, too), and we found its website and quote process clear and easy to understand.

Like most providers, Tesco lets you tailor your quote by tweaking the excess you pay and the maximum vet bills covered. It also charges relatively little extra to stretch your insurance to suit older pets particularly well, such as dental cover, lifetime cover and cover for existing conditions and abnormalities.

Key specs – Excess: £200 (£60 and £120 also available); Vet fees: £3,000 (up to £10k cover available); Contract options: 12 months; lifetime

Buy now from Tesco Bank

6. Direct Line Pet Insurance: Best pet insurance for multiple pets

Example price: £17.08/mth (1yr cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from Direct Line

If you’re lucky enough to share your home with a multitude of dogs and cats, you’ll welcome Direct Line’s 12.5% multi-pet insurance discount. The multi-pet cover also lets you manage all your furry friends’ premiums in one place, and renew them at the same time. You can add new pets at any time, and keep the same renewal date.

We also liked Direct Line’s quote process, not least because it allows you to go back and forth tweaking details (such as your pet’s breed and pre-existing conditions) and cover factors (such as excess, coverage time and additional benefits including dental cover and complementary treatments) to see instantly how this would affect your premium.

Key specs – Excess: £80 (£160 also available); Vet fees: £4,000 (£8k cover available); Contract options: 12 months; lifetime

Buy now from Direct Line

7. Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance: Best pet insurance for Nectar Card holders

Example price: £19.74/mth (1yr cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from Sainsbury's Bank

Sainsbury's Bank offers 25% off new pet insurance policies bought online – and you get up to a further 12.5% off if you’re a Nectar Card holder, plus double base points on your Sainsbury’s shopping. And if you’re insuring multiple pets, you get a £24 discount for each. So even though the headline quote is higher than average, the discounts add up.

Beyond choosing between the three main policy types (time-limited, which we went for, lifetime and per condition), you can’t choose what or what not to include. Dental, third-party liability and loss by theft or straying are all covered, and 24/7 vet help is included.

Key specs – Excess: £99; Vet fees: £3,000 (up to £10k cover available); Contract options: 12 months; lifetime; per condition (Max Benefit)

Buy now from Sainsbury's Bank

8. More Than Pet Insurance: Best pet insurance for accident-only cover

Price: £15/mth (1yr cover for 9yo cat) | Buy now from More Than

More Than’s great-value cat and dog insurance includes a number of preset tailored plans, including euthanasia cover that helps you meet the heartbreaking cost of having your pet put to sleep. You also get a 10% discount on each pet in a multi-pet plan, and a 24/7 vet helpline.

More Than is also one of few providers to offer accident-only pet insurance; most offer accident and illness as minimum (as in our example quote for our cat). Going for accident-only will make your monthly premium even cheaper, but bear in mind that the huge majority of unexpected vets’ bills are for illness, not accidents.

Key specs – Excess: £100, plus 20% of bill if pet is 9yo+; Vet fees: £3,000 (£1.5k cover available); Contract options: 12 months; lifetime

Buy now from More Than

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