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20 Dec 2019
Adam Bate

Pre-existing conditions in pets


Documents detailing pet insurance policies

Follow our guide to learn more about insuring pets with pre-existing conditions.

When an insurer works out the cost of pet insurance, they’ll look at a number of things, like the breed of the cat or dog, its age and where you live. But if you’re looking to get cover for a pre-existing condition you will need a special type of policy. 

Pre-existing insurance for pets is cover specifically for pets that have a known illness or injury before you take out an insurance policy for them. 

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What is a pre-existing condition? 

Each insurer may have their own definition of what they mean by a pre-existing condition. But in general, it means something that has lead to an illness or injury your pet has before you take out a policy with an insurer.

Insurers might look at a number of things to check whether a pre-existing condition is covered in their standard policy, including:

  • If there is no known cure to the condition

  • If the condition might come back in the near future

  • If it will need constant monitoring and care from the date the policy starts

  • Any other characteristics that suggest your pet will carry on having problems with the condition. 

Unless you have specified cover, insurers probably won’t cover your pet for a pre-existing condition. Your policy might include some other risks to do with your type of pet too.

For example, dachshunds can often have back problems. So insurance for them can be more expensive than a crossbreed, which tend to have fewer health problems. 

When an illness or injury lasts for a long time, it’s called a chronic condition. Both humans and pets can get chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.

Other examples of chronic conditions in cats and dogs include glaucoma, cancer, allergies, arthritis and lower urinary tract diseases.

Insurers and pre-existing conditions 

Your insurer might use other words to define your pet’s health conditions:


These are conditions that your pet has previously suffered from but they no longer have any problems with.

An insurer might cover a certain condition if it hasn’t been a problem recently, but it would be wise to check your policy documents to ensure this is valid in your case.


These are conditions that affect both sides of the body, so for example broken left and right legs. Insurers might look at this as a pre-existing condition for any broken bones that happen down the line.

Hereditary or congenital

These are conditions that have been passed down from your pet’s family, probably because of breeding. Pedigree dogs and cats both have own common conditions that can be caused by their breed.

For example, German Shepherds can have hip problems and arthritis, and Persian cats can have breathing difficulties and dental problems.

It’s a good idea to look into what problems your pet might be at risk from because of their breed. And speak to your vet about any worries you might have.

They might also tell you about things you can do if your pet is prone to get a certain illness or condition.

Average vet bills vs. the cost of your policy

Depending on the injury or the illness, vet bills can be expensive. Standard pet insurance policies won’t cover smaller routine treatments like vaccinations or neutering, but they might cover more serious conditions.  

Surgery is normally the most expensive kind of treatment. Some operations can cost well into the thousands.

Ongoing chronic conditions, like diabetes or asthma, will probably mean you have to go to the vet regularly. Your pet might need surgery or have to take ongoing medication.

One of the main reasons that the price of a policy rises when your pet has a pre-existing condition is because it will cost more to care for your pet before, during and after your policy begins.

If you don’t let your insurer know about these pre-existing conditions, it could invalidate your policy if you wanted to make a claim.

What happens if I want to change insurer?

If you want to change insurer, be careful:

  • If your pet has a pre-existing condition, you might find the new insurer won't cover them

  • If you’ve claimed on an existing policy, you may have difficulties finding an insurer that will offer you a competitive price 

  • If your pet has a chronic condition, you’ll struggle to find adequate cover if you leave your current insurer.

It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, though it will be more expensive each year the condition continues to be a problem.

A lifetime policy with your current insurer will continue to cover your pet’s ongoing conditions as you renew. But the cost will probably rise year by year.  

You’ll lose your cover if you change insurers. 

Would any other parts of my policy change?

Nothing else in your policy would change and you would still benefit from the other standard elements of a pet insurance policy. These include cover for things like:

  • Legal fees

  • Death by accident or illness

  • The cost of advertising for a lost pet

  • Emergency pet boarding fees.

If you have any other worries about your insurance, it’s worth talking to the insurer. They can let you know whether your pet’s conditions are fully covered with your existing policy.

Getting cover for your pet's conditions

When you’re looking for the right cover for pre-existing conditions, it can be tricky working out your best steps. You can usually keep cover when you stay with your existing insurer, but expect costs to rise when you make a claim.


You could lose cover for your pet if you change insurer, as other insurers don’t normally cover pre-existing conditions. Some insurers do offer specified cover for pre-existing conditions. These policies can be expensive, but they mean your cat or dog will be covered if they have another incident caused by the same condition. 


Above all else, by comparing pet insurance quotes you can make sure you’re getting the best possible care for your cat or dog.



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