What’s the difference between time-limited and lifetime pet insurance?

One of the key considerations when taking out pet insurance is whether to opt for a time-limited or a lifetime pet insurance policy.

Yellow Labrador retriever and Maine coon cat cuddling together on a blue couch.

If your household includes canine or feline family members you want to feel confident that they are being well looked after and can access medical treatment at any time, should they ever need it. But at the same time, you don’t want to be hit with eye-wateringly expensive vet bills, which can become particularly burdensome if your pet has a serious or recurring health condition.

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That’s why every pet owner should consider the various pet insurance options in order to find the right one for their needs, because the right policy can offer peace of mind that you can take your canine or feline members of your family to the vet without worrying about the cost.

One of the key considerations when taking out pet insurance is whether to opt for a time-limited or a lifetime pet insurance policy.

What is the difference between time-limited and lifetime pet insurance?

Time-limited pet insurance policies differ from lifetime products in that they only provide cover for any recently diagnosed condition over a set period of time, usually 12 months. Once that period is up and the policy has elapsed, those new conditions will usually be excluded from coverage if and when you renew your policy.

Another critical difference between lifetime and time-limited pet insurance is that time-limited cover typically offers lower maximum payouts than lifetime products.

The decision between these options is likely to come down to factors such as cost and personal preference.

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Is lifetime pet insurance the better option?

A lifetime pet insurance policy could be the ideal choice if you want to guarantee that your animal can access medical care for the duration of their life, including treatment for chronic and recurring conditions.

These products typically run on 12-month contracts and need to be renewed every year, but unlike time-limited policies your pet’s medical conditions won’t be excluded from coverage in subsequent years.

Some lifetime pet insurance policies set an annual limit to cover the treatment costs of each condition the animal develops. If your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, for example, an insurance policy might cover vet bills of up to £5,000 over the course of a year. Any amount above this would have to be paid out of your own pocket.

These limits generally relate to specific conditions, so a separate £5,000 of cover would be available if your dog was unlucky enough to have any other health problems or have an accident.

Lifetime pet insurance policies can also set overall limits to cover treatment costs for particular conditions throughout the animal’s lifespan.

The pros and cons of lifetime pet insurance

Although lifetime pet insurance usually offers pet owners the most comprehensive coverage, it does have both pros and cons:

Pros

• Offers peace of mind that vet bills will be covered up to the stated amount throughout your pet’s life
• Coverage limits are typically high, compared to time-limited policies
• Treatment can continue across policy years, whereas time-limited products would cease financial cover when the stated contract period is up
• Can pay for ongoing medical care when an animal reaches old age or has recurring medical conditions

Cons

• Higher premiums than those generally available with time-limited pet insurance
• Cover is not necessarily unlimited, with policies likely to include some conditions and exclusions

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Restrictions

Whichever type of pet insurance policy you decide to go for, it’s important to read the small print carefully and be aware of any clauses or exclusions that could prevent you from claiming for financial cover in certain situations.

For instance, some providers might set limits on the age at which they begin covering your pet, while others might exclude hereditary conditions.

Other common exclusions in pet insurance policies include:

• Accidents that happen within 48 hours of the policy starting, or illnesses that demonstrate symptoms in the first 14 days
• Routine care such as grooming, vaccinations, flea treatments, worming, nail clipping, spaying and castration
• Third-party accidental damage, although this can be added as an extra to many pet insurance policies.

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