Skip to content
Pet insurance explained

How does pet insurance work?

Get to grips with pet insurance to help you choose the right type for you and your furry friends.

Provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc

Pet insurance made simple

We know our pets are worth protecting. But with so many types of pet insurance available, it can all be hard to get your head around.

What type of pet insurance should you get? And how does pet insurance work? This go-to guide will help shed some light on the typical types of pet insurance cover and provide a few pointers on what to consider when choosing a policy.

How pet insurance works

We want our pets to be healthy and happy, but unfortunately, accidents, illnesses, and injuries happen. Pet insurance protects you financially if your pet needs veterinary care.

With pet insurance, you pay a monthly or annual premium to your insurer. The amount you pay will vary depending on factors like your pet’s age, any pre-existing health conditions, and the type of pet insurance you choose. 

If your pet needs treatment, your insurer will help cover the cost of veterinary care, medication, and other associated costs – depending on what pet insurance policy you have. 

Types of pet insurance with Sainsbury’s Bank

We offer three types of pet insurance to suit your pets’ needs. Find out more about pet insurance policy types and what’s covered below. 

Lifetime pet insurance

Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive pet insurance type available. As the name suggests, it can help protect your pet for their entire lifetime.

When you take out a lifetime policy, your pet is covered up to a set amount each year. And as long as you renew your policy without a break in cover, the full amount resets every year and becomes available again.

If you protect your pet with us, there are four levels of lifetime cover to choose from (£2,500, £5,000 or £7,500 and £10,000 per year) – so you can find the best fit for you and your pets. There are some breeds that we won't cover under our £10,000 limit which you can find details of in our FAQ section.

Find out more about lifetime cover

Why choose lifetime cover?

  • Ongoing or long-term illnesses could be covered year after year – giving you extra reassurance and peace of mind
  • Limits are per year, not per condition – so you can claim up to a set amount, for any condition, every year of your pet’s life

Exclusions apply, please read our policy document for more information.

When your pet reaches a certain age, their excess will change. The excess payable will then be either the £99 excess fee or 20% of the claim, whichever is more.

Maximum benefit pet insurance

A maximum benefit pet insurance policy provides a fixed amount of money for each condition your pet may suffer and requires treatment for.

Unlike lifetime pet insurance, a maximum benefit policy doesn’t reset each year. Your pet’s condition will simply be covered until the limit runs out and you reach the maximum benefit.

Unlike time limited policies, there’s no time limit on reaching the maximum benefit. So as long as you renew your policy each year without a break in cover, your pet’s illness, injury or condition could be covered for a number of years. Simply choose a level of cover - either a maximum limit of £3,000 or £6,000.

Why choose maximum benefit cover?

  • There’s no time limit to your cover – so your pet could be covered year after year
  • It can be more affordable than lifetime pet insurance – and more comprehensive than time limited or accident only cover

When your pet reaches a certain age, its excess will change. The excess payable will then be either the £99 excess fee or 20% of the claim, whichever is more.

Time limited pet insurance

With time limited pet insurance cover, each condition your pet suffers is covered for 12 months from the first date of treatment or until the vet fee limit for that condition is reached. After this, you’ll need to pay for any ongoing treatment yourself. We offer time limited cover to a maximum of £3,000.

Find out more about time limited cover

Why choose time limited cover?

  • A time limited policy can be cheaper than lifetime or maximum benefit cover
  • It may be suitable if you’ve got concerns about the immediate high cost of your pet's treatment after an injury or illness
  • It provides protection and peace of mind for short-term injuries (such as cuts and scrapes) or illnesses (such as a stomach upset) that require one-off treatment

When your pet reaches a certain age, its excess will change. The excess payable will then be either the £99 excess fee or 20% of the claim, whichever is more.

Accident only pet insurance

Accident only pet insurance policies are typically the least expensive pet insurance available. They help cover the cost of vet fees if your pet is injured as a result of being involved in an accident or being attacked by another animal.

Most accident only policies will have a 12-month time limit – meaning they’ll only cover vet treatment for 12 months from the date the treatment starts.

We don’t currently offer accident only pet insurance.

Why choose accident only cover?

  • Dog insurance policies may include a third party liability cover section, which offers basic protection should your dog injure someone or damage someone else’s property
  • It could be suitable if you’re not interested in a more comprehensive option
  • It’s the lowest priced policy on the market – so it could be ideal if you’re looking for a low-cost insurance plan

Questions to ask when choosing a policy

When it comes to choosing what pet insurance is best for you and your pet, it’s only natural that you’ll have some questions.

So now you understand the main types of pet insurance, here are some you may want to consider when choosing a policy:

  • Are plans simple, transparent and easy to understand so you can decide on the right cover for you and your pet?
  • How much is the excess? Is it fixed or is it possible to change the excess amount?
  • Are discounts available, for example, for multi-pet policies† or buying through a loyalty scheme?
  • When it comes to claims, can you track your claim online? And can the insurer pay vets directly?

What pet insurance do we offer?

With Sainsbury's Bank Pet Insurance, you can choose from:

  • Time limited cover
  • Lifetime cover at four levels
  • Maximum benefit cover at two levels

The type of cover – and the amount you want covered for – will depend on your personal circumstances and your pet’s needs.

Other helpful guides

Find out about everything from vets to vaccinations with our helpful pet guides.

What am I covered for?

What am I covered for?

See exactly what’s included in your insurance cover.

Vets explained

Vets explained

Everything you need to know about vets – all in one place.

Pet insurance glossary

Pet insurance glossary

Cut through the jargon and understand your cover.

Frequently asked questions

What are the 4 main types of pet insurance?

  • Time limited cover
  • Lifetime cover 
  • Maximum benefit cover
  • Accident only cover

The type of pet insurance you choose will depend on your personal circumstances. For example, you might consider how much you can afford to pay each month and the age and health of your pet. 

What is not included in pet insurance?

Several things aren’t often covered by pet insurance, such as:

  • Routine and preventative treatments like vaccinations and flea treatments 
  • Grooming, claw trimming, and dental maintenance
  • Neutering – spaying and castration

Does pet insurance cover any vet practice?

Yes, pet insurance should cover all veterinary surgeries. The amount of cover for your pet will depend on your policy. You should however make sure that your pet is registered at a local vet for routine treatments and check-ups. 


Any further questions?

Check out our answers to some of our pet insurance customers’ most common questions.


Ready to protect your pet?

If you’d like to get a quote for your pet insurance, you can get started right away. If you’re ready, we’re ready.


Need to talk to us?

Call 0344 543 1032

We’re here Monday to Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm. Calls are charged at local rates from landlines and mobiles and may be monitored and recorded.

Other contact details

Terms and conditions

Important information

Sainsbury's Bank plc, Registered Office, 33 Holborn, London EC1N 2HT (registered in England and Wales, no. 3279730) is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register no. 184514). Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd is an appointed representative of Sainsbury's Bank plc.

Sainsbury's Bank plc acts as an introducer to Pinnacle Insurance plc who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered Office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX. Sainsbury’s Bank plc and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.