Pet insurance vs self insuring

As one of your 'best friends', your pet deserves looking after. Whether you take out a pet insurance policy or put money in a savings account to help pay for vet bills (known as self insuring), your pet's health is a priority.

This guide looks at the difference between self insuring and a pet insurance policy as a means to help safeguard the health of your four-legged friend.

Can self insuring pay for increasing veterinary care costs?

Pet owners can face increasing vet fees, particularly when you consider that a condition as common as a hip dysplasia can cost on average £600 for just an assessment and early treatment. However some Allianz claims have reached a total of £6,700*. And such a value is likely to increase in the future along with other vet fees. Could the money you put away cover treatment costs for an unexpected illness or injury? In the event your pet suffers from a serious or ongoing condition, requiring major surgery x-rays or continuous treatment, costs can increase dramatically.

Will it cover ongoing conditions and treatment?

Pet owners who self insure can consider if the money they put aside covers the cost of treatment for ongoing, terminal or critical conditions. Ongoing conditions such as epilepsy, for example, have no cure but can be controlled through regular medication over the pet's lifetime. Bearing in mind such treatment, bills can amount to thousands of pounds.

How much could self insurance amount to?

Putting away just £20 per month** in a piggy bank would save £240 over a year if no interest were added. Treatments can cost thousands of pounds.

Pet Insurance products available

For pet owners who decide that self insuring doesn't provide them with enough peace of mind, purchasing a pet insurance policy is an alternative option. The different types of pet policies available in the market are summarised below.

Accident and injury

Pet insurance policies which include accident and injury can typically cover vet fees on a time limited/12 month basis if the pet is (1) injured as a direct result of involvement in an accident; or (2) injured as a direct result of being attacked by another animal.


  • Dog policies of this type typically include third party liability cover should your dog damage property or injure somebody.
  • Could be a suitable option for those looking for a low-cost insurance plan.


Time-limited policies offer cover for the treatment of each illness or injury for a set amount of time, typically a year, up to a maximum benefit amount.


  • Likely to be lowest premium customers will find where both illness and injury are covered.
  • Popular option amongst pet owners who have concerns about the immediate high cost of treatment after an injury or illness.
  • Ideal protection when pets suffer from an injury such as a cut or scrape, or illness such as a stomach upset, which requires one-off or short-term treatment.

Maximum benefit

More comprehensive, this policy provides ongoing cover for illness or injury, with no time limit, up to a maximum benefit amount. For example, this could be £7,500 or £13,000 depending on the insurer.


  • Suitable for pet owners concerned about long-term illness or injury.
  • No time limit so provides greater peace of mind.

Lifetime or lifelong

With a lifetime policy, vet fees are covered continuously throughout your pet’s life for ongoing or long-term illnesses or injuries stated in the policy.


  • As the name suggests, it can provide cover throughout your pet's life
  • May appeal to you if you’re concerned about your pet developing a long-term, chronic or recurring illness such as arthritis or eczema
  • Depending on the policy and assuming there is no break in cover, there are usually no exclusions for illnesses or injuries, providing the policy documents don’t state otherwise

Extras that you can consider:

Remember, some insurance policies for pets can include a few extras, such as:

  • Advertising and reward costs if your cat or dog goes missing or is stolen
  • Emergency boarding kennel or cattery fees
  • Holiday cover if you have to cancel or cut short a holiday due to your pet falling ill or going missing. This also can include assistance with loss of pet travel documents, quarantine and repatriation whilst abroad
  • Loss cover for the purchase price of your pet and cremation costs if the worst happens and your pet dies due to illness or injury

Final questions to ask yourself…

  • If your pet damages or injures another person or property will you have third-party protection?
  • Road traffic accidents, lengthy in-patient stays, and other vet treatments can soon cost thousands of pounds; have you accurately weighed up the potential cost of your pet’s future health?
  • In regards to self-insuring, are you good at paying into your fund regularly, and keeping it separate to other savings you may have?

*Source: Allianz Insurance plc, 2014.

**Source: Allianz Insurance plc 2015.

This guide aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury’s Bank accepts no responsibility for the content of external websites included within this guide. All information in this guide was correct at date of publication.

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