Pet Insurance Guide

Do you know your Lifetime from your Maximum Benefit policies?

General Concepts

Most people know that Pet Insurance primarily exists to cover the cost of your vet's bill in the event that your pet falls ill, or has an accident, and needs treatment. Nowadays policies can also cover the costs of complimentary treatment (such as physiotherapy, animal behaviorist etc.) if prescribed by your vet. Policies will also 'pay out' an amount in the unfortunate event that your pet is lost due to theft or straying or dies due to an illness. Finally, most Pet Insurance policies will provide "Public Liability Cover" for your dog. Each of these aspects of cover (vet fees, public liability etc.) are often refereed to as benefits of the policy or the cover / cover level provided by the policy. The amount a policy will 'pay out' for any given element of cover is not unlimited, and so for each aspect there is a cover limit. For example our Gold policies have a cover limit of £3,500 for vet fees, whereas our Silver policies have a cover limit of £2,500 for vet fees. A full description of the benefits is included lower down this guide, and the cover limits are detailed in Our Pet Insurance Policies.

Benefits (Cover Levels)

Vet Fees

The amount a policy will pay out for costs incurred when your pet is treated by a vet.

Complimentary Treatment

This is effectively a 'sub section' of Vet Fees. It allows for the costs incurred if the vet prescribes complementary treatment such as physiotherapy, behaviorist, herbal or homeopathic medicines etc. This is expressed as a limit within the vet fee cover level . So for example, you may have a policy with vet fee cover of £3,500 of which £2000 could be claimed for complementary treatment. NB this forms part of the Vet Fees and is not cover in addition to the vet fees.

Theft or Straying

In the unfortunate circumstance that your pet is stolen or goes missing, this benefit will 'pay out' the price you paid to purchase your pet up to the cover limit. The amount of cover typically varies between dogs and cats. There is no excess associated with this benefit.

Accidental death

Similar to 'Theft or Straying' cover, in the unfortunate event that your pet has to be put to sleep the benefit will 'pay out' the price you paid to purchase your pet up to the cover limit. The amount of cover typically varies between dogs and cats. There is no excess associated with this benefit.

Public Liability

This benefit applies to dogs only (the law with regard to cats and ownership is complex and well beyond this guide!). It provides cover for circumstances such as your dog damaging some else's property or causing injury to someone else for which you are legally responsible. The benefit has an excess of £250 which is different to the vet fee excess.


Policy Type: Lifetime vs Maximum Benefit

There are two types of policy: Lifetime and Maximum Benefit. The difference between a Lifetime and Maximum Benefit policy relates to how the Vet Fees benefit is applied.

A lifetime policy is more expensive (and generally considered better cover) primarily because if your pet develops a medical condition a Lifetime policy will continue to cover veterinary costs incurred due to that condition (up to the annual vet fee limit) each year that you renew your policy whereas a maximum benefit will only cover costs (up to the vet fee limit) once for any given condition. So, with a maximum benefit policy, once you have reached your Vet Fee limit for a given condition, you can not claim any more money for that condition even if you renew the policy in future years.

Please note that the premium you pay upon renewing your policy is likely to go up over time to reflect the fact that your pet is ageing and therefore more likely to incur vet fees.

The other factor to consider is that whereas a Lifetime policy simply has a total annual limit for vet fees which can be used to claim for one or more conditions that your pet develops during the 'policy year', a Maximum Benefit policy has both a total annual limit (i.e. the most you can claim in the 'policy year') and a per-condition limit (which is less then the total annual limit) that restricts the amount you can claim for any one condition in the 'policy year'. 

Although Puffin don't sell them, you may also come across two more types of Pet Insurance policy which place further restrictions on the Vet Fees benefit: Annual/Annual-Limit, which are similar to Maximum Benefit but also limit the time-frame in which you can claim Vet Fees for any given condition to the first 12 months of the condition; Accident Only which, as the name suggests, only provide cover in the event that your pet incurs vet fees due to an accident (i.e. not if it falls ill).

Excess and Cover Limit

The Vet Fees and Personal Liability have an excess.  This is the initial portion that you have to pay before the policy benefit starts to pay out. For example, imagine a policy with a vet fees cover limit of £1,250 and a vet fees excess of £110.... here are a few scenarios of different vet fees and how the cover limit  and excess would be applied:

Vet fee of £50... as you have to pay the first £110, you would pay the total bill and the policy would not cover any portion of the cost.

Vet fee of £900... you would pay the first £110, and the policy would pay the remaining £790.

Vet fee of £1400.. you would pay the first £110, the policy would pay up to the limit (in this example) £1250, and you would have to pay the reminder (£1400 - £110 - £1250 = £40).


Older pets typically require more treatment which naturally drives the cost of insurance up (as the risk to the insurance company is greater). As pets get older this can start to make insurance prohibitively expensive and so some insurers (including those used by Puffin) adopt the practice of co-insurance whereby the cost of any vet fees is shared with the customer that holds the insurance policy once the pet reaches a certain age. This is most easily described with an example: consider an 8 year old dog that has fallen ill and incurred vet's fees of £500. The policy has an excess of £99 and 20% co-insurance for the pet of this age....

Vet fees £500
Excess £110
Vet fees after excess £390
20% co-insurance £78
Policy 'pays out' £390 - £78
= £312