Does Pet Insurance Cover Cancer Treatment?

As the leading cause of death in canines, cancer is an issue that many pet owners will need to face up to during their dog’s lifetime. Estimates show that 1 in every 3 dogs will develop cancer at some point, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. But what ramifications does this have for insurance cover?

Does pet insurance cover cancer treatment?

Most pet insurance policies will cover the cost of cancer treatment, providing the cancer diagnosis was made after the insurance was taken out. If your pet already has cancer, you will not be able to take out insurance retrospectively to cover the treatment costs.

Can you insure a dog with cancer?

You cannot can insure a dog with cancer, where it is a pre-existing condition. If your dog has already been diagnosed with the illness, it won’t be possible to find cover. However, some pet insurers will be prepared to offer coverage if your dog has been in remission long enough.

If that’s not entirely clear, let’s get into a little more detail with a few scenarios.

For example, say your dog becomes poorly and you go to the vets and they test your dog positively for cancer, you won’t then be able to go get a new insurance policy to cover the treatment.

However, if you have an existing insurance policy which offers coverage for cancer diagnosis, you will be covered.

Many pet insurance companies now offer cancer coverage as standard, some will offer it as an additional extra. Providing cancer wasn’t a pre-existing condition, it means you can have the peace of mind in knowing you will be able to pay for treatment and care.

Pet insurance after cancer diagnosis

And another aspect that many pet owners will often not be aware of is cancer insurance coverage for dogs in remission; which is pet insurance after a cancer diagnosis.

You will be able to find some insurers on the market who will let you take out a pet insurance policy on your dog, even if they have had cancer before.

However, your dog will have to have been in remission for a period of time and will need to be considered as being cured of cancer if the diagnosis has been clear for 6 months.

What will the insurance policy cover?

It all depends on the type of cover you have and what insurance policy you took out.

Whilst most dog insurance policies will cover accidents, not all of them will have cancer treatment as a standard option. In many cases it’s an add-on that you will need to purchase.

Given the high rate of cancer in dogs, with 1 in 3 being diagnosed, it’s common sense to make sure you have the suitable coverage in place.

Providing you bought pet insurance with cancer coverage before the diagnosis was made, you should be able to claim back many of the costs associated with the treatment.

This will include vet visits, chemotherapy, blood tests, medicine and treatment costs.

Without adequate insurance, you will have to cover these expenses yourself.

Providing you do have the right type of policy, you will typically have to pay the bills first yourself, and then claim those back from your pet insurance company.

Handy Hint: Don’t leave insuring your dog too late. Once a cancer diagnosis has been made, you won’t be able to get pet coverage for your dog, as it will be viewed as a pre-existing condition.

How much does cancer treatment for a dog cost?

To find out that your beloved dog has cancer is a hard thing to deal with. Not only do you have to deal with the emotions involved, but then when you see how much cancer treatment can cost, it’s another tough blow you shouldn’t have to deal with.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure you have the right type of insurance policy that offers cancer treatment coverage.

By choosing a good insurer you can make the treatment costs much more manageable, and in some cases, not have to pay any money out of your own pocket.

Cancer in dogs is a very expensive illness to treat and will vary depending on the cancer type and how severe it is.

Here’s a breakdown of the typical costs that could be involved with some of the usual treatment options, whether paid for by you, or by an insurance company.


The bigger your dog, the more expensive this will be. Just the blood tests and sonograms alone could run into thousands of pounds.

Chemotherapy, just like in humans, will be used to kill the cancer cells, and it doesn’t come cheaply.

As an example, it could cost as much as £8,000 for a 20-week treatment program.


Vets will use radiation to treat tumours that can’t be reached by surgical methods due to their location in your dog’s body.

Radiation treatment will typically be administered a couple of times a week for five weeks and could end up costing in the region of £4,000 to £6,000 pounds.


Vets will operate on your dog if they can reach and remove the cancerous tumours using surgical methods.

This can be enough to cure your dog of cancer, so long as it has not metastasized and spread.

In most cases, surgery will be the first option considered by vets and can range from £2,000 to £4,500 pounds as a one-off piece of treatment.

How to afford dog cancer treatment without insurance cover

Hopefully you will have adequate insurance in place.

But even if you do, there will be a limit on how much the insurer will be prepared to pay out in the event of a cancer diagnosis. That might mean you will have to make-up any shortfall in treatment costs.

If you do need to pay for the treatment or elements of it yourself, talk to your vet.

There are many vets in the UK who will let pet owners pay on an interest-free payment plan.

We would also recommend that you seek a second opinion, as vet costs can vary from practice to practice.

Do you need help and support?

There are UK charities that work to raise awareness and funds for research into dog cancer.

If you search on Google for “financial assistance for dog cancer treatment” you will find some excellent resources that might be able to help you.

Typically, those charities will need to see proof of your inability to pay and tend to work with low income families struggling to afford their vet bills.

Dog cancer statistics

Cancer is as common in dogs as it is in humans. Just like us, our canine friends can suffer from a wide variety of cancers including carcinomas of epithelial cells and organs, sarcomas of connective tissues and bones, and lymphomas or leukaemia of the circulatory system.

Some dog breeds where selective breeding has taken place can be more at risk of certain cancer types too. You can see a graph representing those breeds below, and the risk rate associated to them (see data source).

does pet insurance cover cancer
Does pet insurance cover cancer? Check, because rates can be high

Symptoms to look out for

Just like in humans, there can be some tell-tale signs that cancer could be developing. The types of symptoms to look for in your dog, which might suggest they have cancer include:

  • Bad breath
  • Black or darker coloured stools
  • Breathing issues
  • Inability to move as freely as usual
  • Lumps and swelling
  • Not eating as much as usual
  • Not urinating or defecating as much as usual
  • Persistent sores
  • Tiredness and lethargy
  • Smelliness
  • Unusual discharges
  • Weight loss

Dog cancer types

Canine cancers typically have the same names as those found in humans and are very similar in the way in which they manifest themselves.

  • Brain cancer
  • Mast cell tumours
  • Hemangiosarcoma (unique to dogs, cats, and horses)
  • Lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer

Dogs can also transmit cancers from one animal to another. If you have more than one dog in your household, you should be exercise extreme caution if one of them is diagnosed.

Canine transmissible venereal tumours (CTVT) are highly contagious amongst dogs and can be transmitted between two animals in close proximity to each other.


Given that so many dogs will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, chances are it could affect you as a pet owner.

It’s so important to make sure you have the best insurance policy available, otherwise you could be looking at some very expensive bills should it happen to your beloved pet. The bottom line is, get pet insurance that covers cancer.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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