Pet Plan, Britain's leading pet insurer with 42% of the small animal market, has launched a free guide on caring for older pets.

The guide, called Golden Years, has practical tips on dealing with the onset of age related illnesses. Some of these, the guide explains, can be prevented by diet, exercise and skin and dental care.

Heart and kidney disease are both particular problems for older cats and dogs, but are treatable if diagnosed at an early stage.

Pet Plan's existing Cover for Life policy is believed to be one of the few on the market that provides protection irrespective of the age of the pet.

This is important, says Pet Plan, as 60% of its policyholders with a pet aged more than 10 years have made a claim.

Furthermore, the policy has no exclusions for congenital illnesses if they are common to certain breeds.

Under the policy, owners pay 30% of a claim once the annual fixed excess for each illness is deducted for pets aged more than 10 years of age.

Premiums for this policy also increase by £2 a month for cats and £2.50 for dogs once they reach 10 years of age.

Information about these changes is usually sent to Pet Plan policyholders after their pets' 10th birthdays, together with an invitation to trade down to a lower cost plan if this is preferred.