In my consultations I often ask owners if they have their pets insured.
I get a wide spectrum of responses, from the proactive owners who have done all the research and chosen the best available policy, to the owners that are not sure why to even bother setting up yet another direct debit from their bank account, to the final category (I find this is the biggest category) where people have just plain given up after doing a quick Internet search for ‘pet insurance’ and being completely baffled by the sheer weight of information that hit their desktop! So, in this article, I intend to cut through the paperwork and straight to the whys and wherefores of pet insurance.
Firstly, what is pet insurance? All kinds of pets are insured nowadays, from the obvious ones (dogs and cats) to the less obvious (rabbits, bearded dragons and parrots). When we think of pet insurance, we usually mean medical insurance. This is like Bupa care for people. It is a policy that means, should your pet ever get ill, subject to various terms and conditions and exclusions that may be on any particular policy, the insurance company will pick up the bill for tests and treatment. Be aware that there is always an excess to pay (like with your car policy).
Should I insure my pet? Yes is the short answer! One in three pets need urgent veterinary treatment each year. Many people make the mistake of assuming that insurance is only applicable if your pet is in an accident. If you have a good insurance policy, this is not true. Insurance claims can cover any medical procedure from blood tests, to faecal samples, to ear infections, to even acupuncture therapy for older pets. As medicine advances, there are more and more modern treatments available for our pets, including anti-cancer therapies, even MRI scans for pets! Modern treatments can often cost thousands of pounds, so consider insurance to be budgeting monthly for your pets’ treatment, rather than being faced with a large unexpected bill all of a sudden.
Should I just pick the cheapest policy on a market comparison website? The short answer is no! If you go down this route you are very likely to be caught out by some clever small print which allows the insurance company not to pay for your pets’ treatment. You must read the small print and be aware of what you are buying.
There are three types of policy commonly issued:
Annual – The policy will cover one condition for up to 12 months, thereafter any ongoing costs for that condition will be payable by you.
Maximum benefit policy – There will be a set amount of money to spend on one condition. Once that money is used up, your pet is no longer covered for that condition.
Lifelong policies – These are the best kind. Cover is in place for a set amount of veterinary fees per year, and this amount is renewed every year for the lifetime of your pet provided that you continue paying the premiums. There is no time limit on claims and ongoing conditions will never be excluded from your policy.
I hope that goes someway to cutting through the minefield of pet insurance for you. Of course, your vet will be happy to advise if you have any more detailed questions.