In recent years huge advances have been made in veterinary medicine. Vets can now do things to improve the health and welfare of dogs that would have been unimaginable or impractical only a few years ago. Not surprisingly, these advanced surgical and medical treatments are often expensive so that a vet’s bill for intricate surgery or a prolonged course of treatment may be several hundreds of pounds. Many pet owners worry that they will not be able to afford to pay for treatment if their dog becomes sick or has a major accident.
Who takes out pet insurance?
During the past two decades an increasing number of pet owners have chosen to take out insurance to cover the cost of veterinary treatment. To date an estimated 6 in every 100 cats (6%) and 14 out of every 100 dogs (14%) are insured. There are a number of different companies in the pet insurance market. The largest has more than 400,000 policyholders, receives an average of 1,000 claims a day and every week pays out over half a million pounds to settle claims. It is not just valuable pedigree animals that are insured. There are policies for ordinary cats and dogs, as well as horses and other common pets like rabbits.
One in every three dogs is likely to need major veterinary attention each year (in addition to the annual check ups and vaccination). The cover provided by different insurance policies varies according to the type of policy required and the cost of the premium. Typically, a policy will pay for the costs of veterinary treatment for illness or accident, as well as for third party liability and accidental damage caused by the animal. A good insurance policy will also reimburse the purchase of a pedigree dog or cat.
What costs are not covered by insurance?
As with all household and motor insurance policies there is likely to be an excess on the policy so you will pay a small proportion of any veterinary bills. Policies are not designed to cover day-to-day preventative and routine health care. Treatment for diseases which were already present at the time that the animal was insured will usually be excluded from cover. Vaccinations, neutering costs and other routine preventive treatments are also exempt under most policies, as are the costs relating to an animal which becomes pregnant.
What should I look for in an insurance policy?
It is important to read insurance documents with care to make sure that the proposed policy is the one that will suit you and your pet. There are 3 main types of policy
Cover for Life / Lifetime Cover – are the best option as these policies have an annual benefit which is renewed each year and provides continuous cover for long term or recurring conditions. There may be a total financial limit each year
Maximum Benefit Policies – provide a fixed maximum benefit for each condition and once that benefit is used up you will have to pay any remaining or ongoing costs yourself.
Time and Benefit Limited Policies – only provide limited long-term cover. A condition is only covered for 12 months from the date of the first symptom NOT the date of the first claim. Any fees after this period will need to be paid for by yourself and that condition will be excluded from further cover.
How much will insurance cost?
The cost of insurance will obviously depend on the type of animal insured and the sort of cover that you require. The average premium will be over £100 a year, so in a lifetime your dog’s insurance bills are likely to reach about £1000. You may be able to get special discounts on your insurance if you are a pensioner or have more than one animal insured. Pet insurance is a competitive market so it pays to shop around. Nevertheless remember that the cheapest company is not always the best value for money. Look carefully at the policy to see exactly what is covered by the insurance and be sure that it is what you need. Companies with cheaper policies may haggle over the cost of treatment or delay payment on genuine claims. Ask your vet about the claims settlement history of your preferred companies before you sign up.
Is it worth taking out dog health insurance?
There is no compulsion to take out pet insurance and it is for you to decide whether it is necessary. Cost may certainly be a factor, but the average premiums for veterinary health insurance policies have gone up far less than the equivalent policies for human health care (over the past few years). For a relatively small annual cost, every dog owner who takes out insurance has peace of mind. If your dog has health insurance you know that everything will be done to restore them to full health and fitness if they become seriously ill or have an accident. If you are in any doubt it may help to ask a friend who has some experience of insuring their animals. Your vet or veterinary nurse will also be able to give you independent advice on the types of insurance available.
Changing Insurance Companies
Remember if you decide to change from one company to another any pre-existing conditions, whether or not they have been claimed for, are likely to be excluded by the new company. Your pet’s medical history will be requested at the time of a claim and we will be obliged to disclose full details.
Insurance gives you peace of mind