Each year 1 in 3 dogs or cats fall ill or are injured. There is no animal National Health Service and an emergency visit to a veterinary practice with a sick or injured pet can be quite expensive. One of the most distressing situations vets and owners find themselves in is when a pet’s problem is curable but the cost of treatment is too expensive and owners just can’t afford to have the treatment carried out.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Most pet insurance companies cover everything except routine or elective treatment, these routine things could include;
- Flea Treatment
- Nail Clipping
- Pregnancy complications or related illnesses
- Food ( although some companies may cover prescription veterinary diets)
- Any problems, illnesses or conditions that your pet suffered from before taking out the pet insurance.
How Do I Choose The Right Policy For My Pet?
You need to pick the policy that suits you best and it is a good idea to shop around and compare several different policies before you commit to anything. You local veterinary surgery may be able to provide some pet insurance leaflets from different companies but they are usually not allowed to recommend specific companies. Essentially there are three different types of policy available, so it is important that you understand what type of policy you are buying and what it will cover.
1. Lifelong Cover Policy – This policy usually offers a fixed amount of money to cover veterinary fees for each year and then reinstates this amount each year when the policy is renewed. For example, if your pet were to develop arthritis in his later life he would be covered for this condition for the rest of his lifetime up to the stated amount yearly. This type of policy can be expensive but it is the most suitable for long term conditions.
2. Monetary Limit Policy – This type of policy offers a maximum monetary limit on the amount paid out for each condition. This means that you can claim for a condition until you reach the maximum limit for that particular condition. For example, if your pet developed arthritis and your maximum monetary limit was £4000, you can claim for as many years as it takes to reach this amount. However, once this limit has been reached, the arthritis condition would then be excluded from your insurance. This type of policy is generally less expensive than the first type, but you need to remember that once you have reached the maximum monetary limit your pet will no longer be covered for a long term condition.
3. Maximum Monetary And Time Limit Policy – This type of policy has a maximum monetary limit per condition and a maximum time limit that a condition can be claimed for (usually 12 months from its onset). Once the maximum monetary or time limit has been reached the condition will no longer be covered. This is commonly referred to as a 12 month policy. This type of policy is often inexpensive to purchase but it will be unsuitable if your pet develops a long term condition.
What Is An Excess Fee?
An excess is the part of a claim that you have to pay yourself for each different condition. Different companies will apply differing amounts of excess so you need to check this with them.
Annual Excess – If a single, ongoing condition spans two or three policy years, the excess will be taken yearly.
Fixed Excess – Companies deduct a fixed amount of money regardless of how much your claim is for. For example, if your excess is £50 per condition you would only have to pay that amount regardless of whether you claim for £100 or £3000. This is usually only applied to 12 month policies.
Percentage Excess – This is where your excess is based on a percentage of your claim (usually after a fixed minimum has been applied), so the more you claim the higher your excess will be. These are usually fixed somewhere between 10% and 30% depending on your policy.
An excess fee can vary according to the area in which you live and/or your pets age. Most insurance companies will charge you an excess for each condition you claim for, so if you are claiming for two different conditions you will have to pay two excesses.
What you should look out for when buying pet insurance
- As with most insurances you get what you pay for so it pays to shop around and get the best policy you can afford.
- Be wary of some insurance companies that offer a ‘lifetime policy’ but cap the yearly amount you can claim for at a ridiculously low amount – it looks good to have a cover limit of £6000 per year but when you read the small print and it says only £500 per condition per year you could be stuck if your pet needs expensive specialist surgery or ongoing medications.
- Try to find out how much your excess is likely to go up by on a yearly basis and if your insurance company will also add a percentage excess once your pet reaches a certain age
- Ask your friends about their experiences with insurance companies. It is also a good idea to look at reviews on line.
- Remember that once you have made a claim for a specific condition if you decide to change your insurance company that condition will usually be excluded by the new company, so make sure you do your research.
- Your insurance company has the right to ask for your pets medical history from your vet and that your vet must provide it when asked. You must make sure that you tell your insurance company about any pre-existing conditions when you take out your policy.