Pet Insurance

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
  • Worming
  • Vaccinations 
  • Nail Clipping
  • Neutering
  • 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.  

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Winter Care For Pets

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Just like us, the winter months can challenge our pets health and wellbeing. While some pets will bound through the chillier months in full health, we need to be mindful that changes in temperatures and shorter days can have a real impact on the health and happiness of our family pets.

Some pets will grow thicker coats to help them cope with the cold, but older pets, some of the smaller and smooth-coated breeds and small furries are not quite as lucky.

Outdoor exercise will be welcomed by some pets more than others with cats and older pets more inclined to stay inside. Try to encourage movement, play and mental stimulation for those pets who would rather be indoors.

Advice For Dog Owners

  • If you have an miniature breed, elderly or smooth-coated dog it may be worth buying them a winter coat to keep them warmer on their walks, as they will feel the cold more than others.
  •  Make sure you have done at least 10 minutes of on-lead walking before letting your dog off the lead. This will ensure their muscles are properly warmed up before they start racing about.
  •  When outside, even the younger dogs will feel the cold. Playing games such as tug of war and fetch will help your dog stay warmer.
  •  Going for walks in a local wood will help because the trees will shelter you from the worst of the weather.
  •  If you are walking in the dark it is worth investing in a reflective, flashing collar or tag for your dog so that he or she can be seen easily. 
  • If your dog gets wet on the walk make sure they are properly dried off when they get home. This is especially important with older pets.
  •  For days when you can’t get outside due to the weather it is important play with your pet to prevent boredom. Using food dispensing activity toys or doing some simple training will help with this.

Advice For Cat Owners

  • If your cat goes outside it is worth considering a reflective collar so he or she can be seen more easily
  •  For cats that do not have a cat flap think about putting a cosy bed in your shed and leaving the shed door or window open for them to access it.
  •  Although some cats may be very reluctant to leave the house in the winter, exercise and mental stimulation is very important. Use pieces of string, ping-pong balls and/or wind up toys to encourage play and exercise.
  •  If your cat is spending more time indoors you could also invest in a scratching post or indoor climbing frame and don’t forget the all important litter tray.

Advice for outdoor pets

  •  Make sure the hutch is in a good state and properly waterproof.
  • Hutches should be raised up of the floor to prevent the base becoming damp.
  •  Large mesh doors can be partially covered with clear perspex, which will allow your pet to see out and the sun to come in but will provide a barrier against the wind and rain – ventilation is still important though so leave several inches gap for this.
  •  Covering the whole hutch with old blanket/carpet and a tarpaulin/waterproof covering will help keep the heat in an the weather out. During the day leave the front open to ventilate and at night cover the majority of the hutch leaving a smaller area to ventilate. If possible you could move the hutch into a shed.
  •  Your pets will need a warm, snug bed so provide extra bedding, and a thicker layer of the litter you usually use for the floor. Newspaper can be used to line the floors/walls underneath the bedding.
  •  Staying warm in the winter takes more energy and so pets spending a lot of time outside, will be burning more calories in order to generate body heat. It may be necessary to increase their calorie intake to account for the cold but please speak to a member of our practice team for more advice on the correct amount to feed your pet,
  •  It is important to check that your pet has access to fresh clean water and that water bottles and dishes haven’t frozen overnight.
  • Remember that exercise will still be important for pets house outside. Encourage mobility and play with balls they can push around and tubes they can run through. It may be necessary to let them exercise indoors if it is too cold outside or if there is a frost or snow on the ground.

Antifreeze warning

With the return of frosty mornings, many of us who have early starts will be reaching for the antifreeze once more. Veterinary practices and charities alike are urging motorists, pet owners and manufacturers to be aware of the hidden dangers to pets from antifreeze poisoning. Unfortunately many animals find the taste of antifreeze very attractive, and ingesting even the smallest amount can lead to kidney failure and death, especially in cats.

It is therefore extremely important to take extra care when using antifreeze, to avoid spillages or leaks, either from bottles or from car radiators. Left over antifreeze and water coolant should also be disposed of responsibly.

One of the main manufacturers of antifreeze has taken steps to try and prevent poisonings occurring. Comma Oil, which supplies antifreeze to companies including Halfords, has added an ingredient to make it unpleasant to swallow the product. However, there is currently no legislation to make such additives a requirement. There is also no law governing how people should dispose of antifreeze when it is used domestically.

If you suspect your pet has come into contact with antifreeze, leaked water coolant you must get them to a vet immediately: