Owning a pet is a very rewarding experience but it is also a lifelong financial responsibility. Every year many dogs or cats become ill or are injured and unfortunately there is no National Health Service for pets, so an emergency visit to a veterinary practice with a sick or injured pet could be quite expensive and for this reason vets recommend pet insurance.
One of the most distressing situations pet owners and veterinary professionals find themselves in, is when a pet’s problem is curable but the cost of treatment is too expensive and owners just cannot afford to have the treatment carried out. It is truly heart breaking when we have to put a healthy animal to sleep.
Research from Petplan pet insurance, found that you are more likely to have to claim on a pet insurance policy than you are on your home or car insurance, yet only a third of the country’s pet owners take out pet insurance.
Do I Need Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is sometimes labeled as a waste of money by non-pet owners, but if you’ve ever had to take your pet to the vet’s for more than just a routine booster vaccination or flea treatment, you’ll know how expensive some treatments can be.
Ultimately the pet insurance decision is up to you as a pet owner and we cannot make it for you. You need to ask yourself if you can afford to pay for veterinary treatment easily, or if you will struggle to find the money to cover emergency or ongoing treatment for your pet.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Most pet insurance companies cover everything except routine or elective treatment, these routine things would include;
- Flea Treatment
- Vaccinations (some companies offer vaccination vouchers)
- Nail Clipping
- Anal gland emptying (unless there is a specific cause)
- 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.
Read the small print of a policy carefully before taking it out. some insurance companies will exclude or place a monetary limit on things like Dentistry, MRI scans, Referrals, Cruciate injury repairs and even laboratory and hospitalisation fees!
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 unless they have received training by that company. Essentially there are four main types of policy available (with a few variations), so it is important that you understand what type of policy you are buying and what it will cover.
- Lifelong Cover Policy – This policy usually offers a fixed amount of money to cover veterinary fees for each year and then reinstates this amount when the policy is renewed each year. 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. These policies are usually available in maximum claimable amounts per year from £3000 up to £12000 depending on your chosen cover level. This type of policy can be expensive but it is generally considered to be the best type because it can cover conditions for the duration of the pet’s lifetime.
- 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.
- 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 wont cover lifetime conditions.
- Accident Only Policy – This type of policy provides cover for veterinary treatment after an accident, but not for illnesses or ongoing conditions. There is usually a monetary limit per claim and some policies may also have a time limit for the treatment.
What Are Insurance Excess Fees?
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 depending 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 Should I Look Out For When Buying Pet Insurance?
- As with most types of insurance you get what you pay for, so it pays to shop around and get the best policy you can afford.
- Pet insurance costs can vary from as little as £5.00 up to £40.00 per month, depending on what species and breed of pet you are insuring. Be aware that some breeds of pet are likely to cost more than others to insure, for example a breeds with known inherited conditions such as heart disease, skin problems, hip dysplasia or respiratory problems.
- Be wary of insurance companies that offer a ‘lifetime policy’ but cap the yearly amount you can claim for at a ridiculously low amount – A claimable limit of £6000 per year sounds great, but when you read the small print and it says only £500 per condition per year, you could be stuck with a huge bill 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. It is a good idea to make sure you always have enough money put aside to cover an excess fee.
- Ask your friends about their experiences with insurance companies and what happened when they made a claim – Was it dealt with quickly?, Did they pay out the expected amount?, Were there any complications?. It is also a good idea to look at reviews online.
- Check with your veterinary practice if they do direct claims with the insurance company you are interested in. This is where the insurance company pay the veterinary practice directly, rather than you having to settle the bill and wait for the insurers to pay you, meaning that you only have to pay the excess to your veterinary practice.
- 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.
What Else Do I Need To Know about Pet Insurance?
- 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.
- Your vet may charge you an administration fee for processing a direct claim and your insurance company is unlikely to cover this cost.
- Some insurance companies allow the veterinary practice to send claim forms electronically for a faster service, so it is worth asking your practice if they can do this.
- It is your responsibility as the owner of the animal to pay for any treatment not covered by your pet insurance policy.
If you would like more information you can contact Castle Vets on 0118 9574488 for an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses.
We have pet insurance information leaflets available from several different pet insurance companies but we are only able to discuss Petplan policies in any detail, because our staff have received special training and are appointed representatives.