Pet Insurance

To insure a pet or not is a question I get asked frequently by clients. 15 years ago, I would not have hesitated in saying that it was the best thing to do. However, with the advancement of veterinary medicine over the years the cost of procedures has escalated and insurance premiums have reflected this making them prohibitively expensive for many.

When considering insurance, you have to think what you would do when faced with a huge vet bill. If your dog had a spinal injury for example, the cost of diagnosing the condition with a CT scan could be £1,500 + and then any following surgery could well reach in the region of £10,000. Similarly, a complicated medical condition that requires a huge work up, hospitalisation or ongoing medication can also run into the thousands. If you had the monetary funds to meet these bills, then you probably don’t need insurance, but many people wouldn't and that is where pet insurance is valuable.

If you are really against having pet insurance, then another good idea is to open a savings account for your pet and put the £50-£100 per month you would spend on insurance into that instead. Many pets are really healthy in their younger years and it is only as they get older that they develop problems such as arthritis or heart conditions so saving for them from a young age may mean you have a good pot of money to use when they need it. However, you could still be confronted by a huge vet bill if you dog had a serious injury or medical condition.

There are many different types of pet insurance and many different companies providing it.

The main thing you need to decide on is whether to get an annual or lifetime policy. Annual policies will cover a certain condition for one year and then exclude it from any further cover. This is fine for a one-off problem such as a traumatic incident like a road traffic accident. But it is not very helpful for conditions that require long term treatment such as diabetes or a heart condition. The other problem with annual policies is excluding related conditions. For example, if your dog hurt its leg on a walk and needed veterinary treatment even if the injury wasn't serious or involved long term medication, many policies would then exclude any further problems with this leg even if totally unrelated to the original injury. The monthly premium for an annual policy is much less than a lifetime policy but they are really only beneficial for one-off problems and not ongoing medical conditions.

Lifetime policies will cover any condition for the lifetime of the animal. You will be liable for the initial excess but then the insurance company will cover the rest of the treatment for a condition for that year. The excess varies between policies but is usually around £100 and this is per condition. In subsequent years, any ongoing conditions will be fully covered with the exception of a one-off excess payment, again per condition. As animals get older some companies will charge a percentage of the claim on top of the excess, again something to be aware of when you first take out a policy. Some policies will have a yearly limit per condition (anything from £2,000-10,000). Fortunately, there are not many conditions that amount to over £10,000 per year but complicated treatment at a referral centre can soon mount up!

The other thing to be aware, unlike house or car insurance, it definitely doesn’t pay to swap companies every year. Any new company will exclude any pre-existing conditions. Like the annual policies, this exclusion can be generalised, for example, if your dog had an ear mite infestation as a puppy many companies would then exclude all subsequent ear problems.

When considering insurance think about your financial position and what you require from a policy.