Many of us are pet owners and can appreciate the burgeoning cost of vet’s bills. Perhaps you have considered taking out insurance for your pet in the past, but are unsure as to whether it is really worth having? An unexpected veterinary bill can put a serious strain on your finances, but sometimes pet insurance can seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if your finances are already under strain.
Recent figures have revealed that the average pet insurance claim is around £700, but this figure is far greater if your pet goes on to develop a long-term condition. When deciding if you would benefit from taking out a pet insurance policy you need to take into account how you would cope financially with an unexpected vet’s bill, whether you can comfortably afford the monthly premiums, and how likely you think it would be that you would make a claim.
The most common type of pet insurance policy is cover for dogs and cats. Cover for smaller animals is also available, such as rabbits, but the benefit of these policies is debatable due to their much shorter lifespans. If you have an exotic pet such as a lizard or parrot you may find a few, more specialist, insurers who will offer you cover for these animals; this cover may very well be worth considering as vet’s bills for these types of pets can be high due to their exotic nature.
When deciding whether pet insurance is a good idea you need to take into account the breed of your animal. If your dog or cat is a pedigree then they are more likely to suffer from hereditary illnesses, and unfortunately, more likely to be stolen. Specific breeds also tend to be more susceptible to certain health problems, for example, bulldogs are notoriously prone to respiratory problems.
Pet insurance policies vary considerably between insurance providers so be sure to check what the policy includes before you sign up. In general, most policies cover the cost of veterinary bills, but can also cover you for loss or theft of your animal. You may be asked to provide proof of how much you paid for your pet; if you do not have this then the insurer is entitled to offer you the market value of your pet which may be less than the original purchase price. Some policies may also provide cover for the cost of advertising your pet, and the cost of a reward for its safe return.
Most policies will pay out if your pet dies due to injury or illness, although there is usually an age limit for death by illness claims. The insurer may ask that a qualified vet certifies the cause of death. In addition, most policies will also pay for the cost of putting your pet to sleep if this is necessary.
If you have a dog you can also take out liability cover which will cover the cost of compensation if a person is injured, or their property damaged, by your animal. Most insurers offer liability cover up to around £1 million. Liability cover can be taken out as a stand-alone product or as part of a pet insurance plan.
Bear in mind when taking out pet insurance that it will not cover you for the cost of routine treatment such as annual vaccinations. However, the majority of insurers will insist that these vaccinations are carried out regularly, or they may refuse to pay out in the event of a claim. In general, most policies cover the cost of treatment for injuries and illnesses although many exclude the cost of treatment for pre-existing conditions.
There are three main types of pet insurance cover. The first is accident only cover which is the cheapest and covers your pet for injuries sustained during an accident, but not illnesses. The second is annual cover whereby you pay for a year’s worth of cover on a rolling basis. This type of policy does not tend to cover pre-existing conditions, and you may struggle to insure your pet as they grow older. The most comprehensive type of policy available, and the most costly, is lifetime cover. You pay premiums throughout your pet’s life and the insurer is obliged to cover your pet regardless of any long-term conditions that may arise, and regardless of their age. However, premiums are likely to increase over time.
If you do decide to insure your pet then it is highly advisable that you take out cover when they are very young. Older animals are more prone to illness so most insurers will only allow you to take out cover before your pet is around eight years old.
In common with most other insurance policies pet insurance carries an excess which is the amount you have to pay yourself if you make a claim. Look for a policy which carries a flat excess of between £50 and £100 as some insurers charge a percentage-based excess in addition to a flat fee. This is called a co-insurance excess and can prove extremely costly if your pet requires expensive treatment.
There are a number of different things to consider when deciding whether to take out pet insurance. Make sure that you do your research thoroughly before committing to a policy, and weigh up the pros and cons of insuring your animal. Every pet is different, and each of us has different financial circumstances so pet insurance is very much a personal choice and may, or may not, be advisable.