We are undoubtedly a nation of animal lovers, but our attachment to our furry friends is becoming more and more expensive. A continuous rise in vet’s bills (more than six times the rate of inflation) has led to a large increase in pet insurance premiums. Vets claim that this rise can be attributed to the introduction of new medical technologies and medication which have resulted in pets living with conditions that would have previously been fatal. Research carried out in the UK by the Association of British Insurers has shown that the average pet insurance claim now costs around £600, and that insurance companies pay out on average £1.3m in pet insurance claims every day!
This sharp increase in premiums has led to many pet owners not taking out insurance cover for their animals. So, is it worth taking out pet insurance, and what does it actually cover?
Most insurers offer four main types of cover which are: accident only, per condition with a time limit, per condition and lifetime cover. Accident only cover is the basic level of cover and, as the name suggests, it pays out if your pet is involved in an accident, but not if they suffer from an illness. Per condition with a time limit also offers quite basic cover, and pays vet’s fees for both illnesses and accidents up to twelve months after diagnosis. This type of policy also usually includes a maximum payout limit.
If you wish to take out more comprehensive cover for your pet a per condition, no time limit policy will provide cover indefinitely as long as you renew the policy every twelve months, but it does have a maximum fee limit, and it does not cover re-occurring illness or injury. Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive type of pet insurance policy, and thus the most expensive. It includes a high maximum limit (for example, £10,000) and may cover certain extras such as burial fees and dental treatment.
If cost is an important consideration then you may decide to opt for the more basic level of cover offered by accident only, and per condition with a time limit policies. However, whichever type of policy you choose bear in mind that you will always be required to pay an excess, which is a portion of the claim, out of your own pocket. This excess can be reduced by increasing your premium, and vice versa, although you will usually be charged a basic excess fee of approximately £50.
Almost all of pet insurance policies have some exclusions, the most common of which are routine and planned treatments such as neutering and vaccinations, and conditions relating to birth and pregnancy. In addition, most insurers will refuse to provide cover for a pet that has pre-existing medical conditions.
The price of pet insurance varies considerably between insurers although, in general, premiums are calculated according to your address, the age of your pet, and their breed. Rottweilers, for example, can be costly to insure due to their history of suffering from poor health. Premiums are often lower if your animal has been microchipped and/or neutered.
Of course, pet insurance policies are not just limited to cats and dogs. The insurance industry recognises that we keep other pets such as birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, lizards, and snakes. Cover is available for these animals but is more difficult to find. Try searching online if you are in the market for insurance cover for more unusual and exotic pets.
When taking out insurance policies we are often advised to change our insurer on a regular basis in order to get the best deals. Unfortunately, this does not apply to pet insurance as most policies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, or older pets. In addition, as your pet ages the insurance premium will rise accordingly, and you could end up paying a large amount, especially if your pet has suffered a number of illnesses and you have subsequently made a lot of claims on your policy.
When taking out pet insurance initially you can keep your premiums at a minimum by following a few simple suggestions. Firstly, take out insurance when your pet is young and healthy as you will need to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions which will increase your premium. Also, make sure that your animal is neutered and microchipped. It can also pay to use online comparison sites to compare prices offered by different pet insurance providers, although bear in mind that not all insurance companies are included in these sites.
When considering whether you wish to take out a pet insurance policy you need to weigh up both the advantages and disadvantages that pet insurance brings. You may end up paying thousands over the lifetime of the policy which can seem counterproductive if you do not need to make a claim. However, pet insurance does give you peace of mind that if your pet were involved in an accident, or suffered a serious illness, then, depending on the type of policy, your vet’s fees would be covered. Even very basic treatment can cost hundreds of pounds, and a huge vet’s bill can prove disastrous if you are on a low income; bear in mind that the average cost of treating a dog injured in a road traffic accident is £674, and £300 for a cat.