Did you know that you are more likely to claim on your pet insurance than on your car or home insurance?
And yet only 30% of dogs and 16% of cats in the UK are insured.
So if you are on the fence about insurance, ask yourself: How would I cope with an unexpected vet bill? The average claim amount is £750, but for a complex procedure or an ongoing condition, those amounts could reach thousands.
This guide should help you decide which type of pet insurance is the best option for you, and how to make sure you get the most out of your policy.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance helps cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your pet falls ill or becomes injured. There are policies available for many different animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits, horses or even exotic animals.
Why should I get pet insurance?
In recent years there have been huge advancements in veterinary care, resulting in pets living longer. As pets reach senior-hood, they are more likely to develop illnesses that need treatment.
More conditions are able to be treated too, due to the many sophisticated and technical new procedures to diagnose and treat illness. These complex treatments often require expensive equipment and training in order for them to be available to your pets.
When your pet is unwell, the last thing you want to be concerned with is money. Having a good insurance policy in place can alleviate financial pressure and often opens up more treatment options for your pets as there is less restriction on cost.
My pet is very healthy, is there any point in getting a policy?
Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time. Pets can get injured, eat something they shouldn’t or fall ill suddenly. Insurance can help you cope with the costs of these sudden emergencies, unexpected illnesses or chronic, lifelong conditions– depending on the type of cover you choose.
What types of cover are available?
Accident only policies are fairly self explanatory. They will only cover the costs if your pet is involved in an accident. These tend to be the cheapest available policies but that is reflected in their cover.
Time-limited policies provide cover up to a maximum amount per condition but there will also be a 12 month time limit placed on the condition. After that, that condition will be permanently excluded and you will no longer receive any cover for it in future.
Maximum benefit policies also provide cover up to a maximum amount per condition, but there is no time limit placed on the condition. The condition will be covered until you reach the maximum amount, and then the condition will be excluded permanently.
Lifetime/Covered for life policies will set a veterinary fee limit which the will provide cover up to per year. The amount will refresh with every policy year and they will not exclude conditions from the previous years meaning your pet’s conditions are covered for their whole lifetime. If you reach your veterinary fee limit for one year, you will need to cover the cost of further treatment until your next policy year. These policies give the best coverage, but are usually slightly more expensive.
What questions should I ask before taking out an insurance policy?
Not all insurance policies are created equal, offering varying levels of cover and services. Here are some of the things you should ask before committing to an insurance policy.
What level of cover am I getting?
As detailed above, there are different types of plans that will affect how much your pet is covered for and for what period of time.
It is worth knowing how much your limit is, if that amount is per condition or total, and if that amount renews with each policy year. Look carefully at the details of the plan as although you may think you are getting a good deal on price, you may miss out on coverage.
What am I covered for?
Look into what the policy will cover. Most policies will cover for consult fees and treatments, but will they cover ‘complementary therapies’ like physiotherapy, acupuncture or hydrotherapy? Do they cover the cost of dental procedures?
Will they provide third party liability cover or accidental damages costs if your pet causes damage to somebody else or their property?
Some policies will cover costs if you have to cancel a holiday due to your pet’s illness or help with the cost of kennelling your pet should you fall ill. Check all of these things before signing up for a policy.
Will there be any exclusions?
Any conditions that are pre-existing to the start of your policy will be excluded and therefore will not be covered. This is still the case if you are changing from one policy to another so it is not advisable to shop around for better quotes year-on-year.
Your insurance company will get a copy of your pet’s clinical history so can look back at any related conditions.
Insurance policies do not tend to cover the cost of routine treatment such as vaccinations.
What is the excess and is there a percentage veterinary fee contribution?
Keep in mind that you will need to pay your excess amount initially towards every new condition. Some policies will also have a ‘Veterinary Fee Contribution’ percentage, where you will have to pay a percentage of the total amount claimed additionally to your excess.
How quickly are payments usually made and what percentage are paid out?
Most insurance companies should be able to tell you how quickly on average claims are settled and how often claims are denied.
This is important for you as if your insurance company consistently takes long periods of time to process your claim, you will be waiting longer for your payment.
Will my premiums increase if I make a claim?
Often we hear people say that they have stopped their pet’s insurance because the premiums have become unreasonably high. This is often the case when pets have ongoing conditions which are being claimed for.
Unfortunately, insurance needs to be profitable to the provider so they will often increase their premiums the more you claim. Some companies will not do this, and your premium will only increase with the cost of inflation, no matter how much is claimed.
What about when my pets are of ‘senior’ age?
When your pets got older they are more likely to become ill and need treatment so it can be worth keeping their insurance in place.
Most policies will change when your pet reaches ‘senior’ age. It is a good idea to ask insurance companies how they are likely to change and if it will affect your excess, premiums or coverage. Bear this in mind when you first take out their policy.
If you have any questions or would like further advice on pet insurance, please call us on 01435 864422 and speak to a member of our team.
 Statistics from Association of British Insurers, Best in Show – insurers pay out a record £706 million in pet claims on https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2017/04/petstats/ [accessed 26/06/2018]