In recent years huge advances have been made in veterinary medicine. Vets can now do things to improve the health and welfare of dogs that would have been unimaginable or impractical only a few years ago. Not surprisingly, these advanced surgical and medical treatments are often expensive so that a vet’s bill for intricate surgery or a prolonged course of treatment could be thousands of pounds. Many pet owners worry that they will not be able to afford to pay for treatment if their dog becomes sick or has a major accident.
Many pet owners choose to take out insurance to cover the cost of veterinary treatment. It is not just valuable pedigree animals that are insured. There are policies for ordinary cats and dogs, as well as horses and other common pets like rabbits.
One in every three dogs is likely to need major veterinary attention each year (in addition to the annual check-ups and vaccination). The cover provided by different insurance policies varies according to the type of policy and the cost of the premium. Typically, a policy will pay for the costs of veterinary treatment for illness or accident, as well as for third party liability and accidental damage caused by the animal. Some policies even offer cover for holidays cancelled because your dog needs emergency surgery in the week before the scheduled departure date.
As with all household and motor insurance policies there is likely to be an excess on the policy so you will pay a small proportion of any veterinary bills. Policies are not designed to cover day-to-day maintenance and routine health care. Treatment for diseases that were already present at the time that insurance was taken out will usually not be covered. Vaccinations, neutering costs and other routine preventive treatments are also excluded from most policies, as are the costs relating to an animal that becomes pregnant.
It is important to read insurance documents with care to make sure that you select a policy that will suit you and your dog.
- Some policies have a time or cost limit for the treatment of each particular condition. With these there is a danger that your dog will run out of insurance cover if it requires long-term treatment for a chronic problem.
- Make sure that your dog will be covered for the whole of its life because animals are more likely to need veterinary treatment as they get older.
- Consider the amount of time and effort that will be needed to make a claim. A good insurance company will process most claims within two working days of receiving the documents from your vet.
Before choosing a policy think about:
- The level of cover you require:
- Are you prepared to pay a high level of excess in order to reduce premiums.
- Are you looking for cover to avoid one off large bills (in which case a policy which only covers conditions for a year from diagnosis may be suitable as most costs will be covered early in the diagnosis).
- Whether you require lifetime cover.
- Whether you require additional services from the policy (third-party cover, recovery costs, death benefits).
There are many pet health insurance companies and a staggering array of policies from which to choose. It can be daunting trying to make a decision. Unfortunately the ultimate test of an insurance policy is how well it performs when you need to claim! A good company should pay a genuine claim promptly and with minimum fuss. Personal recommendation is always a good start when buying a service. Ask your friends and other pet owners if they recommend their current pet insurance provider.
Most vets are in favour of health insurance but changes in the financial services laws mean that they may not be allowed to recommend specific pet insurance providers. However if you visit the practice then you will be able to find out more about this important aspect of pet ownership
Many insurance companies can be found by searching the internet or browsing the Yellow Pages. Contact the companies and ask for details of the cover they provide – most will have a range of policies.
The cost of insurance will obviously depend on the type of animal insured and the sort of cover that you require. You may be able to get special discounts on your insurance if you are a pensioner or have more than one animal insured. Pet insurance is a competitive market so it pays to shop around. Nevertheless remember that the cheapest company is not always the best value for money. Look carefully at the policy to see exactly what is covered by the insurance and be sure that it is what you need.
There is no compulsion to take out pet insurance and it is for you to decide whether it is necessary. Certainly cost may be a factor. If your dog has health insurance you know that everything will be done to restore them to full health and fitness if they become seriously ill or have an accident. If you are in any doubt it may help to ask a friend who has some experience of insuring their animals.