Pet insurance...it doesn't have to be a minefield

So you have been thinking about a pet for months, spent time researching and looking for the perfect pet and have finally welcomed them to the family. Now after all this time and effort you are the proud new owner to your bundle of fluff. I strongly urge you now to put some time and effort into setting up pet insurance.


Now I know that there are so many insurance companies, policies, price plans out there and it can be incredibly daunting for a new pet owner. My aim in this blog is not to tell you what policy/ company to go for, but advise you of important things your policy should include. With my 15 years of experience of submitting claims I am aware of what works and what doesn't.


Everyone knows owning a pet can be expensive, particularly if the pet becomes unwell. If there is an emergency during the night and your pet needs to visit the out of hours vet then costs can be eye watering. The best thing is to be prepared and have pet insurance in place to cover these costs.


What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is there to help cover the cost of veterinary expenses if your pet becomes ill or is injured. It usually also covers third party damages if your pet causes an accident and someone is injured.


What can it cover? (some but not all include the following)

  • Vet fees and certain medical expenses, the cover can range from £1000-£15000

  • Death by accident or illness (cost you bought your pet for)

  • Missing pet cover (posters/ rewards etc)

  • Third party liability

  • Cattery/kennel fees if owner hospitalised and no-one to watch pet

  • Euthanasia and cremation

  • Dental cover

What can it exclude?

  • Pre-existing conditions which the animal had prior to taking out the policy

  • Waiting period (10-14days when policy first taken out doesn't cause illness)

  • Routine and preventative treatment live vaccination, worming and scale and polish of teeth

  • Pregnancy and giving birth


There are 3 main types of pet insurance available.

  • Lifetime cover pet insurance

These are the policies that I personally highly recommend. They are the most comprehensive insurance. This type of policy pays out for a condition for the lifetime of the pet within the annual limits.


It can be set up in different ways, a pot of money, say £10000 that can be spent on any condition at any time through the year.


Or some give you a specific amount per condition per year out of a pot of a larger amount. For example £10000 a year, limited to £2000 per condition.


So make sure you read the details properly to see exactly what you are getting.This type of policy is generally the most expensive but I believe this extra expense is worth it to make sure your pet has great cover throughout its life.

  • Non lifetime cover pet insurance

This type of policy will exclude certain conditions after you reach the claim limit. This type of policy is no good for life long conditions. For example if you cat is diagnosed with diabetes your policy would cover for the first year or first monetary limit then it would be excluded from cover.


  • Accident only cover pet insurance

This does not cover illnesses just accidents, it is generally a lot cheaper. They often have a limited sum for each accident.


How much cover is enough?


Veterinary fee cover generally ranges form £1000-£15000. It is impossible to guess what is going to be the veterinary needs for a pet when the policy is started. When choosing a policy there are a few important factors I would consider before choosing a policy pay out value per year.

  • Breed apperance Certain breeds are much more prone to problems and requiring veterinary assistance. For example some breeds are more prone to problems due to their appearance such as Brachycephalic breeds eg (Persian/Bull dog), micro breeds (Chihuahua), giant breeds ( Great Dane) breeds with a long back (dachshund).

  • Breed genetics Certain breeds are more prone to medical conditions due to some conditions being inherited. For example Ragdolls are more prone to heart conditions, Labradors more prone to hip problems and arthritis and Cavalier King Charles more prone to heart disease.

  • Age As a pet ages its more likely to become ill and need more spent on it. Policy prices are generally more expensive in older pets due to the higher risk. Be aware if you insure an older pet the insurance company will want a medical history to see if there are exclusions from the policy.

When choosing an amount of cover keep in mind that veterinary costs are at an all time high.

If your pet is seriously unwell or requires specialist surgery it may be referred to a specialist vet in a specialist hospital. The costs of this mounts up very quickly and can run into several thousands of pounds within a day or so. From a vets point of you the policies for £1-2k are better than nothing but not enough to cover a lot of specialist treatment or longer term care and investigations. Keep this in mind when picking a policy.


Excesses and co-payment.


The excess on you policy is the amount you have to pay towards the bill. Excesses can vary and usually there is only one excess to pay per condition per year. Higher excesses tend to give lower monthly payments.

Some policies give the option of a co -payment to keep premiums down. these policies require the owner to usually pay an excess then a % of the final vet bill. It is usually around 20%.

Some policies introduce co-payment once your pet reaches a certain age.


What would I pick?


If I was getting insurance for a pet I would pick a life long cover policy for as high a veterinary fee as I could afford monthly. I would probably avoid co-payment if you have limited disposable income as although its often only 20%, this could still be hundreds of pounds that you need to pay on top of the excess out of the blue if you little one became unwell.

At the end of the day any insurance is better than none, and try to always get the best policy you can afford. I have seen so many heart broken clients without insurance that can't afford the treatment they want or can't cover the costs of referral and its heart breaking. Everyone wants the best for their furry companion so make sure you can give it to them.


Self insurance


I have a number of clients that do this. They have a bank account that they transfer money into monthly, to save up for vet bills rather than pay for insurance. You need to be disciplined and stick with it and be aware it will take a while to build up your pot of money. The risk is you can run into costs higher than you have saved. But again doing something is better than nothing.





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