Top pet insurance advice
What does cheap pet insurance cover or is self-insurance superior?
In the January issue of Candis, we look at the pros and cons of pet insurance. Is there such a thing as cheap pet insurance? What does it cover and is it better to self-insure?
Research shows that the lifetime cost of owning a cat averages £7,200 while a dog can be around £9,000, and 20 per cent of that goes on vet fees. Harvey Locke, former president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), says, “People are often shocked by the price of treatment because we’re used to the taxpayer-funded NHS, but vets are a private profession and medicine and surgery is expensive.”
In 2010, annual pet insurance claims totalled £338 million. “With insurance, pets can have the best treatment available, however costly,” says Harvey. A spinal injury, for instance, would mean an X-ray worth £100 for an uninsured animal, but a lifetime cover policy would pay for a £1,200 MRI scan. “If an animal is insured, you can offer the gold standard treatment, so more can be done for it – not just with diagnostic techniques like X-rays and scans, but with surgery,” he adds.
Your main choices of pet cover are:
The priciest, with the highest level of payout. It usually means the pet is covered throughout its lifespan, up to a certain amount each year. If your animal is likely to develop a chronic illness or suffer a hereditary condition, it’s the sensible option.
There’s a set cap on what you can claim for various problems and illnesses. Different conditions are covered, but only up to a certain limit after which you’ll pay the excess. This is a good choice if your pet is healthy with no likelihood of hereditary problems.
These cover only the year following a diagnosis, so are helpful when it comes to one-off accidents, or unexpected illness, but are less useful if your pet suffers a long-term condition.
Some prefer to put away the monthly amount they would have spent of insurance premiums into a bank account. Pet owner Shelley Heading has two dogs and a cat. She ‘self-insures’ and says, “At no point did I wish I’d had them insured as the annual premiums would have cost more than we ended up paying out.”
Tip: Having your pet microchipped can reduce the cost of insurance – speak to your vet.
Whether your dog has insurance or not, it is important to have third party liability. If your dog gets free and bites someone or causes a road traffic accident, you could be in for a huge bill. Some home insurance providers will provide this cover while membership of some organisations such as the Dogs Trust includes free third party insurance.