You don’t need to take out pet insurance by law for your pets, so should you?
Tue 20 Dec 2016
You don’t need to take out pet insurance by law for your pets, so should you? And what are the different pet insurance options available to pet owners?
We’re extremely lucky as humans to enjoy the benefits of the N.H.S., receiving professional health care, medicines and treatments when we become ill.
There is no such system in place for our pets, and pet owners are responsible for paying vet bills when pets fall ill or have an accident. Vet bills can quickly escalate with costs of x-rays, medicines and operations running into thousands of pounds.
Pet insurance covers your pets in the event of accident and illness, and takes away the worry of unexpected health problems and big vet bills.
Many pet owners state the high cost of yearly premiums as a reason for not taking out pet insurance. So what’s the solution apart from putting away an amount of money every month in case of illness or injury?
It is worth insuring your pet from a puppy or kitten, if you have that option. Once your pet is insured you can generally expect the insurer to insure your pet for the rest of its life, although premiums may increase as your pet ages and some insurers will have a cut off age limit.
Many insurance companies will not insure pets over the age of 8 years, and for some policies this age limit can be as young as 5 years old.
If you’re taking on an older pet from a resuce or welfare centre there may be a first time insurance available from source, but the premiums are likely to be relatively expensive.
You might, if you have a dog, consider legal liability insurance to protect you against any financial claims for damage your dog is responsible for.
This will cover you in the event your dog causes an accident such as running into the road and causing an accident, or injuring a person or causing damage to property. However, do check the wording of any home insurance that you hold as sometimes these claims may be covered under that policy.
Cats and their owners do not have the same third party liability under the law as dogs and their owners.
If your pet is valuable you may also wish to insure against theft. This could cover you for such matters as reimbursement of the purchase price of your missing or stolen pet and might also cover you for advertising for your missing pet.
Some insurance companies will give you a discount if your pet is microchipped, although from 6th April 2016 all dogs will be required to be microchipped by law. Microchipping will not be compulsory for cats or other pets, but may entitle you to a discount (as well as peace of mind) if you microchip your pet - cats particularly given their wandering lifestyle.
Although all pets can become ill, dogs, cats and rabbits are the most common pets to be insured.
Many cats have a lifestyle - probably unique in domestic pets - where they are away from home for periods without their owners. Your outdoor cat can be subject to fights, poisoning, dehydration (if trapped somewhere), infection and injury, and is even more at risk if you live near a busy road. An indoor cat could be looked at quite differently from an insurance perspective, ensure that you raise this with your insurer if you cat is truly a house-cat.
Dogs and cats can live quite a long time too, so the liability will be around for many years. A hamster or a gerbil which lives in a contained environment most of the time may only have an expected life expectancy of 2-3 years, and might arguably not be worth taking out pet insurance on.
Exotic pets can live up to 100 years of age, and cost a substantial amount to treat if they fall ill.
Usually there is a maximum limit in any one insurance period which you can claim for on a different illness or injury eg. £6,000 per episode or incident. There may well also be a limit on the number of claims per condition each year. Generally the cheaper the pet insurance insurance, the less cover you will receive.
Most policies cover vets’ fees in the event of injury accident or illness, but policies vary in the amount of cover given, each with their own conditions and exclusions. You should be aware of this when choosing, making sure you compare like cover for like, or you could get a distorted picture of the ‘bargain’ you are buying.
POA Pet Insurance Tip - put the details of your pet’s breed, age and postcode into a pet insurance comparison site. This will give you a good indication and accurate picture of real comparisons between pet insurance policies - though reading the small print, as always, is the only true way to see which one is best for you and your pet.
Time Capped Cover - a cheaper type of life long policy which will only cover the first year of a condition such as arthritis treatment (about £500 per year)
Financially capped cover - this type of cover may have no time limit but will have a financial cap on certain types of illness such as arthritis.
Lifelong cover - a true lifelong cover policy would be where the insurer pays for a treatment, each year, for as long as your pet needs the treatment (always remember to check the small print - the amount allowed is certainly not limitless).
The following extensions can be found on some insurance policies, or can be asked for as extras:
• Kennels/boarding/Pet minder costs if you are elderly, subject to periods in hospital, or even if you go on holiday
• Holiday cancellation - if a sick pet prevents you from travelling - this is not likely to be covered by your travel insurance, but again you can check both policies.
• Increasingly insurance covering various risks involved in taking your pet abroad will be included in a standard pet insurance policy or can be bought as an extra.
• Transport costs to and from the vets
• Cremation and burial cover and possibly bereavement support if you lose a pet
• Pet physiotherapy and other therapies to compliment conventional veterinary treatment
• Pet behaviourists, if your pet has behaviour problems
The situations below are rarely covered on a standard pet policy, but remember if there is anything you want, but do not see on a pet insurance policy, always ask your insurer whether they can provide cover for your special requirements - at a cost of course:
• Vaccination boosters
• Worming treatments
• Flea treatments, nail clipping
• Home visits by your vet
• Pets that are used in any activity for commercial gain cannot be insured under standard pet insurance.
• Special diets and food supplements
• Also pre-existing conditions in your pet, which flare up again. This one can be difficult asyou may not know a pre-existing condition exists until it is diagnosed and when it re-occurs.
• Neutering both sexes
• Problems in pregnancy and birth
• Dental Treatments
If you own a dog listed under the dangerous dogs act, and it is has a certificate of exemption, you will require third party insurance by law.
Inherited health problems in pedigree pets may not be obvious straight away, especially if you are unaware of a pet’s background. In addition, some pedigree pets, especially dogs, have problems caused by selective breeding for desired breed characteristics other than health. If you’re buying a pedigree puppy, ensure you discuss any known health issues in the breed, and check hip scores etc.
• Ensure the prospective insurance provider is regulated with the Financial Conduct Authority.
• Read reviews if possible of the pet insurance product you are considering - remembering that pet owners usually complain rather than praise.
• Check the excess figure for all pet policies to make sure you get a complete picture, and not just a cheap premium.
• Personal recommendation from people who have been dealt with well by their insurance company is helpful.
• If you are on a budget, and wish to insure your pet, consider paying monthly installments to spread the cost of the premium. You will pay a little extra for the privelige, but have peace of mind that your pet is covered in event of an accident or illness.