Veterinary care is advancing quickly with many vets holding certificates in specialist areas that just would not have been the case 10-15 years ago. With this increased knowledge in medical and surgical techniques, pets can be successfully treated for a wide variety of conditions that enable our pets to live longer, healthier lives. Along with the advancement in specialist vets, come specialist referral centres that are now numerous across the country. As there is no animal NHS service, as pet owners we are responsible for funding their 'private' healthcare which incorporates preventative care, emergency care and ongoing treatment.
Why have insurance?
Although pet insurance does not cover preventative care like vaccinations, worming and flea treatment, it is there for the unexpected health-related costs of accidents, illness and injuries - both in emergency situations and long-term disease diagnoses. These costs can really mount up over the pet’s lifetime! For example, costs can easily run from £50 for initial treatment of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories for a skin condition, but potentially increase to hundreds of pounds over the years if it turns out to be something more severe, like an auto-immune skin allergy for which the dog needs lifelong treatment.
How much insurance do I need?
Like any type of insurance, do your research before purchasing a policy and make sure your policy covers what you want it to. Some owners may just want accident and illness cover, while others may want this alongside veterinary fee cover for illness. Most policies automatically include third party cover. Whatever type of insurance you decide to go for, 'cover for life policies' will give you the most veterinary fee cover and will provide continuous coverage each policy year as you renew. This of course is very important for ongoing conditions your pet may develop over its life. A less expensive, time-capped policy will only offer veterinary fee cover for 12 months on a single condition and /or when the vet fee cover amount runs out, whichever is sooner. For example, if a policy offers £2000 of vet fee cover, but only £1000 of this is reached within the year (through treatment of one or more conditions being within said year) then you would be left with just £1000 worth of coverage for the rest of the pet’s life. The £2000 is not topped up every year at renewal like a 'cover for life' policy.
How does age and breed of dog reflect insurance policies?
Some policies will have an age limit at the start of the policy, with many stating they do not take on new policies for first-time dogs that have already reached 8 years old. Premiums may also start to increase as the pet ages because the pet becomes an increased risk to the insurance company. The policy holder is more likely to start making claims as old, age-related conditions start to surface. Some premium quotes, like many types of insurance, may also reflect your home postcode as vet fees vary across the country. Higher risk breeds that are known to develop certain health conditions, e.g., Shar-pei’s, with skin disease due to multiple skin folds will undoubtedly also carry a higher premium. Pre-existing conditions tend to be classed as those that have been diagnosed and treated within 6 months before taking out the policy and these will not be covered by any insurance company. The new policy age cap selected by the insurance company will also vary with breed and life expectancy. For example, giant breeds like Great Danes will have a shorter life span expectancy compared to smaller breeds. Companies may also increase the policy excess as the pet gets older either by a set amount or by a percentage of the bill. However, there is always an excess per condition claimed no matter what type of policy is taken out. Most companies have a policy to suit pet owners’ different budgets, but it is important to remember that policies with lower premiums may have a higher excess and or less coverage to compensate. One of the main reasons people take out pet insurance is to allow them to make decisions about their pet’s treatment without cost being a factor in the process. Not only can pet insurance offer peace of mind, but statistics show that as a pet owner you are more likely to make a claim on your pet’s insurance than any other type of insurance you may hold.
Having pet insurance can provide a sense of security and may give your pet an opportunity of a long, happy life. At the end of the day, all pet owners just want for their pets to be safe, healthy, and loved!