With almost 60% of the UK population owning pets, Britain is undoubtedly a nation of pet lovers.
by Jonathan Purvis, Policy Adviser, General Insurance
Our furry friends are part of the family so keeping them safe and healthy is a top priority. However, with the average dog costing an owner anywhere from £4,500 to £30,000 over its lifetime, there is no denying that they can be a costly addition. Owners will only be too familiar with the mischief pets get up to. Whether they’re getting their teeth into the inedible, getting into scraps with other animals or injured in traffic accidents, these mishaps can result in costly trips to the vets.
There is no NHS for pets. At a time when the cost of living is squeezing household budgets, treatments such as £7,000 to treat a French Bulldog’s fractured leg or £5,000 to reattach two toes to a cat could put people into a difficult financial position.
Pet insurance can help to protect against these costs. It offers financial security and, most importantly, ensures pets have access to the treatment and services they may need. Like many of us in lockdown, Swansea-based couple Scott and Chelsea brought home a playful cocker spaniel, Bella. They’ve made sure that Bella is protected by taking out pet insurance for £8.50 per month giving them the peace of mind that, should anything happen, Bella’s care is covered. The policy includes a £99 vet excess fee and protects against the many issues that may arise.
Speaking about the comfort that cover provides, Scott said: “Making sure that Bella is protected and has access to the vet, if needed, is very important to us and at that price it was a pretty straight forward decision. When getting our new puppy, we were a bit concerned about how much she could cost us should anything go wrong. We’re glad to have found an affordable policy which helps to protect against any potential scares and gives us reassurance.”
SO, WHAT DO PET INSURANCE POLICIES TYPICALLY COVER?
Insurance will cover the biggest pet-related expense: the risk of unexpected treatment. The cost of diagnosing and treating illnesses and/or injuries is the core cover provided by pet insurance and is included in most policies. Cover for vet fees will usually also include the cost of consultations, examinations, tests, x-rays, MRI/CT scans, medication, bandages, surgery and hospitalisation. Pet insurance also provides cover for third party liability costs if your pet injures someone, and indemnity if your pet sadly dies or is lost. It also has other benefits such as 24/7 access to free vet helplines and guidance on improving your pet’s welfare. Some policies can even include cover for holiday cancellations, if the cancellation occurs due to your pet needing emergency lifesaving treatment, and advertising costs if lost or stolen.
WHAT IS MY PET INSURANCE POLICY UNLIKELY TO COVER?
While pet insurance offers a vital lifeline, pet owners need to understand what is and is not covered by their policy and its terms and conditions. Firstly, timing is vital. It’s important to buy pet insurance as soon as you get a new pet, as you may struggle to find cover for treating an injury or illness after it has happened. Most policies also won’t cover treatment for pre-existing medical conditions. Policies may also have a waiting period. This is typically a 14-day period at the start of the policy when veterinary treatment is not covered. Other costs that may not be covered include administration costs, routine or preventative treatments such as vaccinations, spaying, castration, grooming and dental maintenance, as well as pregnancy, giving birth and treatment of offspring.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS ON DIFFERENT TYPES OF PET INSURANCE?
There’s a whole range of pet insurance policies available to meet your needs and to accommodate your budget. These include lifetime, maximum benefit, time-limited and accident only policies. Lifetime policies insure your pet for each new illness and injury. Generally, your pet will be covered for a set amount each year and the policy will need to be renewed annually. Any long-term or recurring illness and/or injury that has occurred during the policy will continue to be covered if it is renewed. As long as the insurance policy is in place, there is no limit to how many times the illness or injury can be covered. Kay and Tom suffered a frightening experience when their Jack Russell, Alfie, was poisoned by something he ate while playing outside their house. He required emergency care to treat the poisoning and, fortunately, they had a lifetime policy in place for Alfie which paid for the treatment. As a lifetime policy, this continues to cover Alfie for any long-term problems which may arise in the future.
Pet cover can also be time limited, typically for 12 months. For these policies, the time-limit does not relate to the duration of the policy, but to the maximum amount of time an illness or injury is covered for. There are two parts to these types of policies: a fixed sum to cover your pet for the treatment of each illness or injury; and a set time period for which that treatment will be covered. As long as the policy remains in place, it will typically cover the cost of treating your pet for 12 months after the injury occurred or the illness started. Maximum benefit policies, also known as ‘money limited policies’ or ‘per condition’ policies, provide a fixed amount of money for each illness or injury to help pay for treatment. There is no time limit on reaching the fixed amount covered but, once the money has been spent, the treatment of illness or injury will not be covered again. These policies must be paid for on time and renewed at the end of each policy period – usually a year – to make sure the money remains available for treatment. For pets that are particularly lively like Geri, a spirited British shorthair cat who unfortunately hurt her legs in repeated incidents when leaping around on the furniture, you may consider whether an ‘accident only’ policy is most suitable for you.
Accident only policies provide a fixed sum for each accidental injury to help pay for your pet’s treatment, usually with a 12-month time limit. Some also cover the costs of emergency treatment for an illness. Naturally, policies will vary according to the different levels of cover they provide. Whatever policy you choose to buy for your pet it is important to shop around and to always read the terms and conditions to make sure, if the worst happens, your needs and those of your furry family member are met.
HOW DO I MAKE A CLAIM?
Insurance is there to help when things go wrong and in 2021 pet insurers paid out a whopping £2.39m per day on average. When you need to make a claim for vet fees, the insurer will need certain information including what the claim is for; what the illness/injury is; when you first noticed the pet became unwell; which vet you have attended and the first date of any treatment. Most insurers will want to see the pet’s medical history and a vet invoice as part of any claim. While most insurers are happy to deal directly with vets, it is the policyholder’s responsibility to make sure the insurer receives all the necessary information to pay a claim. However, please be aware, the claims process may differ between insurers. It’s important to read your policy or talk to your insurer to make sure you understand how to make a claim.
The Association of British Insurers is the voice of the UK’s world-leading insurance and long-term savings industry.
For more information visit abi.org.uk