Pet Insurance Guide

Pete Wedderburn Photograph

Our Pet Insurance Guide is by Pete Wedderburn, a qualified Veterinary Surgeon with over 25 years experience. When he’s not caring for sick and injured pets, he can be found offering expert Veterinary advice through his media work which spans published books, a regular pet column with The Telegraph newspaper and various TV appearances, including BBC Breakfast.

Contents

  1. Why but Pet Insurance?
  2. Why not just save money every month instead?
  3. Why are vets' fees so high?
  4. Choosing Pet Insurance
  5. Types of Pet Insurance Policies

Why buy Pet Insurance?

The main reason why people consider taking out pet insurance is to cover veterinary fees: these account for over 90% of the money paid out under pet insurance policies. More claims are made for pets developing illnesses than for pets having accidents. Claims are submitted for around one in three pets every year, with this rising with age: around 80% of older pets make a claim on their insurance every year.

Claims are far more likely for pet insurance than for household or car insurance. In some ways, pet insurance should be seen as a budgeting tool rather than as a way of removing the risk of a remote possibility.

People love their pets, and in many households, animals become part of the family. This strong emotional bond means that if accidents or illnesses occur, most owners want to do everything possible to restore their furry, feathered or scaly friend to full health. This almost always means that the pet needs to be taken to the vet, and that the fees of the vet will need to be paid.

As an owner, you are fully responsible for the health of your pet. There’s no National Health Service for animals; when your pet needs veterinary help, you need to find the resources to cover the costs on your own.

The concept behind pet insurance is that you pay a small, affordable amount to the insurance company every month. If your pet never falls ill or never has an accident, the insurance company keeps your money. If, on the other hand, your pet needs veterinary attention, the insurance company will cover the costs on your behalf.

When your pet is insured, you have the reassurance that if a health crisis occurs, you’ll be able to ask your vet to do everything possible on behalf of your pet, without worrying about the financial consequences.

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Why not just save money every month?

It's sometimes argued that an alternative to insurance would be to put aside the equivalent amount of money into a regular savings account. The problem with this approach is that the timing of pet health crises is unpredictable. If your pet remains well for three or four years, and then develops a problem, then yes, you may have saved enough to cover the costs. However if an illness or accident occurs within the first few months, you won’t have saved enough to pay for the vet.

Pet insurance kicks in very quickly from the policy start, so that high bills & cover for complex procedures can be paid on your behalf if and when they occur.

There are now many pet insurers, and it’s a competitive market, so it’s possible to find excellent value. Nobody publishes the percentage of premiums that are returned as payments on behalf of pets, but it’s likely to be in excess of 90%.

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Why are vets' fees so high?

One of the advantages of having a pet insured is that you have the freedom to choose a vet without having to seek out the cheapest possible vet in the area, because the insurance company is paying the vets fees on your behalf.

Veterinary costs are not cheap, for a number of reasons.

  • Vets are highly trained professionals, taking a minimum of five years to obtain their qualification. Most vets now qualify with a large student debt that needs to be repaid, and salaries earned by vets need to reflect this.
  • The team of support workers around vets, including veterinary nurses, receptionists and others, are also expensive to maintain. You may wish your pet to have a veterinary nurse caring for his every need during his stay at the vet clinic, but there’s a cost to that care that needs to be covered.
  • The infrastructure that makes up a veterinary clinic is expensive to construct and maintain. Apart from the bricks and mortar, there’s the specialised design and finish of the building and the wide array of equipment needed to provide modern veterinary care.

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Choosing pet insurance

It isn’t always easy for pet owners to choose the best value pet insurance. In the ideal world, the policy will provide for an owner’s exact needs, for the lowest possible premium. Here are some of the reasons why it can be difficult to find this:

  1. Policies may offer extra benefits that you are unlikely to need
    You may be tempted to buy cover that includes extras such as boarding fees if you fall ill, or advertising costs if your pet is lost. These extras may make the policy look like better value, but you need to ask yourself if you are really likely to need them.
  2. Policies may exclude situations that you are very likely to need
    You need to go through the small print of the policy to ensure that there are no exclusions that will lead to your pet’s health care not being covered in certain common situations.

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Types of Pet Insurance Policies

Knowing which policy to choose can be very difficult with the vast range of policies available today. Below is a breakdown of the policy types available to you, and what the different wording means if you need to make a claim on your pet insurance:

  • Time Limit
  • Claim Type
    • Lifelong
    • 12 Months

    Lifelong cover means there is no time limit on claiming for each condition, you can continue claiming for ongoing conditions year after year.


    Per year means the allocated Vets fees cover all conditions, this allocation is reset each year the policy is continued.

    • Lifelong
    • Per Condition

    Lifelong cover means there is no time limit on claiming for each condition, you can continue claiming for ongoing conditions year after year.


    Per condition means that the Vets fees specified are available for each individual condition, this allocation is not reset each year.

    • 12 Months
    • Per Year

    12 Months, or Standard Cover, means the treament period for making claims is set to a 12 month time limit, after which time you can not claim for this condition again.


    Per year means the allocated Vets fees cover all conditions, this allocation is reset each year the policy is continued.

    • 12 Months
    • Per Condition

    12 Months, or Standard Cover, means the treament period for making claims is set to a 12 month time limit, after which time you can not claim for this condition again.


    Per condition means that the Vets fees specified are available for each individual condition, this allocation is not reset each year.

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