Sadly if anything happens to our pets they won’t be treated on the NHS. Instead we have to rely on private vets who can often charge hundreds, even thousands, to bring our friends back to health. While many of us have savings that could cover unfortunate and unforeseen illness and accidents, not all of us are able to save for such an eventuality. To avoid having to make difficult decisions or taking out high interest finance to help out pets, it’s often best to take out pet insurance.
Pet insurance however is often an expensive affair. The more of us that insure our pets, the more vets charge knowing that insurance companies will be able to foot the bill. This becomes a vicious circle increasing our premiums and makes looking after our pets more expensive.
There are many different companies offering pet insurance, and often they’ll have multiple products available. Unlike car insurance however it’s not just a matter of finding a cheap quote with an acceptable excess. Each policy will have its own exclusions and maximum cover that could have a very real effect on the treatment your pet receives if they are involved in an accident or they become ill.
Another major difference between pet insurance and other forms of insurance is that you really shouldn’t switch. It might seem counterintuitive in a society where we’re bombard with messages to switch our home and car insurance daily, but pet insurance is different. Insurers exclude anything related to pre-existing conditions. If you dog has been treated for a sore on its leg, the whole leg will often be excluded from future insurance if you switch provider. The same process happens with medical insurance for humans, although thanks to the NHS most of us aren’t familiar with this in Britain.
Pre-existing conditions exclusions also means that the best time to ensure a pet is when they are young. The younger a pet the less likely they are to have had an injury or illness that will affect their cover. Some insurers also will only insure younger pets, and some will charge more the older your pet is when you start your insurance.
The more you’re prepared to pay in excess, the cheaper your insurance will be. If you think your pet is less likely to be involved in an accident or get ill, perhaps because they’re mainly indoors, then this could be a good way of saving money overall but it runs the risk of meaning trips to the vet are still expensive despite having insurance.
Skipping third party cover can also be a useful way of saving money, although isn’t always a good idea. By law cats are ‘free spirits’ and therefore you are not responsible for their actions. Covering them for third party isn’t going to be particularly valuable therefore. However dogs are considered to be the responsibility of their owner, so if you think there’s even the slight risk that your dog could bite someone, knock them over or damage their property then it’s best to have third party cover.
There are three main types of pet insurance. The cheapest has both a time limit and a pay out limit for each condition, this means that if your dog gets a long term condition the payout for treatment will stop after a certain amount of time and a certain amount of payout, whichever comes sooner. This typically means that short term illnesses and accidents will be covered, but if your pet has an expensive condition to cure such as cancer, then you’ll likely be funding the treatment yourself.
The mid-range band of pet insurance has no time limit, but still limits the payout for each condition. This is useful for covering long term conditions that can be treated relatively easily, but won’t cover conditions that require frequent vets visits forever. Lifetime policies meanwhile are significantly more expensive, but ensure that you’ll be covered for much higher payout sum. However as you are typically on a yearly contract with your insurer they can refuse to reinsure you if you’re claiming for a long term condition, so this might not be the best option even for the cautious.