The population of beloved pets continues to grow in the UK and there is no better time than during the credit crunch to consider how much your pets will cost you, what vet fees you may face and whether you have money available if they become unwell.
Like all health care costs veterinary fees are rising, so it makes sense to plan ahead in case the worst should happen. The cost of surgery to fix a broken leg, for example, can easily run over £1000.
Pet insurance is the best option to protect the wellbeing of your pet and as well as vet bills, most policies cover for a variety of other useful things. These include paying for advertising costs and a reward should your pet be stolen or lost, and reclaiming costs for booked holidays if your pet becomes unwell and you are therefore unable to travel. Many policies now cover also homeopathic remedies.
Because of the huge number of policies available, it is very important you decide what kind of policy you want before you buy. Premiums will vary according to age, pedigree, location (Southern postcodes result in higher premiums) and what exactly you want covered.
My advice is to really read the 'small print', yes, actually read it! Ensure you know exactly what is and what isn't covered on the policy.
It is also very important to be completely honest about existing illness. This is to avoid any surprises of ineligibility later on and whilst premiums may be higher initially, in the long term you will be able to save money by not having to meet the costs yourself if not covered.
Therefore, it is highly advisable to take out pet insurance when your pet is young and has no existing illness.
Things to look out for:
- Pay out limits. Some insurers limit the payout per year, some have limits on the number of different illness that are covered. Policies with a yearly limit are generally the better option.
- Lifetime cover doesn't necessarily mean lifetime cover! Some insurers will push up premiums / excesses as your pet moves into old age. Look for policies that don't penalise getting old.
- Breed-related conditions. If you have a pure-bred dog, beware. Many insurers exclude claims on hereditary conditions.
- Excesses. Generally it is best to avoid policies that ask you to pay a share of each claim, this can be extremely costly if bills start to rise.
- Cheap policies. Whilst everyone loves a bargain, check the small print!
David Brooks BVetMed MRCVS
David has worked in the UK and USA as an emergency veterinary surgeon and is co-founder of www.Televets.com.