Firstly I want to start off by saying that this is not a sponsored post. I don’t want you to be put off by the title and think that I am promoting a certain pet insurance company over another because I’m not. As some of you know I work in a veterinary practice and many of our cases that come through the door require specialist care. A lot of our patients who come in to us have fractured limbs, ligament ruptures, require chemotherapy or maybe need further investigations on why a dog is vomiting as their own vet has exhausted all avenues that they can use.
We all want the best care possible for our pets as to many of us they are part of our family. When they get ill or are involved in an accident we want to make sure that they get the best treatment there is. A CT Scanner costs a vet practice around £250,000, an arthroscope to look into a joint costs £30,000 plus the surgeon needs to go on courses to learn new surgical techniques that will benefit your pet should they need it. You get the picture, to be able to provide an excellent service for your pet it will come with a cost. That’s why if you have pet insurance it should be covered…….or will it?!
We do have some clients coming in who don’t have pet insurance and pay out of their own pocket. Most however do which might sound good but sadly a lot of people are unaware what kind of policy they have and find out the hard way what cover of pet insurance they actually took out. As I deal with insurance claims on a daily basis I know which companies are the best and which ones that are best to avoid. Now I’m not going to name and shame those ones you should stay well clear of as I don’t want to get sued for libel but always read the small print as it’s likely small for a reason. There are loads of different policies out there that you can take out with various insurance companies and it can get quite confusing which one to go for so I thought I would do an idiot’s guide to pet insurance.
First off to make a few things clear:
If your pet has got any conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, epilepsy prior to taking out your insurance then this will likely be seen as a pre-existing condition and you will be excluded from making any claims on it.
Symptoms that were noted before taking out your policy might also lead to an exclusion. For example don’t go to your vet because your dog is lame then go home and take out insurance as you were told they need investigations/surgery as that will likely be excluded too.
For the purpose of this post we will assume your pet is young with no clinical illness, injury or deformities. If you are unsure when taking out your insurance, honesty really is the best policy (pun intended).
Types of Pet Insurance Policies
Cover for Life
This is the best one to go for and if you already have this kind of policy then here’s a high five 🙌🏻. Your pet will be covered for any treatment that they may need within your policy limit providing you keep up to date with your payment. Don’t let the cover lapse as it will then be excluded.
This is where you are given a set amount to claim from with no time limit. The amount is dependent on which policy you take out. For example you have a £4,000 maximum benefit, this tends to mean that they will pay out for that condition up to that amount. After that you are on your own. This might be ok for some conditions such as a stitch up if your dog cut its foot while at the beach. However if your dog has been taking fits by the time investigations have been done, an epilepsy diagnosis made which will require lifelong treatment and regular blood tests then that £4k will not last very long.
12 Month Cover
🚨AVOID🚨 AVOID🚨 AVOID🚨
Do not go for this cover as it’s useless! This means that you have 12 months from the time of illness or injury to claim then it’s game over and you are on your own. Again this policy is maybe fine for a stick injury but if your pet develops arthritis, diabetes, heart problems or hyperthyroidism and will require medication for the rest of its days then you will be footing the bill long after the 12 months are up.
This is entirely up to the individual what limit you want to go for. We had someone who came in to our practice last week (wasn’t a client) and told us about his new puppy and its pet insurance. The company he was with wasn’t a particularly good one and told us he had a £1,000 policy limit. I said that wasn’t a lot even for first opinion treatment. He replied that it was fine as it was per condition and not the total amount! He has already used £850 for kidney investigations so if this puppy requires further treatment in the next few months it has very little money remaining on it. While you may think you will never need to have a £12,000 policy limit it can sometimes happen where your pet might have to go to a vet school for specialised surgery. As well as the surgery itself, with intensive nursing and after care it can all add up to a pretty impressive amount.
You have got a £6,000 cover for life policy. Turns out your dog has bilateral cruciate disease (the cruciate ligaments on both hind legs have ruptured). The operations on both legs will cost £2,800 for each leg and you think “No problem there, my insurance will cover that!” Well maybe not, some of the ermmm less desirable pet insurances will put a financial cap on certain procedures and investigations. Cruciate surgeries are something we do a lot of, we do 2 or 3 most days so it is something that is very common. Insurance companies know this and will put a cap on what they will pay out for. The example of the dog above actually happened to a client and it turned out that their insurance company was only going to pay out £750. As both hind limbs were affected at the same time it was seen as one condition so two ops that totalled over £5,600, the insurance company only paid out £750 towards it. Ouch!! I have also seen caps on the costs of CT scans and MRIs which can cost between £1,000-2,000.
Fortunately most of the better pet insurance companies don’t put financial caps on their policies but it is worth looking to see if they do.
Just like car insurance when you make a claim, you pay an excess. You only need to pay an excess once for each condition every policy year. To explain this further if your dog broke his leg in mid-February, you paid your excess for his surgery but your policy renews at the beginning of March. As the treatment is ongoing with bandaging and x-rays you will need to pay another excess as you are now into a new policy year. Some companies will add in a percentage excess such as 10-20%, this is ok when your vet bill is just a couple of hundred pounds but if it’s a couple of thousand then you can end up paying quite a bit. Most insurance companies will add the percentage excess once your pet is over a certain age.
I hope that you have found these explanations easy to understand and helpful when it comes to choosing a new policy or even finding out more on the one you already have. My advice for choosing the best pet insurance policy would be to shop around, go for the highest cover that you can afford (cheaper policies don’t tend to cover very much) and double and triple check that it is a cover for life policy and not a 12 month cover. Many people think that as their policy renews every year that they have a cover for life policy when some of them don’t.
If you have any questions about your pet insurance policy I am sure your insurance company will gladly explain things in greater detail to you.