Last week I wrote about choosing the right vet for you and your pet. This week I want to talk about the importance of pet insurance and the things that I feel you should be aware of when choosing your insurance. Most veterinary surgeries are now owned by corporate companies who are more worried about making a profit than about your pets health. This doesn’t mean that the vets don’t care, in my experience the vets are fighting a losing battle between what they can do for the pet and owner and what the bosses are demanding and this is probably one of the reasons why the suicide rate in the veterinary profession is higher than any other!
However it does partly explain why veterinary costs have soared so much during the 15 years that I have owned my own animals and been responsible for the bills. The other reason is obviously the advances in veterinary medicine, the higher the standard of treatment and care the higher the cost.
If your pet was to become ill or have an accident then the emergency treatment could set you back around £1500 with the more complicated surgeries costing much more than that. So unless you have an endless pot of money insurance is a must, but how do you decide which is the best one to go for.
Just like when choosing a vet, there’s a lot to be said for recommendations. Pet owners everywhere have good and bad stories to tell about their pet insurance experiences and most will share them with you if you ask. However, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of red tape with insurance so if someone has a complaint then it might not be as black at white as it seems.
In my opinion there are several things to look at and be aware of when it comes to insurance.
1) The level of cover – most insurance companies offer various levels of cover. Most of them start at around £1000 worth of cover but the top end amount varies from company to company, the highest top end cover I’ve seen is £15,000. Obviously the higher the amount of cover you can get the less you have to worry if the worst happens to your pet.
2) Yearly or lifetime policies – Both of these policies renew every year. The difference is that with a yearly policy, any condition you have previously claimed for is no longer covered after the renewal. Whereas with a lifetime policy not only is the condition still covered but usually the level of cover renews again as well, so if you’ve claimed the full level of cover for your pets condition then the next year you will have that level of cover for that condition again meaning it is great for the longer ongoing health problems.
3)Cost – as much as we would love to say that cost doesn’t come into it when it comes to our pets healthcare, the sad truth is it does. Pet insurance isn’t cheap with the average premium costing around £174 a year for dogs and £82 a year for cats but that’s still a lot less than most vet bills. The higher the level of cover you want, the higher the cost, just like the lifetime cover is obviously going to be more expensive than the yearly cover.
4)Exclusions – always check the list of exclusions on your policy. Most won’t cover conditions that your pet already has regardless of whether the dog is new to your family or not. Also pet insurance isn’t like car insurance, you can’t just switch insurers if you find a cheaper quote. If you do then any conditions that your dog already has will be classed as pre existing and won’t be covered on the new policy. There are some companies that will cover pre existing conditions but the cost of the insurance is higher for this and it usually wont pay out the same amount as it would on new conditions. So be aware that the price of the policy may rise year on year as your dog gets older and unless you want to add to your list of exclusions you will just have to accept it and pay that higher price.
5) Excess – Pet insurers usually don’t cover the full amount of the vet bill. There’s a set amount that you have to pay towards the cost of your pets treatment. The lowest I’ve seen is £80 and the highest is £150, usually the higher priced policies have the lower excess amount but this isn’t always the case.
6)14 day period at the start – when you take out a policy there is usually a period of time that has to pass before you can claim and this is normally around 14 days. Most pets with a health complaint need to be seen by a vet straight away, so I believe that they make you wait 14 days to stop you from taking out a policy after the condition has appeared but I could be wrong. Usually accidents are covered from day 1 it’s just health conditions that aren’t.
7)Free 4 week insurance – most puppies and some rescue pets now come with 4 weeks free pet insurance. This is because insurance companies have worked out what a great promotion this is for them. Most people will just continue the cover once the 4 weeks are up and then that’s it, they’re locked in for the life of the pet because once they make a claim that condition won’t be covered if they go elsewhere. If you do decide to continue after a free trial of a policy, please make sure that you give the company a ring and discuss the level of cover that is right for you and your pet. A friend of mine once just continued the policy she was given and it was the lowest cover the company did so when it came to making a claim it hardly covered anything. She then
couldn’t upgrade the policy either because they don’t just upgrade, they cancel the existing policy and start a fresh, higher priced one so then there would have been another 14 day waiting period and the condition she was claiming for would have been classed as pre existing and not eligible for any pay out.
Personally I have never had a bad experience with pet insurance, any company I’ve used have always paid out whenever I have needed them to without any arguments. However in December 2018 I took on my Dogue de Bordeaux, Bella, after she was abandoned in a local pet store. She had hip dysplasia in both hips and elbow dysplasia in both elbows. These were classed as pre existing conditions and not covered on insurance so we had to raise the funds to take bone chips out of her elbows and have been managing the dysplasia with hydrotherapy and physiotherapy ever since at a cost of around £120 a month.
While we were fundraising for her treatment I heard from a lot of people who’s insurances didn’t cover the cost of treatments or had refused to pay out So in January 2020 I set up a non profit organisation called Bella’s Beau’s to raise funds to help cover people’s vets bills when the insurance doesn’t. Covid-19 has stopped our first year of fundraising but I’m hopeful that we’ll be helping other people by the end of 2021.
If you’d like to find out more or watch out for our events when we can finally run them then you can visit our website http://www.bellasbeaus.co.uk