Why you need pet insurance
Britain is a nation of animal lovers, with millions of households across the country having a pet.
But while your beloved animal friends may bring you hours of joy, the vets' bills should they require medical attention are more likely to give you a severe headache.
In fact, should your pet fall ill, or be injured in an accident, the cost of treatment could run into thousands of pounds.
Having pet insurance therefore gives you the peace of mind of knowing that whatever scrapes your four-legged friends get themselves into, you will not be faced with any heartbreaking decisions about whether or not to go ahead with treatment.
What pet insurance covers
Pet insurance policies, like those designed to cover cars and homes, vary significantly.
However, they will all cover medical expenses if your pet becomes ill or is injured in an accident up to a point.
Routine treatments, such as vaccinations or neutering, are also generally excluded across the board, while most pet insurance will pay animal boarding fees should you need to go into hospital, for example.
Other features of the majority of policies include advertising and recovery costs if your pet goes missing and legal expenses if your pet causes injury to a third party (by running into the road and causing an accident, for example).
Unsurprisingly, though, only the most comprehensive policies will offer holiday cancellation cover if your pet falls ill.
Getting the best pet insurance for you
As with other types of general insurance, the cheapest cover is not always the best option.
After all, saving a small amount on your annual premium could prove a false economy if you end up having to shell out for vet's fee because the cover you have is not up to scratch.
When picking a pet insurance policy, it is therefore important to know that there are two main types: Lifetime and Annual.
The most comprehensive policies offer lifetime cover that is reinstated at the start of each year.
In other words, as long as the policy is renewed every 12 months, you can claim up to the full amount in vet fees year after year, even if the illness involved is recurring or ongoing.
And that could be worth a huge amount if your pet develops a long-term condition such as arthritis.
The bad news, however, is that these policies are also quite expensive - especially if you happen to live in an urban area where both the likelihood of accidents and the fees charged by vets are higher.
If, on the other hand, your main concern is protecting against the high initial costs of treatment after an injury or an illness, you could save even more by opting for an annual policy.
These generally impose similar monetary limits on the cost of treatment, but will not pay out for vets' bills relating to the same condition after the policy runs out.
As the condition must be listed as pre-existing on renewal - whether or not you stay with the same insurer - the main disadvantage is therefore that you could end up out of pocket should your pet need longer-term care.
Compare pet insurance with MoneySupermarket
As explained above, the cover offered by different pet insurance policies varies greatly.
The same is true of price, which will depend not only on the level of cover but also on where you live, the age of your pet and whether he or she is a pedigree breed or not.
Many companies, for example, will only provide cover for cats younger than 10, while pedigree dogs will often be more expensive to insure both because they are worth more and because they are generally less healthy than mongrel dogs.
It is therefore vital to compare policies and premiums before making your choice.
Fortunately, MoneySupermarket allows you to scour the market with just a few clicks of your mouse, to make sure you get a cheap pet insurance policy that will cover you and your pet.
Competitions, infographics and more
Why not check out the winners of our recent Pets Win Praises competition.
Read about true life-saving pets in our Super Furry Animals article.
Find out more about animal adoption in our Life With Cats and Dogs article.
Check out the weird and wonderful beaviours that pet owners observe from their own pets in our Pet-rified infographic