Pet insurance – all you need to know

Insurers paid out £602 million in pet claims last year, according to new figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).


That’s a 15% increase on 2013, with the average cost of a pet insurance claim rising to £679 in 2014.

Yet despite the number of pet insurance policies in the UK hitting 3.5 million, many animals remain uninsured.

More than 6.5 million – or 75% - of dogs have no cover, while only 15% of cats are protected by a pet insurance policy, according to the ABI figures.

So whether you have a dog, a cat, a horse or a parrot, the question is: should you insure your animal friend?

Pet insurance: the pros

Taking out pet insurance for your four-legged, feathered or even your fanged friends can save you a lot of money – and heartache – in the long run.

Vet’s bills quickly mount up when something goes wrong.

Without insurance, that could leave you in the heartbreaking situation of having to let a pet die for financial reasons.

Mark Shepherd, general insurance manager at the ABI, said: "The cost of getting veterinary treatment for your pet can quickly reach thousands of pounds, particularly if they have to have surgery or need chemotherapy to tackle cancer.

“Pet insurance gives you peace of mind that you won't have to deny your pet life-saving treatment because the veterinary bills are too high.”

Other advantages include that many policies will pay out towards boarding costs should you have to go into hospital, for example, as well as covering your potential liabilities if your pet causes an accident where a third party is injured.

Pet insurance: the cons

The main downside of pet insurance is the cost.

Rising vets’ fees have pushed premiums up over recent years, and that means some animals cost a lot to insure – up to £50 a month in some cases.

Over 12 years, that’s an outlay of around £7,000, which is why lots of pet owners choose to take their chances and pay for treatment when necessary (perhaps slotting a certain amount into a savings account on a regular basis).

That said, you can get pet insurance for a more reasonable premium, especially if your pet is young and has no history of illness.

The cost depends on a number of factors, including the level of cover provided and the level of the excess (the amount you pay towards any claim – the higher the excess, the lower the premium).

As an example, annual insurance for a cat can cost just a few pounds a month, but a “lifetime” policy for an older dog, for example, can run to hundreds of pounds a year.

What’s covered?

Policies vary, but most include cover for these standard ‘risks’:

  • Vet’s fees, up to an annual limit in most cases. Some policies cover accident and illness-related incidents, while others only pay out if the fees are due to an accident
  • The cost of advertising and recovering your pet if it goes missing or is stolen
  • Liability – very useful if your pet causes any accidental damage to a third party.

Deluxe policies also tend to cover:

  • Overseas treatment if you take your pet on holiday and he or she requires urgent medical attention while you are abroad
  • Boarding costs if you have to spend some time in hospital and need your pet to be looked after
  • Holiday cancellation if you have to miss your departure date because your pet is unwell.

But beware! Policies don’t include cover for routine healthcare charges, such as vaccinations, neutering, spaying and flea control.

Choosing a policy

There are two main types of pet insurance policy.

Lifetime cover is the most comprehensive. Provided you reinstate the policy every 12 months, it will cover your pet for life.

This protects you from expensive vet’s bills or a sudden hike in premiums if your pet has a long-term illness.

It also means you can get cover for an older animal that would be uninsurable if you simply went out looking for a policy to protect it.

However, it also means you have to stick with the same insurer throughout the years.

Annual cover lasts 12 months and, at for a younger pet, it normally works out cheaper than lifetime cover.

However, you could end up taking a financial hit if your pet needs long-term care as the insurer might decline to renew the policy halfway through a course of treatment – at least at an affordable premium.

Other choices include:

  • accident-only protection, which is cheap but will not pay out anything if your animal falls ill
  • per condition cover, which covers you for all the treatment required due to any one incident, whether illness or accident related.

Check out our pet insurance channel for more details of the cover available, and to buy the policy that suits you and your pet.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.


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