Waggy tails, loud purrs, a soft nuzzle against your neck…pets show us their love in so many different ways.
And we adore them too with the thought of them ever becoming sick – or worse – simply too much to bear.
So it’s such a relief that we can rely on pet insurance to pick up the bill when they need expensive treatments and costly drugs.
But can we? Sadly too many owners find out too late that the policy they placed their trust in doesn’t cover them when they need it most.
Puppy love: We love our furry friends, so it’s vital we buy them the right insurance
They’re then faced with the agonizing decision of raiding their savings, borrowing money or – far worse – not being able to undertake the recommended treatment.
It’s a situation none of us want. But how can you ensure your pet insurance won’t let you down when you need it?
Here are some important things to ask before choosing your policy….
DOES THE POLICY COVER DENTAL ILLNESS AND INJURY?
Unlike humans, pets don’t just use their mouths for eating and talking (well, barking, miaowing and squeaking…), they also use them to groom and carry things around.
But just like us, they’re susceptible to problems like gum disease, tooth cavities and gingivitis.
So you’d think all pet insurance would cover these essentials, right? Wrong. Many companies don’t include coverage for both dental illness and injury.
Make sure yours does. Petplan covers against these as standard and last year paid a massive £6.4million towards the costs of dental treatment. You need to ensure that your pet has a dental check each year, and that any recommended treatment is carried out within six months but otherwise your furry friend is free to happily wolf down as many treats as they’re allowed.
Pets use their teeth more than we use ours: Check your pet insurance covers dental illness and injury
DOES THE POLICY COVER THE FULL COST OF DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS?
Years ago, vets were solely reliant on their training and experience to diagnose a problem.
Nowadays, they have an incredible range of tools – from blood tests and X-rays to MRI, CT and ultrasound scans – to ensure they get it right.
But they come at a cost (MRIs can set you back a whopping £2,500) and some policies only pay a certain amount, leaving owners to foot the rest of the bill.
So when you’re buying insurance, make sure you look out for this. Petplan have no additional limits for diagnostic tools.
KNOWING I HAD PETPLAN INSURANCE WAS A MASSIVE RELIEF
When Boris the Hungarian Vizsla disappeared out of sight on a walk one day, his owner Sharon wasn’t at all bothered – he could never resist going off for a rummage.
But when they got home that night, Boris suddenly became very ill.
‘He started being violently sick,’ says Sharon. ‘He was acting out of character, he was so floppy.’
She rushed her beloved Boris to the vet who admitted him immediately.
An x-ray and ultrasound found half a tennis ball was stuck inside his intestines, slowly killing him. I needed immediate surgery.
‘It felt like my world was turned upside down and the thought of not having him or losing him at such a young age was devastating,’ says Sharon.
Tennis ball thief: Beautiful Boris the Hungarian Vizsla nearly died when he ate a ball, but luckily his Petplan policy helped cover the cost of his veterinary care
The next 72 hours, as a post-op Boris fought for his life, were agony. But he survived after having X rays, ultrasounds, and 18 inches of intestine removed during an operation.
‘When I knew Boris had pulled through it was a massive relief – I cried but they were tears of joy,’ remembers Sharon, who has a special bond with Boris as he lost his mum at three weeks, so has always stuck close to Sharon’s side.
Boris needed to stay in hospital overnight with medication after his massive op, but five days later he was back to his normal, naughty self, leaving Sharon grateful she’d taken out Petplan’s Covered For Life® insurance which helped pay for all the diagnoses, the operation and subsequent veterinary care.
‘It was a huge relief to know I had the financial support in place because I had the right policy there,’ she says. ‘You need to be mindful that these kinds of emergencies can happen at any point.
‘Getting him home, we appreciate every minute with him. It’s made our bond even stronger.’
DOES THE POLICY COVER BEHAVIORAL CONDITIONS?
We tend to think the only help our pets will need is for illness – but they can also require treatment for behavioral conditions.
Separation anxiety in dogs is a huge problem while other pets suffer from problems including anxiety and even aggression.
They can be treated – but you could find yourself facing a stiff bill as many pet insurance policies do not cover them, or place a strict limit on how much they will pay out (just £250 in some cases).
So look for one that covers behavioral conditions without limits – for example, if you have a Petplan policy that provides £4,000 each year for veterinary fees you can spend as much of this amount as you like sorting this one issue.
WILL I PAY MORE IF I CLAIM?
Was price a major consideration in buying pet insurance? Then make sure you have considered the long term as well as the short term costs.
‘Some insurers start off with a lower premium to attract new customers and then double premiums when you claim,’ says Petplan’s Bella von Mesterhazy.
Sadly this means owners may find themselves unable to afford the monthly cost which means they have to cancel and shell out for future vet bills from their own pocket.
Bundles of love: Make sure you pick a policy that won’t penalize you for claiming on it
Even switching to a less expensive option may be impossible as most insurers won’t cover a pre-existing condition.
So make sure you look beyond the headlines and get the right policy from the start.
‘Your policy premium will increase as your pet grows older,’ says Bella ‘but with Petplan you won’t pay more for claiming.’
‘We believe pet ownership is a long-term commitment, and we’re here with long-term support to help you give your pet the best care possible.’
ARE THERE ANY ADDITIONAL LIMITS?
Selecting a policy that provides £15,000 of veterinary fees a year sounds plenty – but look at the small print before you sign on the dotted line.
That’s because some insurance has additional limits, only paying a set amount for specific conditions or treatments, leaving the owner to find the rest.
So a policy that ‘only’ provides £12,000 for vet bills – but with no additional limits – might actually be more suitable for you.
Check how long things are covered for too. Some policies only cover a problem for a year or up to a certain amount of money, whereas the illness itself, such as diabetes and skin conditions, lasts a lifetime.
Petplan’s Covered for Life policy® pays 98pc of all claims received.
‘Think best cover – not best price,’ advises Bella. ‘Pets are an important part of the family and it can be a worrying time if they are ill or injured. The last thing families want is additional stress about covering the cost of veterinary bills.
‘That’s why it is important to note that not all pet insurance is the same and to choose your policy carefully so you do not get let down at the moment of truth.’
PETPLAN: THE UK’S NO.1 PET INSURER
Since its launch more than 40 years ago, Petplan has become the UK’s favorite pet insurer, trusted to care for a massive 1.3m of our furry friends.
They pay out a huge £6.5million each week to keep the nation’s animals healthy and happy.
And thanks to their innovative polices that don’t see customers penalized for claiming, 90pc of customers renew each year.
*To find out more about insuring your best friend, go to petplan.co.uk
*This article was paid for by Petplan and is not a recommendation of MailOnline