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Pet insurance explained – Times Money Mentor

When a pet becomes unwell or is involved in an accident, vet bills can be very high.

It’s for this reason that people consider buying pet insurance, which covers them if they are unable to meet unexpected costs.

However, it can be hard to work out which pet insurance policy is right for you, with many different types available.

Below, we cover:

Pet insurance is not a legal requirement, but it can provide peace of mind to pet owners

Do I need pet insurance?

There is no legal requirement to get pet insurance when you own a pet.

However, if you do not, you run the risk of not being able to alleviate the suffering of a beloved animal companion, or of falling into debt to cover vet bills.

If you do not take out pet insurance, you should have another plan for meeting any medical costs.

What does pet insurance cover?

The type of policy you take out will dictate the type and level of cover you receive for your pet.

Most policies cover treatment for accidents and/or illnesses.

Also generally included is:

  • Cover for diagnosis of any condition
  • Third-party liability in case your dog hurts someone or causes damage
  • Help with advertising a lost pet
  • Emergency dental work (though not routine treatments)
  • Euthanasia where necessary

Alternative therapies, such as hydrotherapy for animals, are included in some, more extensive policies.

What pet insurance doesn’t cover

It is also important to know what insurance usually does not cover.

This includes:

  • Conditions that your pet already has before you take out a policy (although a few insurers will cover some pre-existing conditions)
  • vaccinations
  • Routine vet check-ups
  • preventive treatment
  • Neutering and pregnancy
  • routine dental treatment,
  • Cremation and burial costs

You should check when you take out the cover at what stage the insurance will come into play, as there is often an exclusion period. Many insurers will not pay out on illnesses that begin within 14 days of the policy start date.

You can buy immediate cover if necessary, insuring your pet from the minute you take out the policy.

Popular types of pet insurance

Different types of pet insurance suit different needs.

Below are some of the most popular.

Lifetime pet insurance

This is usually the most expensive but also the most popular type of cover. As long as you pay the premiums, it means your pet is insured over the course of its whole life.

Premiums may rise annually, particularly as your pet gets older.

Time-limited pet insurance

This type of policy insures your pet for a specific time, usually 12 months, to cover accidents or short-term illness. After that time, you will need to take out a new policy.

Per-condition pet insurance

This type of policy, also known as “maximum benefit” cover, allocates a fixed amount of money to treat each illness or injury suffered by your pet.

So if it has been treated for cancer and uses up all of the allowance for this illness, you will not receive any more payments for cancer treatment – ​​but you would be covered if the animal later broke a leg, for example.

Accident-only pet insurance

This type of insurance covers vet bills if your pet is injured in an accident.

It is the cheapest type of pet insurance in the short term, but it doesn’t cover illness.

Dental work, which can be costly, is not typically included with pet insurance
Dental work, which can be costly, is not typically included with pet insurance

How much does pet insurance cost?

Various factors influence the cost of pet insurance, and remember that the cheapest pet cover may not be the best for you.

These factors include:

The type of pet

Some animals cost more to insure than others. Exotic pet cover – for example, for parrots, reptiles and tortoises – can be very expensive.

Meanwhile, animal breeds that typically have a higher claim rate may also be a cause of higher premiums. Examples include pedigree dogs, which are more prone to hereditary health problems.

The most expensive pedigree dog to insure is a Cane Corso, with pet insurance for this Italian breed costing £924.09 a year, according to figures from comparison website GoCompare.

The age of the pet

As animals get older, it is more likely they will need vet treatment – ​​and for illnesses or injuries that might lead to more expensive claims.

The type of policy and the excess

More comprehensive policies are likely to be more expensive. Allowing a higher excess, paid by you before cover kicks in, can bring down the cost.

What is the average cost of pet insurance per month?

Pet insurance costs vary considerably, but according to comparison site Compare the Market, the average cost is £137 a year for its customers (£11.42 a month).

Dog insurance is more expensive than cat cover, with the site adding that the average cost for cats is £83 a year, while it is £157 for dogs.

Is multi-pet insurance cheaper than separate policies?

If you have more than one pet, you could consider multi-pet insurance; this can work out cheaper than separate policies.

Most insurers offer discounts for a second pet, while others take a set amount of money off the annual cost for each additional pet you insure.

As with individual policies, the price of multi-pet insurance will also vary depending on the level of cover chosen.

How to find the best pet insurance

Your choice of the best pet insurance will depend on your pet as well as the level of cover you require, but premiums can vary dramatically even with very similar policies.

You should always use a comparison website, or several websites, to compare insurance plans. Most offer the facility to look at different policies side by side, to see which is most suitable for you.

These articles on Best cat insurance and Best dog insurance offer more help.

How to find the cheapest pet insurance

The key to finding the cheapest pet insurance is to shop around and to be very clear on what you need.

Some ways to keep the cost down include:

The key to finding the cheapest pet insurance is to shop around and to be very clear on what you need.

Some ways to keep the cost down include:

  1. Paying a higher excess. Stating that you will pay more of the initial outlay when a vet bill comes in can bring down premiums while keeping the peace of mind that you will be able to pay big bills if necessary.
  2. Spaying or neutering your pet. This can reduce the cost of insurance as it reduces some health risks to your pet.
  3. Keeping your pet healthy. Ensuring your pet is of a healthy weight and regularly vaccinated will help reduce premiums.
  4. Shopping around. Checking you have the best price for your insurance can involve looking at different providers and checking for multi-pet discounts.
  5. Check if you are entitled to free or discounted treatment. If you are on a low income, charities such as the PDSA or Blue Cross can provide cheap or free vet treatment, so check if you qualify.

What are the disadvantages of pet insurance?

Pet cover can be costly over the lifetime of your animal, and there are cons as well as pros with the insurance.

1. You may never make a claim

One drawback, of course – and it applies to insurance in general – is that you may never have to make a claim on your policy, and so will end up paying out a lot of money for no practical purpose.

2. Your claim may be declined

Another potential disadvantage is that your claim may be declined because it does not meet the policy’s terms and conditions. So check the small print very carefully before you buy. For example, does the policy cover your breed of animal and are there any time limits on claims?

The onus is on you to ensure that you give all details correctly, including any information on pre-existing conditions and the age of the pet, to avoid the risk of a claim being denied.

3. Some treatments aren’t covered

Finally, a lot of the most expensive treatments for pets are not covered by most policies. These include dental work, which can be very costly if teeth have to be removed under general anesthesia.

It is very important to be clear about what is covered and whether you feel that insurance is still worth it in these circumstances.

These possible drawbacks are just some of the considerations awaiting pet owners when they look at taking out insurance.

The big question, of course, is how often your pet might need to go to the vet and how much those bills might amount to.

The cost of the cover could prove insignificant compared to the outlay for multiple treatments – in which case going without insurance would provide the falsest of economies – or it could turn out that you lose out financially if no claims ever have to be made.

Every individual has to weigh up the balance of risks with their pet.

Ultimately, though, this insurance is not a simple financial choice for many people. Instead, it gives them the peace of mind that they can do their best for their animals, even if the choices they make are expensive.

And if the cost seems high, remember that there is no NHS for pets.

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