Pet insurance – Do you need it?

Pet insurance is a safety net to help protect you against unexpected costs related to your pet. The most obvious reason to have insurance on your cat or dog is to cover veterinary bills. However, it can seem like an unnecessary expense. So how much will it cost, what should a good policy include, how to get the best pet insurance deal and what are the alternatives?

Pet insurance – Do you need it?

Is pet insurance worth it?

The average pet insurance claim is £793, but claims can run into the thousands if your pet develops an on-going condition.

If you’re unsure if pet insurance is worth it, consider how you would deal with an unexpected bill.

You’ll need to balance this with the cost of your premiums and the likelihood that you’ll make a claim.

For example, older animals can cost more to insure, but are often more likely to need medical attention (see below).

Self-insuring, which is discussed in more detail below, is a perfectly valid alternative, but requires a lot of discipline to ensure money is always available, particularly if covering expensive, on-going care.

With this in mind, you certainly need to think about pet insurance, however, there are a few things to consider first.

What kind of pet do you have?

The majority of pet insurance policies are taken out for cats and dogs and it’s easy to find insurers for these animals.

Insurance for smaller mammals, such as gerbils, rabbits and hamsters are available, but due to shorter lifespans, are of debatable value.

Exotic pets, like lizards, snakes and parrots, are harder to insure as there are not many companies offering this service.

However, because these pets are unusual, it’s worth looking into the costs of covering them.

You’ll be unable to insure venomous animals, but you might want to look into liability insurance.

What are the risks?

What are the risks?

Different pets carry different risks.

For example, pedigree dogs and cats can be more susceptible to:

  • illness
  • congenital diseases
  • hereditary conditions, and
  • are more likely to be stolen.

Certain breeds are more vulnerable to specific problems.

For example, larger dogs are more likely to suffer from joint problems, while bulldogs can develop respiratory difficulties.

What can pet insurance cover?

Like other forms of insurance, pet insurance policies can vary widely.

This means it is very important to get the right cover for your pet so do your research and read the fine print of your policy.

Along with veterinary bills, items that can be included are:

  • Loss and theft of your pet:make sure this covers your pet’s purchase price, which you might require proof of, otherwise your insurer might pay ‘market value’. The insurance company might also pay towards the cost of advertising your lost pet (£300 or more) and the cost of a reward for its recovery (£250 or more). Although a treasured member of the family can never be replaced, some policies will offer sufficient cover to replace your pet if they are not found.
  • Treatment for behavioural problems: should also be covered in a good policy and cover needs to be for £500 or more. The treatment might also need to be carried out by a professional organisation or under the direction of a vet.
  • Death by illness or injury: will need to cover the pet’s purchase price. You might be required to arrange for a qualified vet to certify the cause of death. An age limit usually applies to cover for death by illness. A good policy should also cover euthanasia if your pet has to be put down.
  • Liability cover: available for dogs only and will cover any costs you’re legally responsible for paying if someone is injured or property gets damaged in an incident involving your dog. Cover is usually for £1 million or more, but only costs the insurer has agreed to will be covered. Most policies also specify that you shouldn’t admit liability.

You can get pet insurance either just to cover this situation (third party) or as part of a more comprehensive pet insurance policy. The Dogs Trust will give you third party cover up to £1 million as part of their membership.

Register your pet insurance now :

Cattery and kennel fees if you have to go into hospital for more than 4 days in a row. Cover needs to be for £500 or more.

Any emergency treatment your pet might need when travelling abroad. Cover needs to be for £1,500 or more.