Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that at some point a visit to the vet is always on the books, whether for an annual check-up and vaccinations or for something more serious, such as an injury or illness. And a visit to the vet is going to end with a bill. Pets are not cheap – and pet insurance is becoming the best way to deal with this.
According to the Association of British Insurers, pet insurers paid out £602 million in claims in 2014 – the equivalent of £1.65m a day and an increase of nearly 15% on the previous year. The average cost of a claim has risen 7% to £679, while for dogs it’s slightly higher at £683. One of the reasons for this is that while the field of animal medicine has made great strides, costs have risen as the treatments become more complicated.
Pet insurance is therefore extremely important if you’re a pet owner. What’s just as important, however, is the need to make sure that the insurance you’re paying does everything that you might need it to.
There are a number of different types of pet insurance on the market at the moment, and all too often people choose the cheapest without really reading the small print in sufficient detail.
In theory, lifetime cover should provide pet owner with peace of mind knowing that their pet will be covered throughout his or her lifetime, as long as they renew each year, but sadly this isn’t always the case. Because of this, complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) relating to lifetime cover are on the rise.
In 2012 the Financial Services Authority was forced to intervene when Lloyds and Halifax pulled out of the market and stopped paying the claims of those existing clients who thought that their pets were still insured.
Some pet owners have also seen their premiums rise despite taking out “lifetime” policies as the insurer will always calculate renewal premiums based on a number of factors, including the claims history of the animal, the chances of a reoccurrence of a particular condition, and the animal’s age.
Pay attention to the details
Even when pets are still covered it’s always worth looking at the exact terms of the policy. Some companies have fixed benefits, where there is a monetary limit attached to each condition For example, all claims could be taken out of cover with a maximum limit of, say, £5,000 in the policy year.
If this limit is reached in a year then a client cannot make another claim until the policy renews at which point the £5000 is reinstated and all claims are taken from this recharged pot of money. Of course, if the cost of treatment goes above this then the client will have to pay that.
However, other policies might offer just accident only cover, which would activate in the event of an accident but not if a pet was diagnosed with an illness, such as diabetes, which requires regular doses of insulin.
Obviously customers need to look at price but they also need to consider the possibility of an unexpected visit to the vet – and the considerable costs that might result from that. A diabetic cat can live for years with this condition – and the total bill from insulin and medical tests over that time can be a sizeable one.
And yet other policies have additional benefits, including paying boarding fees in the unfortunate event of owner hospitalisation and advertising and reward money if a pet goes missing. Again clients need to make sure that such benefits have actually been attached to their policies – sometimes just because an option is available from an insurance company it might not have been chosen when the policy was taken up.
Should you have pet insurance?
It’s worth pointing out that according to the ABI the number of UK animals covered by pet insurance policies has now passed 3 and a half million but the proportion without insurance remains much higher.
Out of an estimated dog population of 9 million, approximately 2.4 million are covered by pet insurance – leaving nearly 75% of dog owners without it. For cats, only 15% benefit from pet insurance – around 1.2 million out of an estimated population of 7.9 million. Insurers are also providing cover for more than 250,000 other pets such as horses, rabbits and even exotic animals such as snakes, with an unknown number of creatures uninsured.
Accidents happen, sometimes in the most bizarre ways. According to the ABI, one claim came about after a kitten fell into a toilet and had to have its stomach pumped and then given antibiotics. The total bill was around £600!
Life can be unexpected – and insurance can provide the answers. After all, it never hurts to get a quote to see what you can get for your peace of mind.
Here at Computerquote, our two highest levels of cover are both of the type with a fixed pot of money available that is reinstated at each renewal date, assuming that there is no break in the insurance policy. With the option of both £3000 or £5000 worth of cover, and a host of additional benefits, you should have peace of mind that in the unfortunate case that your pet needs veterinary treatment your insurance policy will cover the cost but don’t forget that there will always be an excess to pay.
As always, you must ensure that you have fully read and understood the policy terms and conditions and if you have any questions, our fully trained, UK based customer service team are here to help.