The cover provided by pet insurance policies varies greatly between one company and another. This leaflet is designed to provide some guidelines to follow in order to choose the best policy for you.
Why we recommend Insurance:
Pets can suffer from a wide range of illnesses and injuries such as heart disease, arthritis and road traffic accidents. Treatment has advanced greatly over recent years and we are proud to be able to offer a high standard of care for our patients, both within our practice and by referral to a specialist.
Such treatment can be expensive and potentially run into hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. With cost often the only obstacle for treatment, insurance is becoming as important for our pets as it is for our homes and cars.
There has also recently been a landmark ruling by the House of Lords that laid down a principle that an owner will now be ‘strictly liable’ for damage that their pet causes - whether or not they demonstrated negligence. Cats are currently exempt from this ruling as they are deemed by law to be like wild animals, which are not officially controllable.
Types of cover Available:
An illness or injury is covered for the whole of your pets life.
For example:- Your (insured) pet is diagnosed with diabetes at 3 years of age. This policy will pay claims for the cost of treatment up to the annual limit each and every year.
CHECK THE SMALL PRINT!
Some insurers may state that they offer lifetime cover but actually mean that they will continue to insure your pet into old age, but cover for a certain condition will be excluded (withdrawn) once 12 months or the cost per condition has been reached.
2. Maximum Benefit
An illness or injury is covered until the maximum benefit per condition is reached. There is no time limit on the claim but the condition will be excluded once this figure has been reached.
3. 12 month
This is the most widely available policy and is the type offered by most of the supermarkets. The claim starts from the day the condition started and continues for up to 12 months from this date. The condition is then excluded from the policy so that you are unable to make any further claims for treatment relating to this condition.
For example:- Your dog is seen after developing a limp on his front leg and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication for the next couple of weeks, which stops the limp. Three months later your dog is lame again on the same leg. Further tests could be carried out and an arthritic elbow is diagnosed, which needs medication for the rest of his life. Not only would a 12-month policy only pay out for the first 12 months of treatment, but the start date would be the day the symptoms first started – three months ago!
Many of the illnesses that we claim for continue for longer than 12 months. For this reason we urge you to consider a lifetime policy.
4. Accident Only
Accident cover pays out only for conditions relating to accidents and not medical illnesses. As the majority of cases that we see involve an illness rather than an accident, we recommend a more comprehensive policy to protect your pet.
Deciding on the right Policy for your Pet:
1. How long are claims paid for?
We recommend a policy that will cover for treatment for as long as it is required.
2. What is the policy excess?
Some insurers will charge a fixed excess, or a percentage of the bill, whichever is the greater. Beware – 15% may seem like a reasonable amount but on a £2000 claim you would be paying £300 excess.
3. Does the excess change with age?
A higher excess may be introduced when your pets gets older, such as the basic excess plus a percentage of the remaining amount.
4. What is covered under vets’ fees?
Some insurers do not cover hereditary or congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia related conditions.
5. Will the policy pay for prescribed clinical diets?
Some insurers will pay for the difference between feeding the prescribed food and a normal diet for your pet; others will pay for a limited period, others not at all.
6. Will behaviour problems or complementary treatments such as homeopathy or hydrotherapy be covered?
This varies greatly between insurance policies.
CHECK THAT THE POLICY PROVIDES THE RANGE OF BENEFITS YOU WANT.
Do you want third party insurance in case your pet causes an accident? What about help for advertising and rewards if your pet becomes lost? This may be beneficial to you – or an unwanted extra that adds to the cost of the premium.
Watch out for companies that offer deceptively low fees – as with most things in life, with pet insurance you do get what you pay for.
Be sure to ask all the questions you need when you shop around. It may help to write down what you require from the policy before ringing for a quote. If the sales representative evades your question, or answers in a way that the answer is not clear, ask again, or try another company.
When you receive the certificate of insurance and policy schedule read through these carefully. Most companies give you about 2 weeks grace – if you find that the policy does not provide the cover you need you can usually cancel with a full refund.
We hope that this guide has helped to explain the various types of cover available. We are unable to recommend one particular policy and appreciate that what suits one person will be completely unsuitable for another.