Pet Insurance – is it a waste of money?

 According to a report published by research group Mintel, one in three pets needs an unforeseen visit to the vet each year. This implies you're more likely to make a claim on your pet insurance than on your car insurance or even your home & contents policy. 

The word “unforeseen” is key here. If you're looking for pet insurance to provide cover for routine treatments such as teeth cleaning, vaccinations or nail trimming, forget it – policies which provide that are as rare as hens' teeth! Neither will you find cover for elective treatments, such as neutering and identity chipping. This means that the most common grounds for visit the vet are uninsurable. 

But it's those unexpected visits that tend to be the high-priced ones! Developments in vet nary care mean that new and more complex conditions can be effectively treated. But the cost of emergency care can be horrendous. A cat that failed to cross the road could easily cost £700, even more, to treat. After all, a series of X-rays could cost £400 complete with anesthetic, and you'll have no change from £1,000 for a MRI scan. If Lassie, the Labrador tore a ligament that can now be treated – but the cost? Wait for it – around £1,500! This is serious money! 

Having appreciated that most reasons for an appointment at the vet are uninsurable, what do we get for our premiums? 

Pet insurance policies basically fall into three categories. The first limits the value of the claim for each condition or event; the second places a maximum value on the total annual payout and the third and cheapest option, limits the payout per condition and ends cover after 12 months of treatment. And with all policies you will have to pay an excess on any claim, usually between £50 and £100. The majority of these plans payout a fixed sum if you pet dies. 

And the cost? Well, that depends on which type of policy you select, the excess you want to pay, the kind of pet you have, its breed, its age and even your post-code (apparently vets are more expensive in Kensington!). But as a guide, an industry expert estimates costs between £50 to £500 for Lassie and £30 and £200 per year for puss. 

The best advice is taken out a policy when your pet is young. Most pets can be insured after they're 8 weeks old and then you keep the insurance in place for the rest of its life. If you're looking for a policy for a pet that's in its middle age, say eight or nine for a dog, then it may be difficult to get worthwhile cover. That's because starting a new policy in your pet's middle age will be expensive and, in any case, you'll be unable to claim for treatments for any existing health conditions. 

So how can you reduce the premiums? Sometimes you can get a discount if you pet has been identity chipped and quantity discounts are usually available for second and subsequent pets. Beyond that you simply have to shop around. Thank goodness for the Internet! 

The Internet is taking an increasing share of the insurance market and no wonder – it makes shopping simple, quick and easy. What's more it's probably the cheapest starting place for all your insurance whether it be for your car, home, or pet. Let your keyboard take the strain.

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