Just as the unexpected can crop up in our lives, so it can do in our pets lives too. As a vet I often get asked if it’s really worth insuring an animal, and although there is a lot for an owner to consider when choosing an insurer the answer is “yes”, and here are few reasons why.
The first reason is that although you may choose to either join our Gold Plan pre-payment scheme or save money into a separate bank account, this is only for routine treatments such as Flea and Tick prevention or for annual vaccination programmes. Emergency treatment is not covered under our Gold Plan, and can soon become very costly; potentially running into thousands of pounds in extreme circumstances.
Nobody likes to think about their beloved animal needing emergency surgery anyway, but imagine if you found yourself in a situation where you were unable to pay for this treatment scenario and had to consider the unthinkable of having your pet put to sleep. Sometimes a little bit of planning and preparation really is worth the initial time and effort.
Every Veterinary practice has had experiences of insurance companies quibbling over paying out for treatments, but what any vet will say to you is to do your research, read the small print and if you have any questions then make an appointment to discuss concerns with us. There are a whole heap of regulations which mean we can’t specifically recommend one particular company to you, but what we can do is relay our experiences with various companies to you so that you can digest this information.
There are lots of insurance companies out there and there are comparison websites that give you at-a-glance comparisons of tariffs that insurance companies offer. If you have an older pet there are also insurers out there that offer specialist cover for this market.
So, you’ve done your research and think you’ve found the company for you; let’s have a look at a couple of pitfalls. Firstly, let’s look at the “excess”; i.e. the amount of the claim below which the insurance company will not pay. This is what you are expected to pay yourself and isn’t dissimilar to what happens with car insurance. One excess is generally payable per condition, per year so chronic conditions lasting several years will need this excess paying every year before any money comes to you from your pet insurance.
Secondly, if your vet recommends a specific diet for your pet (due to Kidney disease or dietary intolerances for example), insurers will not pay for this; they would argue that you have to feed your pet anyway. Some of the more reputable companies will pay a percentage of the cost of a vet prescribed diet though.
Insurance premiums do routinely increase as the age of the animal progresses, but some premiums start off higher initially for “risky” breeds of dog and this is another factor to consider before you insure your animal. If you have a “risky” breed then it might be worth contacting the specific breed society or even the Kennel Club for advice and guidance.
Pre-existing conditions that an animal has need to be declared to the new insurers when you take a policy out, as they will not pay out on any condition an animal has had before the policy is taken out. It is for this reason that it is often very difficult to change insurance companies, even if you find their
premiums are getting expensive. Any condition your pet had with the previous company will be regarded as pre-existing with a new insurer and could well start your premiums off at an even higher rate; not that this is a certainty, but it is definitely a possibility.
Just as with car insurance there are different levels of pet insurance available, so think carefully about what your needs are before you either under- or over- insure your pet.
In a nutshell; “Accident only” premiums are the cheapest policy type, but they are very restrictive; they literally only cover accidental situations, so illness etc wouldn’t be covered. “Annual cover” policies do cover illnesses as well as accidents, but often the insurer will only honour this situation for a year so aren’t great for longer illnesses. “Individual condition cover” policies do what they say on the tin, so to speak; the insurer will have a set maximum limit that it will pay for a condition. “Lifetime Policies” are, in my opinion, the best type of premium because they cover conditions for the duration of the pets’ life, not just for one year.
Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we pride ourselves on the level of service we provide and as a practice we do not charge for insurance form administration, although some practices do. We also do direct claims, under certain circumstances; this is where we claim any monies direct from your insurer rather than from yourselves. This can save a lot of “to-ing and fro-ing” which in an already potentially stressful situation can make all the difference to you; again, not all practices do this for their clients.
I hope this has given you a few things to consider as you decide which policy is right for you and your pet. It is a complicated area to navigate sometimes but, as always, me and the rest of the Saint Leonard team is more than happy to help you come to the right choice for you. If you want to discuss things further then please contact us to make an appointment and we’ll help as best we can.
Until the next blog; stay safe, stay well and be happy 🙂