Finance

How To Choose the Best Pet Insurance for Your Family

Woman holding a cute white dog

With pet insurance costs on the rise and technology in the industry accelerating methods of treatment, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how much cover you need, whether you’re paying too much or not enough, and if you even have the right policies in place.

According to a recent study by the Pet Food Manufacturer’s association, there are 34 million pets in the UK including 12 million cats and 12 million dogs, 3.2 million small mammals, 3 million birds and 1.5 million reptiles or, to put it more simply, 17 million households in the UK are now responsible for a pet’s welfare.

That’s a lot of pets and, whether they are furry, fluffy or scaley, they are considered much-loved members of the family, who we are happy to spend approximately £7.9m a year on (a 170% increase since 2005.)

Whilst they aren’t necessarily cheap to own, there’s good reason to have pets in the family, too. Studies suggest we have pets because they ‘make us happier’ (84%) and ‘improve our mental health (86%).

Is pet insurance worth it?

Did you know that insurers paid out £785 million in claims in 2018? So, I think it’s safe to say that people get the value from it. It’s encouraging to see that there was a rise from 36% to 41% of people choosing to insure their pets in 2020 (https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/10540/pdsa-paw-report-2020.pdf). The average pet insurance claim has gone up by 75% over the last decade, whilst the average premium has gone up by 50% due to advances in veterinary treatment.

What does pet insurance cover? Are there pets you can’t insure?

Before we start, you should know that there are a few domestic pets you can’t insure. For instance, any dog under four weeks old or used for hunting, shooting, trade, or business cannot be insured. Dogs that are classified as ‘banned in the UK’ under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (or any crossed with any of these breeds) must be listed on the Index of Exempted Dogs before seeking specialist insurance, which must include third party public liability. Asian Leopard, Chausie and Keetso cats are also uninsurable.

All policies differ, but you can expect to find most of these things covered by your pet insurance policy:

  1. Vet’s bills
  2. Third party liability insurance
  3. Purchase price (returned on the death of your pet)
  4. Hospital visits
  5. Death from illness or injury (cost to replace pet)
  6. Theft or loss
  7. Complementary treatment

What you can expect not to be covered:

  1. Excess
  2. Routine treatments for dogs and cats
  3. Vaccinations
  4. Older pets
  5. Excluded breeds
  6. Pregnancy and giving birth
  7. Pre-existing illness or injury
  8. Euthanasia

How do you choose the best pet insurance?

So, presuming you are looking at a breed not mentioned above, how do you choose the most appropriate insurance for your pet, especially if you are a first-time pet owner?

Buying pet insurance

There are two ways of buying pet insurance, directly from the insurer either over the telephone or via the internet or as I’d recommend, from an adviser with experience in the field of pet insurance. Rather than spending hours staring at a computer screen trying to work out the difference between a vet fee limit and an excess, an adviser will talk you through the difference over the phone, and help you find the most suitable options available for you and your pet.

During your discussion they’ll ask about the kind of pet you’re thinking of buying, what kind of excess you’re happy to pay and of course, walk you through the fine print of the policy. Armed with all that information your adviser will most likely suggest a couple of suitable policies for you to choose from.

Do you have questions about insuring your pets? Contact our specialist insurance partner Partners&

Different types of pet insurance policies

Broadly, there are two main types of pet insurance policies, the cheaper ‘annual’ version or the more expensive ‘for life’ version. Before you rush to hit the ‘buy the cheapest one now’ button, there’s a very good reason why one is more expensive than the other, and buying the cheaper one could be a totally false economy. Let me explain.

Let’s take it as read that all policies come with certain standards like third party liability (for example, if your pet causes harm to another person/item) and accident cover (if your pet is in an accident and needs emergency care). Of course, excess and vet fee limits can differ, and they will need close inspection, but, what you really need to be asking yourself when choosing your pet insurance policy is, ‘should I go for an Annual or a For Life policy?’.

The ‘Annual’ pet insurance policy (Cheap up front – could be costly in the long run)

The main ‘problem’ with this policy is that any illness your dog gets in the first year of its life will NOT be covered in any following years. Let’s say your pet is diagnosed with a long-term condition like diabetes or a skin condition in year one which will sadly need treatment for the rest of his/her life. He or she will need regular medication and trips to the vets to monitor the condition. With an ‘annual policy’ these bills will only be covered in that first year. When you come to renew your policy for the following year, the diabetes or skin condition will be added to a list of items ‘not covered’ by your policy and you’ll be footing the bill for the pet’s treatment for the rest of its life, which could run into many thousands of pounds. Ask around, talk to any of your friends who have pets with chronic conditions – they’ll give you an idea of the cost of treatment.

The ‘For Life’ pet insurance policy (costs more each month – could save you thousands over time)

Staying with the same analogy, if your pet is diagnosed with a chronic condition in year one, with a For Life policy your pet is covered for the rest of its life, as long as you stay with that insurer -it won’t be covered if you change insurers. Simple as that. You will never have to worry about them getting a new ailment because it will always be covered, provided that it is an ailment that is covered by the policy

The pros and cons are that the For Life policy has higher monthly premium costs but the knowledge that your pet will be covered, versus with the Annual policy you’ll have a lower monthly premium, but you could potentially be paying ongoing bills for the next 10 to 15 years. On either plan, it’s important to note that any pre-existing medical conditions will be excluded prior to taking out the policy.

By Paul Finch, Insurance Adviser, Partners&

At Partners& our experienced team of insurance advisers have been helping people insure their pets for many years. With us as your adviser you have your own personal expert in the pet insurance world ready to answer your questions and make sure you receive appropriate advice and ultimately an appropriate policy for your pet’s needs. We hope you’ll never need it but, if you do, our claims team will help you with any claims for veterinary care you may have and can even help you add on another pet when you decide one fur baby isn’t enough (they warned you about that right?).

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