Dog Insurance – do you need it?

Dog insurance acts as a safety net to help protect you against unexpected bills related to your dog. The most obvious reason to have insurance on your  dog is to cover unforeseen veterinary bills, which the costs can continue to grow every year! However, it can seem like an unnecessary expense. So how much does it cost and what should a good policy include?

As the video suggests its really worth getting your dog insured while their young, fit and well. Trying to cover pre-existing conditions can be expensive and hard work.

Is Dog Insurance worth it? – let’s look at some maths…

The average pet insurance claim is £750, but claims can run into the thousands, even tens of thousands if your pet develops an on-going condition. If you’re unsure if pet insurance is worth it, consider how you would deal with an unexpected bill. You’ll need to balance this with the cost of your premiums and the likelihood that you’ll make a claim. For example, older animals can cost more to insure, but are often more likely to need medical attention. Based on some recent research – the cost to X-ray your dogs back legs could cost around £355, this includes sedation as well as the X-ray itself.

Self-insuring, which is discussed in more detail below, is a perfectly valid alternative, but requires a lot of discipline to ensure money is always available, particularly if covering expensive, on-going care. With this in mind, you certainly need to think about dog insurance, however, there are a few things to consider first.

What are the risks? – Different Dogs carry different risks.

For example, pedigree dogs  can be more susceptible to:

  • illness
  • congenital diseases
  • hereditary conditions, and
  • are more likely to be stolen.

Certain breeds are more vulnerable to specific problems. For example, larger dogs are more likely to suffer from joint and back problems, while bulldogs can develop respiratory difficulties.

What can Dog Insurance cover?

Like most forms of insurance, dog insurance policies and provisions can vary widely. This means it is very important to get the right cover for your pet so do your research and read the fine print of your policy. Along with veterinary bills, typical items that can be included are:

  • Loss and theft of your pet: make sure this covers your dogs purchase price or near to it, which you might require proof of, otherwise your insurer might pay ‘market value’. The insurance company might also pay towards the cost of advertising your lost pet (£300 or more) and the cost of a reward for its recovery (£250 or more). Although a treasured member of the family can never be replaced, some policies will offer sufficient cover to replace your pet if they are not found. Its also important to check your meet the insurance companies criteria, often the dog must be chipped and you have the I.D. number to hand.
  • Treatment for behavioural problems: should also be covered in a good policy and cover needs to be for £500 or more. The treatment might also need to be carried out by a professional organisation or under the direction of a vet.
  • Death by illness or injury: will need to cover the dogs purchase price. You might be required to arrange for a qualified vet to certify the cause of death. An age limit usually applies to cover for death by illness. A good policy should also cover euthanasia if your dog has to be put down.
  • Liability cover: This will cover any costs you’re legally responsible for paying if someone is injured or property gets damaged in an incident involving your dog. Cover is usually for £1 million or more, but only costs the insurer has agreed to will be covered. Most policies also specify that you shouldn’t admit liability. You can get dog insurance either just to cover this situation (third party) or as part of a more comprehensive pet insurance policy. The Dogs Trust will give you third party cover up to £1 million as part of their membership.

Kennel fees if you have to go into hospital for more than 4 days in a row. Cover needs to be for £500 or more.

Any emergency treatment your dog might need when travelling abroad. Cover needs to be for £1,500 or more.

Veterinary Bills – one of the most important aspects

Remember you still have to pay for regular treatment including annual jabs. If you fail to keep up with these your insurer might not pay out if you need to make a claim.

Covering expensive and unexpected vet bills is the main reason people take out pet insurance. It can cover a wide range of veterinary treatments, but you should carefully check your policy to understand exactly what can be claimed for, how much you’ll get and for how long.

Some treatments that can be covered include:

  • General vet cost: including a range of treatments for accidents, injuries and illnesses.
  • Hereditary and congenital conditions: health problems developed through inherited characteristics or have existed since birth. Generally, these are not classified as existing or ongoing conditions. However, you’ll need to make sure the cover is ‘unrestricted’ rather than only under certain circumstances.
  • Long-term and ongoing conditions: normally only be covered if you have a lifetime policy. You’ll need to check the individual policy to establish how much cover you have in this area. An example of this is diabetes, special dietary food costs can mount up.
  • Dental care: covered on some pet insurance policies, but not all. Most of the time, it covers dental care required due to accident, illness or injury, but not for cosmetic work.
  • Alternative treatments: such as homeopathy, acupuncture and physiotherapy, can be covered through your pet insurance if recommended by a vet.
  • Breeding risks or costs: related to pregnancy are not always included. If you’re planning to use your dog for breeding then you’ll need to make sure this is covered. Spaying or neutering your dog will normally result in an insurance premium reduction, often this procedure can reduce a range of health risks.

Before choosing a policy, make sure you know the maximum amount of cover it will provide towards vets’ fees.

Remember most policies won’t cover pre-existing health conditions and preventative or non-essential treatments. The maximum amount of cover that different types of policies provide for vet bills is usually:

● £6,000 per year for life

● £5,000 per condition per year for life

● £5,000 or more per condition in total

You just need to make sure you are comfortable with the fact your policy will provide enough cover, you will be responsible for any shortfall.

Claims basis for vet bills

A Dog insurance policies ‘claims basis’ determines how it covers vets’ fees.The cover can apply ‘per year’, ‘per condition’, ‘per condition per year’, or ‘per condition – no time limit’.

Per year: provides a set amount of money towards veterinary treatment in each policy year. If the limit is reached in the policy year, cover for the costs of treatment will stop until the policy is renewed the following year. When the policy is renewed, the cover for veterinary treatment is also renewed.

Per condition: provides a set amount of money towards veterinary treatment for each condition or illness within the policy year. Once this limit has been reached, no cover will be provided for that condition or illness in later years.

Per condition, per year: provides a set amount of money towards veterinary treatment for all conditions and illnesses in each policy year. If the limit is reached in the policy year, cover for the costs of treatment will stop until the policy is renewed the following year.

Per condition – no time limit: unlike standard ‘per condition’ policies, these policies will pay out for conditions needing treatment year after year.

Types of Dog insurance cover

Lifetime: This is the most comprehensive type of cover you can get. You pay premiums every year during your dogs life and the insurer will have to keep covering you regardless of age or any existing conditions (subject to conditions). However, as you dog gets older your premiums are likely to go up.

Annual: You pay for 12 months’ worth of cover on a rolling basis, giving you the option to switch to a cheaper policy each year. This kind of policy costs less, but might offer less comprehensive cover and generally will not cover pre-existing conditions. You’ll also struggle to find insurance as your dog gets older.

Accident only: The most basic and cheapest level of cover available. It covers accidents (such as your dog being hit by a car), but not illnesses.

According to Which? 70% of all pet insurance claims are for illness, not accidents. 

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