We all hope that our pets never become ill, but failing that, there’s pet insurance! Or at least we hope so. Pet insurance enables many pets to have treatments that their owners couldn’t otherwise afford and provides peace of mind for owners. However, many of us don’t read the small print and are frequently surprised by what is and isn’t covered on our pet insurance. So, does pet insurance cover dietary issues? 

The answer is yes, most of the time. 

Dietary issues, such vomiting, diarrhoea, and anorexia (not wanting to eat) are some of the most common reasons that owners bring their pets to the vet. It can also be the first presenting sign of some very serious conditions; although simple stomach upsets do happen to dogs and cats as well. 

If your pet vomits or has diarrhoea, then you should contact your veterinary surgery. Mild bouts of gastroenteritis can be easily managed, often with a short period of fasting, light diet, and frequent drinks of small amounts of water. However, some episodes may need further treatment and investigation. 

Many serious diseases can cause vomiting and it is not always obvious of the cause on the initial examination. Blood tests and x-rays may be necessary to make a diagnosis, or at least rule out problems such as pancreatitis, gut obstructions, kidney failure etc.

Other investigations such as faecal tests (collecting a poo sample) may be required to rule out parasites or food poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella or E coli

Animals who are dehydrated and won’t eat, or can’t keep food and water down may need to be hospitalised and placed on a drip to rehydrate them or wash toxins out of their body. The cost for this intensive treatment can quickly mount up. This is one of the instances where Pet Insurance can be invaluable, as these are almost always unexpected emergencies.

But will insurance pay for this treatment? 

Generally yes, although there are a few considerations. Firstly, insurance companies do not cover things they call ‘pre-existing conditions’. In simple terms, most will not pay for anything which could be linked to a problem that your pet had before they were insured. For example; if your puppy had treatment for diarrhoea and then you took out insurance, they might refuse to cover any sort of gastro-intestinal problem.

Whilst insurance companies may remove these exclusions after a year, this is only at their discretion and you must contact them to ask them to do so. 

You should also disclose any problems which your pet suffered from before you took out the insurance. This is so you know what they will and won’t pay for. The first thing the insurance company will ask for when you make a claim is your pet’s veterinary history. Therefore they will see any problems your pet has had, even if you didn’t mention them when you started the insurance.

The best way to avoid this is to take out insurance as early as possible. 

You can even start a policy before you take your pet home. Puppies and kittens from responsible breeders often come with 4 weeks free veterinary cover, which would cover you initially even if you haven’t sorted anything out.

You should also arrange a veterinary examination within the first few days of owning your pet. 

This has many benefits. It helps to make your puppy or kitten feel more settled at the veterinary practice and allows you to ask questions and get familiar with the vet and the other staff. Any problems can be picked up here before they worsen; or you can feel reassured that your pet is healthy. The vets will often give you 4 weeks free Pet Insurance cover too.

You may need to activate both breed and veterinary insurance cover. So listen carefully or read the instructions and don’t just stuff the piece of paper in a bag. Take out the best insurance you can and stick with that company. If you change insurers, they may add exclusions for more pre-existing conditions. 

Whether, or for how long, your insurance company will pay also depends on the type of insurance you have taken out.

There are big differences between policies which offer lifetime cover and time or amount limited policies. 

Some policies will cover any new condition for the first year. But after this, they will not pay out for anything the animal has suffered before. So you can only have treatment for each condition for a year. This is not ideal for a pet who keeps getting vomiting episodes! Others will pay for an unlimited period, but have a low limit per condition or problem e.g. £4000. This might sound a lot, but it’s not for a lifetime of veterinary care. 

The best insurance companies have what is called lifetime cover, where no exclusions are added, and the cover renews to whatever you chose as your limit each year. You will need to pay an excess annually, but anything above this can be claimed back. These are also the most expensive policies, but often represent much better value for money. 

What if your pet needs a special diet? 

Some dietary issues need to be managed with hypoallergenic diets as your pet cannot tolerate certain foods, or food intolerance needs to be excluded as part of the diagnosis. Most insurance companies will not pay for pet foods, although some will for certain conditions eg dissolving bladder stones. A few insurance companies will cover food, so seek those out if food cover is important to you. 

So, in summary, insurance companies will generally cover dietary issues. But check your small print carefully when you take out a policy, so that you know exactly what is covered!

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