There is a lot to consider when you have a pet; from training methods, to choosing the best bed, toys and other accessories, vaccinations, change in routine; the list goes on and on. 

With so much on your mind, thinking of health problems that don’t even exist yet sounds like something you can push right to the bottom of your list of priorities; especially when insurance is so complicated. There are so many options, different companies, various policies, cover limits and hidden T&C. It’s so much to think about. And in the end everyone says “insurances never pay anyway”, it’s probably not even worth it, right?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a public system to look after our pet’s health. Private health care can be expensive. It is absolutely devastating when we don’t have the financial means to provide the health care our pets deserve. Furthermore, you can’t get your pet insured for something your pet already has; otherwise no one would insure their pets until they know they will benefit from it which is, understandably, not how insurances work.

The good news is that with just a little research on how insurance claims work, understanding pet insurance becomes much simpler. 

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What does pet insurance cover?

Every policy is different. But overall, insurance has been created to help cover the financial costs of accidents and illnesses, but what does this mean?

Accidents are unpredictable medical or surgical conditions that happen independently of the animal’s overall health and do not usually require life-long treatment. Examples of accidents are broken legs, poisoning, ingestion of foreign bodies and bite wounds.

Illnesses are conditions that are inherent to the animal’s body. And although external triggers or risk factors can exist, they are not the single causing agents. Examples of illnesses are hip dysplasia, diabetes mellitus, allergies, kidney stones and slip discs.

Is there anything that pet insurance doesn’t cover?

Insurance typically does not cover:

  • Preventative
  • Routine or cosmetic procedures
  • Procedures that have not been recommended by a vet
  • Illnesses that could have been prevented with vaccinations, such as leptospirosis or parvovirus
  • Preventative antiparasitic drugs
  • Neutering
  • Vaccinations
  • Dental scale and polish.

There are some exceptions to this rule. If, for example, having cover for dental procedures is important to you, you may look for an insurance company that offers policies that cover these procedures.

Insurance also does not cover pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing conditions are the ones that were present when you first got your pet insured with that company. For example, if your pet was seen by a vet for hip pain before you got your insurance, they may exclude all conditions affecting the hips; even if your pet was insured with a different company beforehand. Some insurance companies only exclude conditions that were present in a set period of time. For example if the hip pain was last mentioned in the clinical history more than 5 years before you make a claim, certain policies may offer cover for it.

When you first start your insurance, most companies only cover for illnesses after a set period, for example two weeks. Cover for accidents usually starts straight away, depending on the policy. This is to prevent people from getting insurance only when they know their pet became ill and will need it. Accidents are usually covered straight away due to their unpredictable nature.

What are the different types of policies?

There are a lot of options when it comes to pet insurance policies, and they mostly vary on what they cover, how much they cover, how much you have to pay when you claim and how long they cover for.

With regards to what a policy covers, the main difference and the most important aspect to focus on is whether they are “accident only” policies or if they cover both accidents and illnesses. Other than that, there are other more specific situations some policies cover and others don’t. Such as compensation if your pet goes missing, cremation options if your pet passes away or dental treatments.

The amount that insurance covers for can vary 

On average, it’s between £1000 and £15000. With such a huge range, it can be hard to decide what to go for if you don’t have a lot of experience with pets and veterinary overall costs. Specialist-level surgery, chemotherapy or conditions that require intensive and emergency care can easily reach £10k in one year. For this reason, you should insure your pet with as much as you can afford to. As well as choosing how much you need, you should pay attention to whether the amount you choose is your total amount to spend per year for all conditions. Or if you can use that amount per condition, per year. For example, ideally you want to be able to claim up to £10k for allergies, plus up to £10k if your pet breaks their leg, etc.

Every time you open a claim you have to pay a fixed amount, called the excess. Excesses vary between policies but they are usually around £100 on average. After you pay your excess, some companies pay everything else; others require you to pay a percentage of the treatment, around 20% on average. 

Another large difference between insurance policies is how long they cover for. 

There is, again, a lot to choose from. However, the three main ones are lifetime policies, where the amount your pet is insured with renews every year, regardless of how much you spend; maximum benefit policies, where you have a fixed amount of money to spend on each condition; and time-limited policies (usually one year), where you have a limited period to claim for a certain condition and, after that, the condition is excluded from your policy. Lifetime policies are the best policies for chronic conditions, such as allergies, osteoarthritis, diabetes or kidney disease for example, which require lifelong veterinary treatment.

Where can I get help?

Although there are a few points to consider, hopefully you have a better understanding of how everything works. And therefore, will be well equipped to choose the insurance that best suits yours and your pet’s needs. Although vets are not allowed to advise on insurance, most veterinary practices offer help liaising with your insurance when you need to make a claim, making the whole process simpler and more straightforward.

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