Nobody wants to contemplate their furry friend being unwell. Sadly, however, most pets will need veterinary treatment at some point in their lives… some more often than others! It’s important to be prepared for this, and pet insurance is a great way to be prepared financially. However, choosing a pet insurance can be confusing! Let’s take a closer look.

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to afford treatment for your pet, should the need arise. 

Depending on the company and the policy, pet insurance can cover:

  • Vet bills for treatment, tests and surgery arising from an accident or illness
  • Third party liability, should your dog injure a person or damage their property (generally dogs only)
  • Advertising a lost or stolen pet
  • Emergency treatment for your pet when travelling abroad
  • Euthanasia (some will also cover the cost of cremation)
  • Dental treatment, although this is sometimes injury only

Of course, just as with car or our own health insurance, different companies and different policies differ widely on what they do and don’t cover. It’s really important that you research what type of cover your pet needs, and what suits your budget.

Do I need pet insurance?

Advances in veterinary medicine (meaning vets can do more and more to help your pets) alongside inflation and the rising cost of living mean that vet bills can quickly add up. It’s important that you consider how you will afford treatment, should your pet need it. For many people, the answer is to pay monthly or annually into a pet insurance policy.

Sometimes people choose to ‘self-insure’, meaning they pay monthly into a savings account for their pet instead. While this has the benefit that you don’t ‘waste’ any money if your pet doesn’t need treatment, the downside is that your pet may need treatment before you have had time to save enough money. 

Remember, dog owners are legally responsible for their dogs, so are liable for any damage they may cause. Most pet insurance will cover third party liability, should your pet injure a person or their property. 

The simple answer is that pet insurance is not compulsory, but it is definitely recommended. 

Which insurance company do vets recommend? 

Can vets recommend an insurance company? All vets are bound by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Code of Conduct. When it comes to insurance, this code states: 

“Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should not be seen to favour any particular insurer, unless they are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority or formally linked with a registered insurer.”

This means that all vets can give you general advice on pet insurance, but they can’t recommend a particular insurer, nor advise against one. Having said that, many vet practices will be linked with a pet insurer, meaning they can offer 4 weeks free insurance for your puppy, kitten or kit. Many breeders and rescue centres offer this too. 

If you haven’t already taken out any pet insurance and you are offered 4 weeks free, then it makes sense to accept it! You are under no obligation to continue the cover beyond the 4 weeks, and sometimes the cover offered is immediate. This can allow you some time to do your research and choose an insurer, and a policy, that suits you. 

Bear in mind that if you need to claim before you take out an insurance policy, future insurers may put exclusions on your policy for a pre-existing condition. So the sooner you take out a policy, the better. 

This also means that it’s important you are comfortable with what’s being offered as a free policy, since if you need to claim during the free 4 weeks, it may then make sense to stick with that policy. You also need to make sure you don’t have any gaps in your pet’s cover. If you are going to change insurers, make sure the new policy starts before the 4 free weeks run out.

Take home messages?

Pet insurance is recommended, but by no means compulsory. Your vet is well placed to advise you on the general facts around insurance policies, but usually won’t be able to recommend a particular company. They can advise on the many types of cover available.

Your veterinary practice may be in a position to offer you 4 weeks free pet insurance. Your vet practice is trying to be helpful! You are under no obligation to accept this, nor to continue it beyond the 4 weeks. 

If you do choose to insure your pet, there are a large number of pet insurers and policies to choose from, to suit all needs and budgets. It’s a good idea to discuss with your vet what level of cover your pet may need. It’s also very sensible to arrange cover to start from when you take ownership of your pet, to try to avoid possible exclusions on your policy. 

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