Many households own a pet these days, but how many of those pets are insured? Well, on average, only 46% of our pets actually have insurance. That isn’t a lot really is it? Many people don’t think pet insurance is worth it as they have never claimed. But what happens that day when your pet is very ill and requires emergency treatment? Or when they need to be referred to another hospital for specialised treatment? Is it then beneficial to have pet insurance and what can you do with it?

What is pet insurance?

We all have house insurance, car insurance but do we all have pet insurance? Unfortunately there isn’t an NHS for our pets so we do have to source our own funds for treatment. It isn’t a legal requirement to have your pet insured but it can be very beneficial. Pet insurance is there to help cover any veterinary costs. Some of us may never claim in our pets lifetime. But then some animals do get a lot of problems and having insurance is a great help.

Having pet insurance is highly recommended by vets because it allows for the best treatment possible for your animals. Of course, pet insurance doesn’t cover preventative health care, like vaccinations or neutering: it’s there for unforeseeable expenses. That said, some may cover for dental problems but there is some small print to read with that one. Having pet insurance is particularly handy to have for emergency treatment and for referral treatment. As these parts of veterinary care can easily jump from hundreds to thousands of pounds, depending on the situation. 

So what policy do I choose?

Looking at pet insurance policy’s is a bit of a minefield. There are so many out there, all offering different prices, different cover, why can’t there just be one policy that fits all! Unfortunately you do have to shop around to see what policy suits you and your pet a bit like when choosing car insurance. 

This page will discuss the different types of policies insurance companies offer. Just be aware that you can’t take out an insurance policy if a condition has already been noted by your vet. For example, if your pet has ongoing lameness in its back leg and it needs further investigation, your insurance will often not cover you for this and it’s a pre-existing condition. 

What does pet insurance allow me to do?

Having pet insurance, as long as it’s a good policy, allows you to provide the best treatment and further investigations for your pet. Sometimes our first opinion vets don’t have the equipment to investigate further – for example, MRI or CT scanners. Which means your pet could get referred to a specialist hospital which has all the equipment. Sometimes, it’s a particularly complicated case, or unusual and complex surgery, in which case it’s usually best to get them seen by the specialist vets who specialise in that particular group of conditions or types of procedure. 

Nowadays most insurance policies cover for this referral (policy depending). Meaning that you can help your pet and have the right answers and treatment without having to pay for it all yourself, apart from the excess (OK, some policyholders do have to pay a percentage, always read the small print!). It also allows for follow up treatment as needed once the “big” stuff is done. That could be further medication, or your pet needing physiotherapy, for example. 

Overall, pet insurance allows us to provide the best possible care and treatment for our pets without having to worry about money; as money is always a factor when discussing treatment plans. 

Are there any limitations with insurance?

The answer to this is yes. As there are many different insurance policies with different small print, unfortunately there are usually limits on what we can do. This could be…

  • The policy only pays a certain amount per year for the condition and the amount isn’t enough.
  • The policy only pays for the condition for a year then it is excluded.
  • Certain procedures are ruled out and not paid for.
  • Certain breeds aren’t covered for certain conditions.
  • The age of the animal could mean that they don’t cover for certain conditions or cover at all!
  • Treatment plans may be restricted as they won’t pay for certain treatments. 

There are always going to be limitations with everything, it’s not just pet insurance. Looking at the limitations compared to what it can allow you to do, however, shows that there is a place for pet insurance and it can be very valuable to us to have. 

Do I need pet insurance if my pet needs to be referred?

Say your dog or cat is injured or very sick and your vet has offered referral treatment. What does this mean? To take your animal to a referral hospital means you’re getting specialist treatment from a vet that has done further education/studied in a specific area of interest. Whilst all vets are taught the same some do go on to do further studies and specialise.

However, referral work can be thousands of pounds, a lot more than it would cost you at a first opinion practice. This is where having pet insurance helps. Although you can still take your pet for a referral without insurance you must be aware of the costs from the beginning. 

If it is the case that you’re not insured but want a referral, we need to communicate with the vets to get an idea of costings, as you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket. One easily-forgotten thing we do need to consider is follow up treatment: that is almost always an extra cost, can we afford this? The majority of pets that are referred are insured, for this reason, but it is perfectly possible to take a referral if not… it just costs! It’s also why, if you have a breed that is predisposed to certain conditions, it is worth insuring from day one. 


So I think we can conclude that having pet insurance is really important? Some may disagree, and would rather save money monthly but when we have spent this money it is gone and we’ll have to wait to save more, whereas with insurance that money is always there to use. Yes there are limitations but they out way how beneficial it is, especially when your pet needs further investigations!

One final tip – whether you’re insured or not, always discuss the costs with the vet before embarking on any treatment plan!

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