The number of insurance companies offering coverage to pets is on the rise in the UK, as are the numbers of pet owners making the very sensible decision to insure their pets against the future cost of veterinary treatment, loss and other unforeseen emergencies. However, with the sheer range of companies and policy options on the market, as well as the ever-present small print and fine details included in any policy, finding the right policy for you and your pet can be something of a minefield. If you are shopping around for pet insurance, read our top ten tips first, to make sure that you find the right policy for you and that your pet will be covered when you need it most.
Insurance is, by it’s very nature, designed to help you in the event of an unforeseen illness or other event. That means that in order to ensure you can get the help you need when you need it, your pet must be insured prior to something happening. Waiting until your pet becomes injured or ill is waiting too long- insurers will not offer coverage for pre-existing conditions or ongoing problems that started before the insurance policy became live.
If your pet has any pre-existing conditions, has hereditary risk factors or there is anything else that your policy specifically asks you about, make sure you tell them about it in full and honestly. Lying on your pet insurance forms not only means that your whole policy could be invalidated- that means no cover when you need it, even for conditions or occurrences that are unrelated to the issue you did not disclose honestly- but you could potentially be prosecuted for fraud.
If your dog is a working dog, or on the ‘dangerous dogs’ control list (even if perfectly legal) you might find that a standard catch-all insurance policy designed for domestic pets is not suitable for you. Many insurers will not cover working dogs or so-called dangerous dog breeds under their standard policy cover, and you might have to contact a specialist insurer or ask for a bespoke policy to be designed to offer your pet coverage.
Many insurance companies have an upper age limit at which they will no longer accept new clients, but will be happy to offer continued coverage for pets which have reached maturity after being insured with them for some years. The cost of pet insurance policies tends to jump up after pets reach maturity, generally around the age of seven or eight, and your pet will probably be more costly to insure with a new insurer after this age than they will be to remain with a current insurer with which you have already build up a history and relationship.
Most pet insurance policies include a caveat denoting that your pet must have an annual health check and be vaccinated against the main transmissible conditions and diseases for their species (unless there is a veterinary reason why they may be unable to receive their immunisations) failing which, your policy might be deemed invalid.
Pet insurance does not generally provide coverage and payment for routine healthcare and veterinary visits. Annual vaccinations and boosters will have to come out of your own pocket, as will routine dental treatments and generally, any other dental procedures that occur as a result of lack of preventative care.
With pet insurance, as with most things, there is a lot to be gained by shopping around. Price comparison sites can be helpful here, and generally list the majority of the larger insurance companies. Some pet insurance firms, however, cannot be found on price comparison sites, so you may have to look into insurance with them individually. Direct Line and Aviva insurance, for instance, only offer insurance directly, and not via third party brokers.
Most insurance companies offer a range of policy add-ons as well as covering veterinary treatment fees as standard. Third party cover protects you from the cost of liability if your pet causes damage or injury to a person or property, and add-ons to help you with the cost of finding and recovering a lost pet can be invaluable if you come to need them.
Factors such as the area in which you live and where your pet is kept can affect the cost of your policy and the coverage it provides to you. Tell your insurer promptly if you move house or any other changes to your pet’s day to day life occur, as it might affect your coverage in the event of a claim.
Some veterinary visits will come in at a lower cost than the excess of your policy- this means that the amount you have agreed with your insurer that you will contribute towards your pet’s treatment may sometimes be more than the cost of the treatment. Make sure you have a contingency fund put by to pay for these lower cost veterinary visits, and to pay your part of the excess of your policy in the event that more costly treatment is required.