We all know that owning a pet isn’t exactly cheap, but us Brits love our pets and will go to great lengths to ensure that they are well looked after, happy and healthy. In fact in an article recently published in The Telegraph, statistics show that in the past year alone the UK has spent a whopping ?6bn on their pets, ranging from general upkeep (food, housing etc.) to the surge in popularity of pet pampering. With us investing so much money into our furry friends it is incredibly important to think about their health and wellbeing in the longer term, which is why it is vital to have a solid health plan in place. But if your pet is already a member of one of the many pet healthcare plans available, do you still need to get them insured?
Firstly, we need to establish what exactly health care plans are able to offer you and your pet and then compare it against the benefits of pet insurance. So, if you’re confused as to what is the best way to protect your pet, read on for the Insurance Advice Bureau‘s guide to pet health plans v’s pet insurance:
There are lots of different types of pet health plans available and your veterinary surgery will be able to advise you on which one is best for your pet, in fact it is highly likely they will have their own health care scheme or at least be a member of one. Health plans are available for a set fee each month; usually around ?8-?15 depending on the animal, and although each plan will differ slightly in general they will include the following benefits for your pet:
- discounts on consultations
- discounts on medications
- discounted or, in some instances, free vaccinations
- nail clipping
- discounts on neutering
- free health care check ups
- discounts on food, some even include a free bag each month
- dental treatments
If you take full advantage of what a pet health plan has to offer, they can work out incredibly good value and will, without doubt, save you money. It also acts as a great reminder for all those vital, yet routine procedures, such as annual vaccinations, that you may simply end up forgetting about. Most health plans will allow you to pay by direct debit each month, making it both convenient and a way of easing the cost of caring for your pet. As a responsible pet owner, your pet’s healthcare is your number one priority and registering your pet into a good pet care plan is a simple, cost effective way of giving your pet the absolute best, whilst also giving you peace of mind that your pet will be properly looked after. We like to think of it in the same way as you would maintain your car. In order for your car to work it’s best, look it’s best and to stay in good working order for as long as it possible can it is essential that it is regularly maintained. It will have an MOT, its oil checked and changed, tyres replaced when needed and powered by the correct fuel. Likewise, your pet should be having regular check ups, vaccinations, nails clipped and given the right, balanced food to guarantee optimum health. Prevention is better than cure, so if you can give your pet the best health care, the less likely they are to develop certain illnesses.
You might well be thinking that if you invest in a pet health plan then why would you need pet insurance as well? Using the car analogy again, you wouldn’t think twice about not insuring your car, even though you regularly maintain it, so why would you not do this for your pet as well? It is certainly a risk you need to decide whether to take or not. Some people may argue that if your pet is very young and they are registered with a pet health plan, then the likelihood of something happening to their pet is very slim. In this instance, then yes maybe you don’t need insurance, but what if something did happen? What if your beloved pet was in an accident and needed surgery, could you afford the cost of an operation, an overnight stay, after care and medication? Vet bills can soon add up and how awful would it be if you had to face the decision of whether you could afford for your pet to go to the vet or not?
There are four different types of pet insurance available and you must make sure you know exactly which one you want and which one you are signing up for, or you may end up either paying for more than you need or find that you are not covered for everything you thought you might be.
Accident only cover
This is a basic level of pet insurance and, as the name would suggest, purely covers your pet for if they have been involved in an accident. Your pet will not be covered for any illnesses they may contract and there may also be a time limit; meaning treatment will only be paid for up to a certain length of time after the accident.
Time limited condition cover
This is also a basic level of insurance and is often the cheapest option. Although it covers your pet against accidents an illnesses it will be for a limited period only and there will be either an excess or a maximum payout imposed on it. Therefore, if the cost of treatment reaches the payout limit, you will no longer be covered and will have to finance the remainder of the bill yourself.
This policy provides mid-level cover that is not restricted to a set time limit. This means that should your pet become ill, you will be covered for as long as the treatment is required, although you will still need to remember to renew the policy after 12 months. One important thing to note however, is that re-occurring illness or injury will not be covered by this particular type of policy.
This is the top level of pet insurance policies and naturally the most expensive, but if you want to be absolutely certain your pet is covered for every eventuality, then this is the insurance for you. There will of course be some exclusions, which is why you must read the terms and conditions very carefully in order to see what your pet is and isn’t covered against. Some policies may include extras such as dental fees or burial expense, but if you don’t want these included in your policy, speak to the insurer and ask if they can amend it to suit your requirements. Quite frankly, if you don’t ask you don’t get and many insurers will be so desperate for your custom in today’s highly competitive market, they are likely to be happy to come up with a tailor made policy for you. Peter Jones, who is president of the British Veterinary Association, explains that all pet insurance policies have some exclusions, “The most common being pre-existing conditions, anything related to pregnancy or birth, and any routine, preventive or planned treatments such as vaccinations and spaying.”
There are certain factors that will influence how expensive your pet insurance policy will be, for instance getting your pet microchipped and neutered will reduce the premium whereas if the pet you are trying to insure is a breed that is known for having a history of genetic disorders, the cost of the policy will increase. Paying for pet insurance, like any other insurance, is a gamble. Your pet may go the whole of it’s life without ever needing to go to the vets, in which case you will have paid to insure it for no good reason. On the other hand, you could find your pet ends up in countless accidents or is prone to getting ill and you may end up in and out of the veterinary surgery every other week.? There is just no way of knowing, but taking out pet insurance at least offers you the peace of mind that should something go wrong, you will get financial help to give your pet the best care and treatment available. The consumer body, Which? advises, “Pet insurance is as much about peace of mind as it is about money. You may pay insurance premiums for years and never make a claim. But think about whether you could afford a huge vet’s bill if your pet fell ill or had an accident in the short term”.
In conclusion, if you can afford to, we would advise pet owners to take out both pet insurance and a pet health care plan, however we realise that this is not financially viable for everyone. You must weigh up which option works best for your circumstances and ask yourself these questions:
- How old is your pet? (Certain insurance policies won’t insure animals over a certain age, in which case go for a health plan instead.)
- What type of pet do you have?
- What regular maintenance are they likely to need?
- Will you use all of the features offered on a healthcare plan?
- Are you more likely to benefit from financial assistance with routine treatments?
- Are you able to put money aside yourself, in order to self fund any potential treatment?