Is pet insurance worth it?

Published by Johanna Gornitzki on 02 November 2009.
Last updated on 25 August 2011

Dog at the vets

"I have insured my pets with Petplan as everyone recommends it. It is costing me approximately £24 a month but the excess is still £70 (it doesn’t do a smaller excess).

I have also done searches on other insurance providers and they are all similar for what they call a lifeplan.

What do you think – are we all 
being ripped off or is pet insurance a good idea?"

Ask the Professionals: Francis Klonowski, principal of Klonowski & Co in Leeds, says:

There’s an old tongue-in-cheek 
saying about insurance: “if you’re lucky this will turn out to be a waste of money”. And there is also a truism about all forms of insurance: by the time you realise you need it, you are often too late.

Perhaps it’s best to think of it this way: do you want to take on the risk of paying for expensive treatment yourself – or would you prefer to pass that risk on to an insurance company?

If you decide insurance is the better option, you then need to ensure that you have the right cover – which is more important than having the right premium. Determine what exactly is covered, so you know under what circumstances it will pay out.

Also you should bear in mind, that like humans, animals are more likely to need medical care the older they get – and like us they can become uninsurable just at the point when they could really do with it.   

Moneywise says:

Britain is a nation of animal lovers and little wonder as owning a cat, dog, goldfish or even a hamster is believed to reduce stress, release endorphins to make us feel happy and provide companionship.

But keeping the four-legged addition to your family healthy can be expensive. A whopping 2.5 million people say they have declined recommended treatment for their pet cat or dog because they simply couldn't afford the cost, according to research by Sainsbury’s Bank.

Taking out pet insurance could be the solution for those animal lovers who are keen to avoid the expense of medical treatment. But before you slash out on this type of policy, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Whether you’re a cat or dog person, a fan of singing canaries or prefer creepy crawlies, the sort of animal you own will have a bearing on the premium you pay. The cheapest policies tend to only cover ‘common’ pets. Also be aware that pedigree breeds can be costlier to insure.

Most pet insurance policies cover kennel fees, rewards should your pet be lost or stolen, and even the cost of pet burial or cremation. But for dog owners, one of the most important aspects is public liability. While dog attacks are rare, if your pet does attack someone, the cost of meeting legal bills and compensation claims could be substantial. To safeguard against this, make sure that your policy includes a substantial amount of third-party liability cover as standard.

Even the most basic of policies will cover veterinary fees in the event of injury, accident or illness, plus the price of anaesthetics, X-rays and medicines. However, most policies won’t cover your pet for routine treatments such as vaccinations, flea control or dental treatment. Pre-existing conditions and those arising in the first 10 or 30 days after you take out the policy also tend to be excluded.

You should also take claim limits into consideration, as some policies only allow you to claim for a certain type of medical condition over a set period. Or, if your veterinary bill exceeds a pre-agreed limit in any one year, you might find that you have to cough up the rest of the money yourself.

Finally, some policies only cover your pet up to a certain age.

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