Did you know that you are more likely to claim on your pet insurance than your car or household insurance and whilst advances in veterinary medicine mean we can do more for your pet, treatment costs can soon mount up.
With the average claim being £715 for a dog and £501 for a cat (according to Petplan) it's easy to see why pet insurance isn't just a luxury.
It's important to look at more than just the price as the level of cover also varies from insurer to insurer. Some providers also offer different levels of cover so you need to pay attention to the policy details.
Here are some things to check when comparing policies:
There will be an excess which means you pay a certain amount of any claim. Standard excesses on pet insurance policies tend to be around £50 to £100 but check the small print as some providers will double the excess if the claim exceeds a certain amount.
The most common reason for a pet insurance claim is to cover a vet's bill. Most policies have an annual cap on the amount they will pay out - this can vary so check what the upper limit is. Some also impose a lower limit on the amount you can claim per condition. For example, you may have £4,000 of cover a year for vet's fees but the maximum you can claim for any one condition is £2,500.
You won't be covered for all veterinary treatment so check what's excluded. Common exclusions are spaying or castration fees, annual vaccinations and pre-existing medical conditions.
This can be quite an important one. If your pet develops a long-term condition, such as asthma or diabetes, it will require ongoing treatment. Some insurers will only cover the cost for the duration of the policy whereas others offer a lifetime of cover, although the total cost you can claim for a single condition is often capped. The lifetime option is obviously better - the premium will probably be higher, but it could be money well spent.
If your pet's illness is only covered until the policy ends you will not be able to get the cost of treatment paid in subsequent years as it will then be classed as a pre-existing condition, so no insurer will cover it. If you opt for lifetime cover, and your pet does contract a long-term condition, it will mean that although you have to reinsure with the same provider each year, you at least have the reassurance that you won't have to pay the treatment costs yourself. It can therefore prove a very valuable condition of your policy.
Many policies don't include dental care, or if they do they only cover accidents and not standard dental care, yet treatment for associated problems cost British pet owners £28.5m a year (according to Sainsbury's Bank). Look for a policy that provides dental cover for both illnesses and accidents as some policies cover accidents only.
If monthly payments are an option check to see if they are 'calendar' or 'lunar' payments. Calendar payments are 12 equal amounts a year, but lunar payments are taken every 28 days resulting in 13 payments over the year. You may also be charged interest if you opt to pay monthly so if you can afford to, it often works out cheaper to pay up front.
Some policies offer additional benefits such as a financial reward if your pet goes missing and a 24-hour support line.
In addition watch out for age limits, whether your animal is covered during any commercial events such as dog shows and whether you are covered if you take your pet abroad.