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Info Guides

Our pet Info Guides are there to help you understand better your pets and pet-related issues, from advice about dogs and hotels to vets and pet insurance. If there's a topic we've not covered and you'd like to see, please contact us.

Guide To Pet Insurance

There are lots of insurance companies offering pet insurance.  So how do you work out which one is the right policy for you and your pet?  What should you be looking for?

This guide looks at some of the issues you may wish to consider, when choosing an insurance policy for your pet.  This is not an advert for any particular insurance company.  Our aim is to give you an independent guide, so you can decide which insurance policy is the right one for you.

Price

You know the saying - you get what you pay for.  Never is that more true than in the world of insurance.  Don't look solely at which is the cheapest policy.  You also need to look at the terms and conditions.

We know that no one likes reading the 'small print' so we've set out what we think the key issues are when comparing insurance policies.  Make sure, when you're comparing price, that you're comparing similar policies (not apples and pears!).

Age of your pet

Many insurance companies will not insure pets over a set age, usually 8 or 9 for dogs, older for cats.  If your pet is already over that age, you'll have to look elsewhere for your insurance.

If your pet is under the maximum age when you start the insurance, that's usually no problem.  As long as you keep the insurance going, with no gaps, the cover will continue as your pet gets older.  But swapping to a new insurance company with an older pet can be difficult.

Lifetime policies

Some insurers will guarantee to insure your pet for life, no matter how old or ill it gets.  These policies tend to be more expensive and are harder to find.  You may decide this isn't necessary, since most insurance companies will continue cover as long as you keep paying your insurance premium (see Age of your pet above).

Time limit for treatment

Some policies will only cover treatment for your pet for a set period, often 12 months.  So what happens if your beloved pet is injured or ill and needs treatment for more than 12 months?  Well, at the end of the 12 month period the cover stops.  From then on, you have to pay all the vets bills, costs of medicine etc. yourself.

Maximum cash cover per claim

Other policies have no time limit, just a maximum cash amount of cover.  This can be any amount, but usually is from £2,000 to £6,000 per claim.  Your cover keeps going until you've used up that amount, no matter how long that takes. 

This cash maximum is not the total amount you can claim on your policy.  If your pet gets ill twice, so you claim twice, you can claim up to the maximum cash amount per illness.

Excess

It's worth checking how much the excess is on the policy. This is the amount you have to pay yourself, on every claim, before your insurance company will pay up. 

The higher the excess, the more you have to pay yourself.  This can be particularly annoying if your pet only needs one trip to the vets and one dose of medication.  If the excess is too high, you may end up paying for everything yourself and wondering why you bothered taking out insurance in the first place.  Needless to say, it usually costs more if you buy a policy with a small or zero excess.

You should also check if there is any additional excess if your pet is over a certain age.  This could be a percentage of your claim e.g. 20%.  This could obviously be rather expensive.

Third party liability - dogs only!

It's worth considering what would happen if your pet injured someone else or damaged property.  Most pet insurance policies cover third party liability for dogs, usually up to around £1m.  Clearly insurers don't think your pet cat, rabbit or ferret is likely to injure anyone!

It's worth remembering that this usually won't cover any injury you/your family receive from your pet or any damage caused to your belongings/property.  You need to check your household insurance to see if it will cover pet damage.

Pet care costs

Some policies will cover the cost of looking after your pet, if you are hospitalised.  Usually you don't get a large amount of cover and you'll need to be in hospital for a few days before you can claim but this could still be useful.

Holiday cancellation/curtailment

If you have to cancel your holiday or come home early, because your pet is seriously ill or it goes missing, do you want your pet insurance to cover this?  Some policies do. 

Otherwise, you'd have to check whether your holiday insurance would cover this.  Although most holiday insurance policies cover cancellation/curtailment if a member of your family becomes seriously ill, it's less common for them to cover pet illness or disappearance.

Theft or straying

Many pet insurance policies will pay towards the cost of advertising if your pet is stolen or just wanders off.  Some policies even contribute towards a reward for returning your pet.  Sadly, you can't claim your own reward if you do find your pet again!

Some policies will also reimburse you the cost of purchasing your pet, if your pet cannot be found within a set period of time (usually around a month or two).

Accidental death

If your pet is killed in an accident, some policies will reimburse you the initial cost of purchasing your pet.  This won't cover death by illness.  Your vet may be asked to confirm the death was due to an accident or even be required to carry out a post mortem (frequently at your expense).

Pet travel cover

This is usually an optional extra.  If you plan to take your pet abroad, you may wish to obtain cover for emergency expenses abroad, quarantine costs, loss of your animal's vital documentation or repeat tick/worming treatment.

You'll probably find that there is a limit on the number of times you can take your pet overseas (e.g. 3) and on the length of each trip (e.g. 30 days).  You'll also have to comply with all the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme (see our Guide on Pet Passports).  Some countries may be excluded, often USA and Canada.

Help-lines

Some insurance companies offer help- lines, even 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.  These help-lines usually provide legal advice but some also can give you contact details in case of veterinary emergencies when you're not at home.  Some insurers also offer pet bereavement counselling.

Exclusions

All insurance companies have exclusions.  Most of these are common sense.  We set out some common ones below:

  • You won't get cover if you haven't paid your insurance premium!
  • If your pet has a pre-existing condition, this won't be covered.
  • If your pet is dangerous or destroyed under a court order, cover is denied.
  • You can't use your pet for commercial purposes or racing (ex-racers are fine!)
  • There's no cover if the claim resulted from your own negligence/deliberate act.
  • There's also no cover if you breach any law (e.g. animal health or import laws).

Questions

If you are not sure what the policy will cover, give your insurance company a call.  If they're trying to sell you an insurance policy, they should be able to answer any questions you have about the cover.

Remember you always have the right to cancel the policy within 14 days of receiving the policy paperwork. 

© Take Your Pet Limited March 2009

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