It’s tragic when a pet comes into rescue because its previous owners are unable to pay for the veterinary treatment they need – a situation that could be avoided if the owners had the right pet insurance. Sometimes they had no policy at all, and other times they had one in place but had no idea that it didn’t offer a level of cover that would help them enough.
To help your adopters avoid being in a similar situation we’ve put together a short, factual guide to cover the basics of pet insurance. Feel free to post this on your website or include as a hand out (please don’t alter the wording) in your adoption pack. If you put the guide online, you can also use Agria banners on the same page to help adopters take informed action:
Pet insurance – a brief guide to what you need to know
More and more pets are ending up in rescue as their owners either didn’t have pet insurance at all, or didn’t have the right type of policy. We’re often asked about insurance, so our friends at Agria have put together a simple guide to help explain the basics…
Choosing pet insurance can be daunting. With so many companies and types of policies offering such a variety of benefits, exclusions and premiums, where do you start?
Why insure your pet?
Most responsible pet owners agree that having a pet insurance policy in place is a crucial part of ownership. Veterinary treatments have become increasingly sophisticated as techniques have advanced, so having insurance cover makes it easier to access the most appropriate care without the worry of how to pay for it.
Imagine your cat or dog has a road traffic accident and needs specialist treatment. A referral alone could cost £300, an MRI or CT scan around £1,000, and, if a highly-skilled operation is called for, that could easily set you back in excess of £2,000.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a substantial savings pot to dip into, pet insurance makes decision-making over treatment far easier at a time when you need to concentrate on simply doing what’s best for your pet.
Main types of pet insurance
Understanding the differences between the types of cover available is crucial when choosing the right pet insurance policy. These differences concern how the veterinary fees benefit works, what it will and won’t pay for, and how long it will pay out.
The veterinary fees limit is the maximum amount of cover you have to claim against for the cost of diagnosing and treating illnesses and/or injuries including approved tests, medication and therapy.
Policies vary greatly, so you must carefully check what yours will pay out for to make sure it meets your needs and those of your pet.
The length of time different policies will pay out for each claim can vary from 12 months to the life of your pet (for as long as premiums are paid). The main types of pet insurance are detailed below
- Only cover veterinary treatment required as a result of an accident
- Illnesses and conditions make up the majority of claims, but these policies will not pay out for them and as a result tend not to be that popular
Time-limited, maximum benefit per condition
- Will only pay for a claim up to either the time restriction (typically 12 months) or maximum benefit, whichever comes sooner
- After the time is up, it’s unlikely you’d be able to claim for the same condition again, even with another insurer, as the condition would be classed as ‘pre-existing’
- These policies can also have often restrictions, for example they can often exclude conditions diagnosed as hereditary and congenital
Maximum benefit per condition
- Gives you an amount to pay for a condition that you draw down on through your pet’s lifetime until it is exhausted and the condition excluded
- Once you have reached your maximum benefit limit, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to claim again for the same condition, even with another insurer, as the condition would be classed as ‘pre-existing’
- Think of this as a ‘pot of money’ to pay for all your vet’s fees each year
- Allows you to claim for a condition year after year, as long as the policy premiums are kept up to date
- The annual veterinary fee allowance refreshes each year the policy is renewed however much you’ve claimed during the year, so
- Problems that are chronic or ongoing, like eczema, diabetes and arthritis that continue year after year, can therefore be covered year after year
These are things that your insurance doesn’t cover.
Exclusions vary depending on provider and policy, however, something that is almost always excluded are ‘pre-existing conditions’. These are illnesses, injuries or conditions that have occurred prior to you taking out your insurance policy.
Anything you have claimed for in the past where you have claimed your maximum benefit or hit your time limit will almost always be excluded from future pet insurance, whether that’s with the same insurer or a totally different provider or type of policy (where it will be pre-existing).
Therefore, if your pet develops a long-term condition, if you have claimed for it before, even if you swap to a lifetime policy you won’t be covered and will have to pay all future treatment costs for that condition yourself. It is essential to choose wisely from the start and don’t run the risk of insufficient cover.
Additionally, pet insurance won’t usually cover any preventative, routine or elective treatments such as vaccination, health checks and cosmetic procedures.
Exclusions can encompass many types of treatments and circumstances, so always read the Terms and Conditions carefully.
Understanding the excess element of a pet insurance policy is also crucial in choosing one that’s right for you and your pet. There are usually two types, which can be paid together or separately depending on your insurer.
- Fixed excess
A set amount that’s usually payable once per policy year, for each separate condition claimed for.
- Variable/ percentage excess/ co-insurance
This is a set percentage that you contribute towards each claim, which can help to reduce the cost of your premiums. The greater percentage you pay, the lower your premium is likely to be, and vice-versa.
Always be sure to check the policy wording for full details of what is and isn’t included.
For more detailed information and independent advice about cover, exclusions and claims, please visit the Association of British Insurers’ website: https://www.abi.org.uk/globalassets/sitecore/files/documents/publications/public/2015/pet/pet-insurance-consumer-guide.pdf