Pet insurance can be a blessing – but do you really need it? Thankfully, our pets are living much longer and healthier lives than their ancestors, due to great advances made in medicine and veterinary surgery over the past 50 years. However, longer lives inevitably lead to bigger and more frequent vets’ bills, which is why you need to decide whether pet insurance is worth it.
Well, that’s a risk assessment, or, to be blunt, a gamble. You might be lucky and have a healthy pet that only has to visit the vet for routine treatments. In that event you might regret having forked out all those insurance payments. But, if you and your pet are less fortunate and you are confronted with vets’ bills of up to £3,000 for major operations, you’ll be really glad that you did take out insurance. And there’s always the chance of being sued if your dog causes a car accident.
Pet insurance varies according to the type and breed of animal. For example, pedigree dogs are more expensive to insure than mongrels. Costs tend to range from £10 to £25 per month for dogs. One in three dogs and cats have an accident or get sick every year so that’s one extra vet’s bill that 33 per cent of dog and cat owners have to pay annually – and dogs are generally more expensive to treat. If we look at typical reasons for cats and dogs being taken to a vet, the average costs are pretty daunting:
• £40 per year for vaccinations
• £60 for an examination
• £70 for drugs
• £190 per x-ray
• £233 for dental surgery on a cat
• £380 for an overnight stay
• £547 for a road accident (cat)
• £675 for a road accident (dog)
It’s important to remember that the job of pet insurers is to cover you for unexpected bills so the cost of vaccinations, boosters, wormers, nail clipping, spaying and neutering won't be covered. That adds up to around £420 a year for an average dog. Additionally, 40 per cent of the entire cost of owning a pet is spent on unforeseen medical treatment and 50 per cent of the UK’s pets require extensive veterinary surgery at some point in their lives.
Insurance plans differ in hundreds of small ways, but, essentially, there are just two types – the 12-month plan, in which your pet is insured up to a certain sum of money for a year, and the lifetime plan, under which it is covered up to a set amount for the rest of its life. Both plans have excess limits, which determine how much you will have to pay yourself if you make a claim. The amount of excess you’re willing to pay will affect the price of the policy – the bigger the excess figure, the cheaper the policy.
Don’t pay it
If you think you can cover the cost of any accident or illness that may befall your animal, you may save money but, with vets’ bills of over £1,000 being relatively common these days, this is not a viable option for people on average or below incomes.
Set up your own pet protection fund
If you save the equivalent cost of an insurance policy in a separate savings account you might have enough to pay the vets’ bills (but not straight away, of course) but, unless you’re covered by your home insurance, you run the risk of being unprotected in the event of being sued.