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Pet insurance – the perils of inadequate cover

We all love our pets – that’s why we have them! However, a sick pet can quickly become an expensive pet. If you consider that treating a dog for knee surgery starts at £900 and just having an MRI scan done can cost £1,000 – it is easy to see how the costs can add up. The worst decision of course is if someone is forced to choose between a massive bill or their pet’s life. Insurance can provide comfort and care although whether you chose to insure your pet comes down to personal choice.

Can I afford not to insure?

A good starting point is to ask yourself “If my pet becomes sick and the veterinary bill is more than I can afford, would I be willing to have it put down?” If the answer is a resounding ‘no’ then you should definitely look into getting an insurance policy. Most vets have such sad stories where they have had to amputate an animals’ legs because the owner didn’t have insurance and to treat the damaged limb was more than they could afford.

It’s not just larger pets which can be expensive to treat – for example, a rabbit with chronic dental disease can cost thousands to treat.

Third party insurance for canines

If your pet is a dog, you should consider third party insurance because it could cost you tens of thousands – or more – if it causes an accident. For example, there was a case where dog had slipped its lead and had run in front of a horse causing it to bolt and unseat its rider, resulting in her breaking her neck. Thankfully, the rider made a good recovery but ended up in a wheelchair. Without insurance the dog owner could have been faced with a multi-million pound claim.

Most policies will insure you for at least £1 million third-party cover. However, if someone has suffered a serious long term injury it could potentially cost you more. If you have home insurance your dog may be covered already. If you are a member of the Dogs Trust you will be covered for a third party claim up to £1 million.

If you have a cat you are not liable should it cause an accident: under UK law it is considered a “free spirit” – which most cat owners will endorse!

Could I self insure?

Instead of an insurance policy you could put money aside into a savings account to cover vet fees. In this case you can earn interest on the money you save and if you don’t need to spend it during the course of your pet’s life, it is yours at the end of the day. You will need to speak with a vet to work out the cost of different treatments so you have a bench-mark as to how much you need to put away each month. However, the huge drawback to this is that you may need to fund medical treatment before you have sufficient funds saved up, and this is big risk. If you do decide to self insure, it is still very worthwhile considering third party cover if you have a dog, just in case it causes an accident.

What sort of policy – and what about the small print?

If you insure more than one pet with the same insurer, you may qualify for a discount. Also, if your pet isn’t micro-chipped, it might be worthwhile getting it done: as well as making your pet easier to trade should it go missing, it can attract discounts with some insurers.

Pet insurance can appear complicated – so ask for professional help. At Westhill Insurance Services we have a friendly and professional team who will talk you through the options and find the right policy for you and your pet. Some insurers, for example, will offer a maximum level of cover for the years – other set out a maximum claim per condition. If you take out a lifetime policy, these maximum sums will be resent every year. Some of the cheapest policies only cover your pets for accidents (although most claims for pet insurance are for illness, not accident). If your pet already has a medical condition you will need to inform the insurer as they may not cover pre-existing conditions.

Remember that ‘posh pooches’ cost more! Pedigree animals are sometimes more likely to contract certain medical conditions so you should check to make sure there is no exclusion for these on the policy. When you take out a policy check whether the company will continue to insure the animal as it gets older or whether the terms of the policy will change.

If you fail to give your pet routine vaccinations, you could have problems when you come to claim for treatment. If an animal has an illness which could have been prevented by having the correct vaccination, the insurance company could refuse to pay out. You also have a duty of care, and so must take care of the animal and feed it correctly. For example, did you know that fresh fish can make a cat sick? Feeding grapes to a dog can result in liver failure – these are the type of things you insurer may expect you to know and resultant claims may not be looked on favourably.

One quick call to one of our friendly team at Westhill Insurance Services will allow you to find the right insurance for your animal – and your budget. We will make sure we ask the right questions to get the policy you need to protect your pet because we understand that they are part of the family and deserve to have the best possible care.

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 28th March, 2014