Whether your furry friend is an alley cat or pedigree pooch, it's a good idea to have at least basic pet insurance to ensure fast treatment should it ever be needed.
But finding the right cover for your pet and your pocket isn't easy and one policy doesn't fit all needs. So here's a quick summary of the main features offered by most providers to help you with your shopping around.
The most basic pet insurance polices simply cover vet bills. More advanced policies can cover everything from kennel and cattery bills if you are unable to look after your cat due to illness right through to the costs of placing adverts and offering a reward if your pet goes missing.
There are three main types of pet insurance policy. The costs and benefits vary greatly, so the best deal for you will depend on your financial situation plus the breed and health of your pet.
Annual policy: this is the type of insurance people are most familiar with in other fields. There is a limit on the total payout for any condition. In most cases a specific condition is only covered until this payout limit is reached or 12 months has passed since the initial claim, whichever happens first. After this you can't claim for the same condition again.
Per condition policy: This works in the same way as an annual policy, but without the 12 month limit.
Life long cover: This allows you to make more than one claim for the same condition, and there is no specific limit on the amount you can claim for any individual condition. Instead, the only limit is on the overall amount you can claim in a single year.
With all types, you'll usually only be allowed to take out a policy if your pet is under a certain age. Once you have a policy, most insurers will allow you to renew it every year, even past this age. However, some have a mandatory cut-off age after which even existing customers won't get cover.
This is an add-on available with many pet insurance policies. It pays out in the event your pet hurts a person or damages property. (Dogs are the most likely pets to trigger such claims.) Whether pet liability is worthwhile is disputable: high excess limits may mean many claims aren't productive, while terms and conditions may limit the circumstances in which you can make a claim.
Coverage for your pet while abroad may be included with a policy or be an optional extra. In both cases, the policy will usually impose some very strict conditions. These can include vaccinating your pet, fitting a microchip and getting relevant documentation from the authorities before travelling.
As with medical insurance, you should carefully check the terms of any excess which is applied to a pet insurance policy, particularly where you have the option of a voluntary excess which will reduce your premium. In many cases an excess will apply on an annual basis, even if a claim covers more than one year.
That could mean, for example, that if you have a £100 excess on your policy and make a claim for a course of treatment which lasts for 18 months, you will pay a total excess of £200. This is particularly significant with pet insurance as, unlike claiming for money to replace household items after theft or damage (where you can choose how to spend the payout), you will effectively be forced to make the excess payment to ensure your pet receives the treatment.
Whichever type and level of cover appeals to you most, ensure you shop around and start your comparisons with an accurate idea of what you need.
PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular pet insurance product or provider. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at www.unbiased.co.uk
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