Britain is a nation of pet lovers - but we don't love the fact that the costs of caring for our pets have increased dramatically over the past few years. The increasing sophistication and variety of veterinary treatments mean we have the opportunity to improve our pets’ lives and increase their lifespans, but it also means we pay much more to do so.
Just how much do our pets cost us? Insurer Petplan estimates that over its twelve year average lifespan, the owner of just one dog will incur expenses of £14,750. For a cat, which lives on average 16 years, the total cost is around £14,230. That total is an average that includes food, vaccinations, medical costs, and other incidental expenses that may or may not be incurred over the life of a pet.
And that’s the problem, your pet could end up living a healthy, accident-free life and need no more veterinary treatment beyond a routine annual check-up. On the other hand, your pet may be involved in a car accident, or develop a chronic condition that requires long term, expensive treatment.
Can Insurance Reduce the Potential Costs?
The rapid increase in petcare costs is definitely a problem and pet insurance is designed to be a solution. But like any market, not all products are created equal or likely to be suitable for everyone.
Even so, the claims statistics appear to show that many pet owners find it a very practical form of cover with 34% of policy holders making a claim every single year. In comparison, just 9% of people with household insurance make a claim each year.
A whopping 98% of claims are for veterinarian fees, so the potential for saving a large amount of money is reasonably high. One drawback with pet insurance is that routine treatments including vaccinations, deworming, and neutering or speying aren’t covered. The costs of these treatments can come in at a few hundred pounds a year for an average dog, so it pays to consider this when deciding whether or not you want to buy a policy.
Understanding Your Options
Getting the best value for your pet insurance premiums and reducing that potential £14,000 bill to something much more manageable first requires that you understand your options. There are three types of pet insurance available.
- Lifetime Cover is the most expensive type of pet insurance available, but it’s the most comprehensive. Your pet is covered for the life of any illness or condition. However, some policies will impose a yearly claim maximum.
- Maximum Benefit Cover allows you to claim at any time but will apply a maximum cover amount. The maximum limits are often separately applied, so if you reach the maximum with one condition, you’re still eligible to claim for others.
- Time Limited Policies limit you to a claim period of usually twelve months for any one condition. These aren’t suitable for pets or breeds succeptable to long term chronic health problems, but they’re the cheapest policies available.
Optional Extras include items such as overseas veterinary fees, kennel or cattery fees, covering the cost of a reward if your pet is stolen, or expenses if you have to cancel a holiday if your pet becomes ill. All policies also cover you for personal liability relating to your pet.
Another important point to consider is what’s going to happen as your pet ages. Just as with your own life insurance, your pet’s health insurance will become more expensive if you have to renew it. You can expect to pay around 20% more for premiums once your cat reaches ten or your dog reaches eight years of age. Even though lifetime cover will cost you more, it’s definitely worth considering.
Whichever type of cover you feel fits your situation best, it's crucial to compare as many policies on price and cover as possible. One of the easiest wasy to do this is to use at least two price comparison sites to create a shortlist of the cheapest providers and then visit the insurers sites to confirm if the cover meets your requirements.
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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