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Protecting your pet – How to buy pet insurance

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Apr 19, 2016

Vets’ fees can leave you with a very nasty shock, unless you've been smart enough to buy insurance.

Even so, deciding on the right policy can be difficult, with the market full of seemingly complicated alternatives.

As with all insurance, a little planning can save you lots of headaches. 

And, also with any insurance, don’t just jump at the cheapest on offer – it could be that you’ll be out of pocket in the long run if you do.

The first thing to say is that, if you plan to look after your pet and take it to the vet when it’s ill as well as for ‘well-pet’ treatments, for fleas and worms, for example, then you are going to need insurance.

According to the Association of British Insurers, the average claim for pet insurance is £720. But they can often run into thousands once a condition needs on-going treatment.

Lots of animals, but especially dog breeds, can be prone to specific ailments – many dogs, for example, can be prone to crippling hip dysplasia; this is why pups should have a ‘hip score’. 

For some breeds, if you have no valid score for your dog, you won’t get insurance cover, or not, at least, to cover that condition.

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Be clear what are buying

Pet insurance policies will specify how and when they pay out on claims. Ensure you are clear about what you’re buying.

These are the different types of cover.

* Per year – This pays out on all conditions up to a maximum in any one year. Once renewed, cover starts again.
* Per condition per year – This is the max for any one condition in any year. Once this maximum is reached, the condition will no longer be covered in that year.
* Per condition limit – This offers cover up to a limit for each condition. Once reached, no more cover for that condition will be available.
* Per condition with a 12-month time limit – These payout up to a set limit or over a period of 12 months, whichever is reached first. After either is reached, no more cover is available.


Be clear what the max payable is

All policies will have a maximum pay out. Check yours is sufficient.

Usually, these will be around £6,000 a year for life; £5,000 per condition for life or £5,000 or more for each condition in total.


Pre-existing conditions

Be aware that barely any policies will cover your pet for pre-existing conditions.

But also watch out for congenital and hereditary conditions.

A congenital condition is one that a pet has had since birth; a hereditary condition is one that an animal develops due to a genetic predisposition. 

Most good policies will cover pets for these, but check cover is ‘unrestricted’.


Barely any policies will cover your pet for pre-existing conditions


Public liability

If you have a dog, no matter what size, you should have it covered for any injuries or damage it may cause to another party.

Make sure you have at least £1m of cover here and that the policy specifies what is and what is not  covered.

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Some policies will have an excess included – the amount you pay before any claim is met. Be clear what it is.


Payout on death – or theft

If your pet is valuable then you may be interested in ensuring that any payout on accidental death or death by illness covers its worth.

And, if it’s stolen, you may want to ensure you are covered. Some policies will even help towards the cost of advertising your lost pet and towards a reward if it’s found.

To make a complaint about your pet insurer, post on A Spokesman Said. We'll fight your corner for fair treatment. 

Take a look at how we helped dog owner Paula Girling get the money she was owed from her insurer Animal Friends Insurance. 

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Last year 65% of customers didn't switch their car insurance to try and get a better deal.