Dog insurance: your essential guide

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Everything you need to know about pet insurance for dogs.

The idea of our dogs getting sick or injured is hard to bear – they are part of our families and we don’t want to imagine them suffering. Unfortunately, with their curious, boisterous natures and their relatively short life spans, accidents and illness are inevitable. With veterinary fees rising, purchasing dog health insurance is a sensible option that will provide peace of mind – and potentially save thousands of pounds.

Why do I need dog insurance?

There are a number of reasons to insure our dogs, the primary one being the high cost of vet fees if your dog has an accident or unexpected illness. Treatment costs for a dog that’s been hit by a car can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds, whereas treatment for cancer can be as high as ten thousand pounds. Few of us are able to meet such large, unexpected costs, and paying for dog insurance provides peace of mind – and if our pets are unfortunate enough to have a serious accident or illness, could save us a lot of money.

Dog insurance can also cover other costs, including third party liability (in case your dog causes injury or damage to property) and theft, loss or premature death, which may appeal to owners of particularly expensive breeds of dog.

What are the options?

There are a number of different types of doggy health insurance, and unsurprisingly the more you pay the more comprehensive the cover.

The most basic level of cover is ‘accident only’, which will cover your pet for an accident, but not an illness. Depending on the policy you buy, there may also be a time-limit for treatment, or a limit on the amount you can claim.

The next level of insurance is ‘time-limited’ policies, which will cover an accident or illness, but only for a specific time-period afterwards, usually a year. This means that, for any given condition, you will have to pay for additional treatments outside the twelve-month period. There may also be a limit on the amount you can claim for each condition.

‘Maximum benefit’ policies don’t have a time limit on care, but do have a cost limit, for example £2,000 per condition or claim. This may seem a lot, but if your pet requires complex surgery following an accident, this limit can be reached quite quickly.

The most comprehensive dog insurance is ‘lifetime cover’, and it’s also the most expensive. Your dog is covered for each and every condition up to a generous total for the 12-month period, often as high as £10,000.

What does ‘excess’ mean?

Excess is a common term in the insurance business. Each time you claim, your policy will require you to make a contribution to that claim, and this is called the excess. For example, if your policy has a £50 excess, and you make a claim for £450 in vet fees, then you will pay the first £50 of the claim, leaving your insurer to cover the balance, i.e. £400.

How much does dog insurance cost?

This will depend on a number of factors, including the level of cover you choose, the excess and the vendor. It will also depend on the age of your dog and even what breed he is. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, are susceptible to health problems later in life, which can affect the cost of insurance.

There are a few tricks to making your pet insurance cheaper. Neutering and microchipping your dog can both lead to reductions in the cost of insurance. Choosing a higher excess – so that you pay more of each claim – also brings the cost down. Some companies may give you a discount if you buy online.

What should I look for when choosing dog insurance?

When it comes to insurance, cheapest is not always best, and you should consider other factors as well as cost. How long has the company been offering pet insurance? Do they have a good reputation – are there any online reviews you can read? Cheaper policies generally offer a lower level of cover.

Also look for policies that make your life easier by paying the vet directly. This saves you paying the vet up front and claiming fees back, which is a hassle and leaves you temporarily out of pocket. Your vet may be able to advise you on which insurance companies they work with. You should also look for companies that won’t punish you for making a claim by raising your premiums.

What about routine vet fees?

Dog insurance will typically only cover unexpected vets fees arising from illness and injury. You will still need to pay for routine vet appointments for check-ups and preventative health. Your vet may offer an annual healthcare plan, whereby you pay a discounted monthly fee for your regular check-ups and preventative treatments. These plans can save money in the long run, and should be purchased in conjunction with – and not instead of – dog insurance.

Find out more about microchipping your pet here.  

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