Around a quarter of UK adults own a dog, according to veterinary charity PDSA. But if your beloved pup falls ill or is injured in an accident, shelling out for vet treatment can quickly become expensive. For this reason, it pays to have a decent pet insurance policy in place.
Pet insurance is primarily there to provide cover if your puppy falls ill or is injured and needs treatment. Vet bills can quickly spiral and can run into hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, depending on the treatment required.
To avoid having to fork out for these fees yourself, it’s well worth claiming on your pet insurance policy for anything that is not classed as routine treatment. The average pet insurance claim is around £750, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
What should I look for in a policy?
When comparing puppy insurance, you’ll come across a number of different policy types. It’s important to understand how each one works to ensure you’re taking out the right cover for your puppy.
If you want the most comprehensive protection, take a look at lifetime pet insurance. This will pay out for a variety of illnesses and injuries over your puppy’s lifetime, so long as you renew your policy each year. However, there will usually be a limit to the amount you can claim for each illness or injury – either on an annual or lifetime basis – and lifetime cover is also the most expensive policy type.
Another option is time-limited cover. This covers each illness or injury for up to 12 months from the date of the first treatment. So if, for example, you made a claim six months into your policy, you would be covered for that condition for the remaining six months on your existing policy and the first six months of your next policy, providing you renew with the same insurer.
Alternatively, a maximum benefit pet insurance policy offers a fixed pot of money to cover each illness or condition. There’s no time limit for claims and you can claim for a certain condition as many times as you need to. But once the pot of money runs out, that particular condition will no longer be covered.
Finally, if you’d prefer a cheap and basic policy, look for accident-only cover. As the name suggests, this type of policy only pays out for claims relating to accidents. Illnesses are not generally covered. There is typically a cap on the amount you can claim for each accident and policies tend to only last 12 months, so ongoing treatment may not be covered.
What should my pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance for puppies should cover you for the following, either as standard or as an optional extra:
- Veterinary fees: covering the cost of diagnosing and treating new injuries and illnesses.
- Kennel fees: in the event you are hospitalised and unable to look after your pet for a period of time.
- Dental cover: dental treatment linked to an illness or injury.
- Death from illness or injury: paying up to the purchase price of your puppy if she/he dies as a result of an illness or injury. Some policies may also cover costs associated with euthanasia, cremation or burial.
- Third party liability: covering legal costs and expenses if your puppy injures someone or damages their property. Cover should start at £1 million.
- Theft or loss: covering advertising and reward costs if your puppy goes missing or is stolen. Your policy may also pay up to your puppy’s purchase price if he/she does not come home.
- Alternative treatments: such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and osteopathy.
- Travelling abroad: covering the cost of emergency vet treatment if your puppy becomes ill or is injured when taken overseas.
- Holiday cancellation: should you have to cancel your trip because your pet needs emergency treatment.
(MORE: Most expensive dogs to insure)
Details to look out for
As with any type of insurance policy there will be exclusions to watch out for. These can include:
- Pre-existing illnesses or injuries
- Certain dog breeds - usually those that have shown aggression and received legal complaints
- Your puppy’s vaccinations
- Other routine treatments such as worming, flea and tick treatments and spaying.
You’ll also need to check how old your puppy needs to be before you can take out pet insurance – this is usually eight weeks, but it can vary. Many policies will also include what’s known as a “waiting period” when you first buy cover. Waiting periods typically last 14 days and mean you won’t be able to claim during that time. This is to prevent people buying a policy after their puppy has had an accident, for example, and then making a claim.
The excess is another detail to pay attention to. This is the amount you will need to pay towards the cost of any claim you make and the higher it is, the less you’ll pay for your policy. But it’s important to ensure the excess is still affordable.
Some insurers will also ask for a co-payment. This will be a percentage of the cost of all treatment (typically 10% or 20%), minus your excess. Although your premiums will come down as a result, it will make the overall cost of claiming higher, so you’ll need to factor this in when comparing quotes.
Alternatives to insuring your puppy
There aren’t many alternatives to pet insurance, but one option is to pay a sum of money into a savings account each month and effectively self-insure. You’ll then have these funds to fall back on if and when you need to pay vet bills. The biggest drawback is that you may not have enough saved up to cover the cost of the treatment.
Alternatively, if your household is in receipt of benefits, you may be able to get free medical care from veterinary charities such as the PDSA, RSPCA or Blue Cross.
Rachel Wait is a freelance journalist. She has been writing about personal finance and consumer affairs for over a decade, covering everything from credit cards and mortgages to pensions and insurance. She has written for a range of websites and national newspapers, including Mail on Sunday, the Observer, Forbes and the Spectator.
Rachel is keen on helping consumers understand their finances.
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