Owning a pet is a privilege — and it’s a privilege that brings with it a big financial responsibility. In fact, according to the PDSA the overall cost of having a dog is between £25,000 and £30,800, depending on the size and breed.
Much of these costs are related to food, routine health care and things like grooming and boarding kennel bills. But there are also unexpected costs. For example, it’s estimated that 92% of pets will need emergency veterinary treatment at some stage in their lives.
One of the simplest ways to offset these costs is to take out pet insurance – but is it worth it? Head of Telehealth at Vets Now, Dave Leicester, looks into the issue of pet insurance and weighs up the benefits for pet owners.
What does pet insurance cover?
It primarily provides cover for unexpected variety fees if your pet is injured or ill. While all policies vary, some with also reimburse you if you have to:
- Pay a kennel or cattery because of going into hospital yourself
- Cancel a holiday because your pet has fallen ill
- Put up a reward for returning a lost or stolen pet
- Pay to advertise for a lost of stolen pet
- Pay for veterinary treatment while you’re on holiday abroad
Some policies may also include third-party liability cover – so you’re not hit financially if your dog injures someone or damages their property (such as a car in a road traffic accident), while others will pay out if your pet dies before a certain age as a result of illness or injury.
The cost of pet insurance
According to data, it costs £271 a year on average to insure a pet. However, this amount takes into account all pets, including small animals such as hamsters or rabbits, so the average cost of a premium for a cat or dog is likely to be higher than this. The market is very competitive and there’s lots of choice, so be sure to shop around and seek advice from your daytime vet on the level of cover you might need.
Is pet insurance worth it?
Pet cover is certainly worth it as long as you choose your policy carefully.
In 2020, according to the Association of British Insurers, the average claim was £817, an increase of 2% on 2019. In the same year, insurance firms dealt with more than 734,000 claims for dogs, worth £598 million, and 212,000 claims for cats, worth £148 million. These figures demonstrate how regularly pet owners rely on pet insurance and how much they’d have to pay out from their own pockets if they didn’t have it.
What types of pet insurance are there?
There are lots of different types of policies, all catering to different needs. Many limit the amount you can claim, either across a specific time perios or for individual conditions. Always check the small print carefully before you sign the dotted line.
The most common policies are:
- Lifetime or lifelong – these insure pets for new medical conditions or illness and cover and set amount each year. Each time you renew your policy the full amount is made available again.
- Accident-only – these provide a fixed sum for each accidental injury and potentially also towards the cost of emergency treatment for an injury. Some policies have a 12-month time limit.
- Maximise-benefit or money-limit – these cover your pet for each illness and injury until the maximum amount has been spent. There is typically no time limit on reach this amount.
- Time-limited – these provides a fixed sum to cover your pet for each illness and injury. You are usually restricted to claiming within 12 of the illness or injury occurring.
What impacts the price of pet insurance?
Several factors have a bearing on the price. These include:
- Excess – this is the contribution owners agree to make towards the cost of a claim. Opting for a high excess should result in a lower annual premium.
- Where you live – premiums in towns and cities are often higher than in rural areas.
- Pet’s age – older pets tend to cost more to insure and some firms won’t take on pedigree dogs
- Pet’s breed – insurance premium are usually lower for a crossbreeds than for a pedigree pets as they are less likely to suffer inherited medical conditions or be stolen.
- Past claims – don’t be surpised if your premium go up following major claim.
- Responsible ownership – insurance firms will look more kindly on owners who ensure their kittens are microchipped and annual vaccinations are kept to date.
What level of pet insurance should I take out?
Consumer champions Which? recommend taking out a policy with at least £7,000 of medical cover a year for pedigree dogs and £4,000 for non-pedigrees. Cat owners are urged to get at least £3,000 of annual cover.
As well as researching policies and checking the small print, speak to your vet about hereditary problems or common conditions your dog may suffer.
Need some additional advice?
If you are enjoying a dog-friendly short break or even just a day out with your pet, emergency providers Vets Now are just a tap away with Video Vets Now. You can book your appointment and get chatting to a qualified vet no matter where you are in the UK.
What about some travel inspo?
Take a look at our top trending travel collections and sniff out the pawfect holiday for you and your pooch…