Choosing Pet Insurance

Whether you've brought your pet from the USA on the pet passport scheme or you've adopted a new pet after moving to the UK, pet insurance is something you'll want to consider. Pet insurance is affordable and can literally be a lifesaver for your family. People commonly go for the cheapest budget insurance quote, but that's not always the best choice.

When we adopted our puppy last summer, our veterinarian explained to me exactly why the cheapest isn't the best, it's all in the fine print. At first I thought her lecture was a bit over-the-top, but after spending an afternoon researching and shopping around using the tips she gave me, I was grateful she had made a point to explain.

Here's what to look for when comparing policy terms:

  • Percentage Contribution vs Excess - Some budget insurance policies use a percentage contribution instead of a deductible (excess) and it's not always clear in the advertising just what the percentage is. Where you might have a £40-60 excess with one insurer, another might require a 20% contribution. In case of a serious injury or disease where treatment could be in the thousands, you'd still have to fork out hundreds to cover a percentage contribution. Do you have hundreds to spare?
  • Lifelong vs Agelimit -  Some insurers don't insure elderly pets, check if they will cancel your policy when your pet reaches a certain age.
  • Per Condition Limits - Pet insurance policies usually limit how much they will pay out per condition. Budget (annual) policies will not cover a condition again after the first year in which it occurs, where premium (lifetime) policies reset annually, so that a permanent condition can be covered for the life of your pet.

Take out your insurance policy while your pet is healthy, insurers are unlikely to cover pre-existing conditions. "Which?" has a good overview comparison of pet insurance providers. Get quotes from several providers and compare their terms, there are features such as travel cover, lost pet help and dental cover. (Insurers do not cover general veterinary visits such as checkups, vaccinations, spaying/neutering or fleas/worming. )

If you're confused about coverage, try asking your veterinarian. Before my visit to the vet, I had already purchased a policy with DirectLine. When I got home, I canceled and after researching for an afternoon, took out a policy with Pet Plan. With a PetPlan lifetime policy you can expect to pay IRO £30/month for a dog and £13 for a cat, but this will vary depending on the breed and your location.

Before you put it off to consider later, ask yourself if your pet was hit by a car and the treatment was over £1000, are you prepared for that?

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