From getting a pup for company on the daily walk, to introducing a couple of hamsters into your support bubble, figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association show that 3.2 million UK households welcomed a pet during the pandemic.
Whether you’re a new pet owner or a more seasoned stick-thrower, you might want to consider insuring your four-legged friend.
What’s covered by pet insurance?
Pet insurance covers the cost of unexpected veterinary fees, making it much easier to budget for the treatment of our furry bundles of joy should they either get unwell or injured. Around 7.7 million Brits already have cover according to industry organisation, the Association of British Insurers.
Veterinary treatment doesn’t come cheap. Pet insurers paid £799 million in claims in 2020, according to ABI and the bulk of this was to meet the cost of veterinary bills. That made the average claim worth £817, an amount to set any tail wagging.
Among the claims were £5,000 to re-attach two toes to a cat after it had been crushed and more than £40,000 paid since 2010 to cover treatment for a terrier with a lung disorder.
If you’re looking to take out pet insurance, there are a few different types of policy to consider.
Basic cover to more generous plans
The most basic is an accident-only policy which will cover you for the cost of treatment if your pet is involved in an accident.
For broader cover, you might want to look at a maximum benefit or time-limited policy. These pick up the bill for illnesses, as well as accidents, but impose caps on the amounts you can claim.
With maximum benefit policies, the cap refers to the amount you can claim for any particular condition. The time-limited plan also sets a limit, typically 12 months, on how long you can claim for a condition. Hit these limits and you’ll be picking up any further bills yourself to pay for that specific condition.
The most generous type of policy is a lifetime plan. This also features an annual limit, either by condition, overall or both. But, as long as you renew your policy, the annual limits will be reinstated year after year.
This gives the reassurance that cover won’t stop just because your pet develops a recurring health issue or long-term chronic condition such as kidney disease, diabetes or a skin condition.
Cost of cover
The average pet insurance premium is £271 a year according to the latest figures from the ABI, but how much you pay as an owner depends on a number of factors. As well as the type of plan you select, the breed and gender of your pet will affect the premium.
Even where you live plays a part, as vets’ fees tend to be higher in towns and cities.
Another key factor is your pet’s age. As the risk of health problems increases with age, premiums will often rise in tandem, so budget for this.
Competition helps keep premiums more affordable for certain pets. For example, dogs and cats are by far the most common beneficiaries of pet insurance in the UK, followed by rabbits. Of the 978,000 notified claims made in 2020, 734,000 involved dogs according to the ABI, while 212,000 were for cats.
Take out cover for a two-year old mongrel and you’d pay £7.11 a month with Animal Friends, giving £7,000 of annual cover subject to a maximum of £2,000 per condition and a £99 excess. The excess is the amount the policyholder agrees to pay as part of a claim before the insurance policy kicks in.
If the mongrel was older, seven-years-old for example, premiums would increase to £9.46. For something more unusual, ExoticDirect will cover a 20-year-old tortoise for £2,500 of vets’ fees, subject to a £35 excess, for £126.72 a year.
Getting a good deal
As with any insurance, the first rule of getting a good deal is to shop around. Using a comparison website or getting quotes from several insurers before committing to a policy can save you hundreds of pounds.
Adding a larger excess or agreeing to pay a certain percentage of the claim can help to reduce costs. Paying premiums monthly will lessen the immediate cost, but a one-off annual premium is likely to work out cheaper for cover overall compared with 12 individual payments into a particular policy.
Owners can often receive a discount if they insure more than one pet with the same provider. For instance, Petplan reduces each monthly premium by £1 through its multi-pet discount. This could save a three-cat household £36 a year.
It’s also sensible to look after your pet’s health: getting them microchipped and up-to-date with their jabs shows insurers you’re a prudent pet parent worthy of a preferential premium.