Everyone knows a pet dog, cat or even snake is for life and not just for Christmas.
Owners who take out lifetime pet insurance aren’t just showing long-term affection to their furry friends, it’s also a great way to head off potentially hefty vets’ bills further down the line.
Pet treatments come at a cost
Thanks to advances in treatment, pets can now benefit from many of the procedures that are available to their owners, including MRI scans, hip replacements and chemotherapy. But these all come at a price. Even keeping a pet in overnight at a veterinary surgery to monitor its well-being can easily cost more than a night’s stay in a luxury hotel.
Having to find a three or four-figure sum to get your beloved Fido or Felix back on their paws isn’t always easy, so pet insurance is available to take care of these unexpected costs. Policies vary, however, so it’s important to know what type of cover you’re taking out.
What is lifetime pet insurance?
The lifetime version gives you the guarantee of comprehensive cover as long as your pet needs it. It initially costs more than other types of insurance. But the trade-off is that owners always have peace of mind if their pet develops a recurring health issue, or a long-term chronic illness such as diabetes or kidney disease. The cover doesn’t stop when a policy needs to be renewed.
How does cover work on a lifetime pet insurance policy?
Lifetime pet insurance has an annual limit on the amount you can claim, either overall, by condition or both. No matter how many times you claim, or how large these claims are, providing you renew your policy, any annual limits will be reinstated year after year.
As an example, say you take out a policy giving you a £3,000 annual limit per condition for Larry, your beloved Labradoodle. He develops a skin condition that, after some diagnostic tests to determine its nature, requires ongoing treatment.
The vet’s bills come to £3,500 in the first year, of which the first £3,000 is picked up by your pet insurer with you paying the remaining £500.
Once the condition is diagnosed and the right medication established, the cost of treatment falls to £1,500 a year – all of which you can claim from your insurer, as long as Larry needs it and providing you keep renewing your cover.
How do other types of pet insurance policy work?
Go for a non-lifetime policy and, although it’ll probably cost you less, you could find cover is removed exactly when you need it most.
There are a few different options available. For example, a maximum benefit plan sets a financial cap on the amount you can claim for any condition. Once this cap is reached, the condition is no longer covered and you’ll have to pay for any ongoing treatment yourself.
Another option is a time-limited policy. As well as a cap on the amount you can claim for a condition, it also sets a limit on the length of time you can claim for that condition, typically 12 months. Once you hit either of those limits, the condition is excluded from cover.
It’s also possible to get an accident-only policy. This is the cheapest form of pet insurance, but it will only cover you for the cost of treatment if your pet is involved in an accident.
I like the peace of mind on lifetime cover. What’s included?
Your vet’s fees and any treatment or medication when your pet is ill or injured are the core part of your plan. But you could also benefit from cover for extras such as complementary therapies, behavioural therapy and boarding costs if you need to go into hospital.
Plans often include handy extras, too, such as financial help to get your pet back if they go missing and a variety of support helplines. Dog owners will also welcome the inclusion of public liability cover. If your dog goes rogue and causes an accident or damage to someone or their property, the policy picks up the legal costs.
Are there any exclusions on a lifetime pet insurance plan?
A few. You won’t be covered for the preventative stuff such as the annual vaccinations, worming and flea treatment. Pre-existing conditions are also excluded, although some insurers offer a moratorium where a pre-existing condition can be covered again as long as your pet hasn’t had any symptoms or needed treatment for at least two years.
How much does lifetime pet insurance cost?
This will depend on the type of animal, its age, gender, pedigree and where you live. Expect to pay around £10 a month for a young moggy and between £20 and £30 a month for a dog, with these costs increasing if they’re a fancy breed or pedigree. Premiums will also increase with age, so factor this in as well.
Do these policies come with excesses?
Yes, insurers will usually expect you to pay the first £50 plus of any claim. On top of this, excesses can increase as your pet gets older so check this out when comparing policies.
When should I take out lifetime pet insurance?
Taking out pet insurance when Tiddles is still an adorable bundle of fluff not only helps his well-being, but should also keep the owner in good financial shape. It’s harder to get cover when pets get older and some policies set a maximum age. In addition, leave it too late and your pet could already have developed a health condition that your insurer won’t cover. Note that some insurers offer a discount if owners insure more than one pet with them.
How do I get a good deal?
It’s definitely worth shopping around for pet insurance and comparing the cover options, limits and excesses on different policies. To get the most out of a lifetime policy, you need to stay with the same insurer so it’s worth finding one that offers the exact cover that you want.