Paws for thought

Posted by Ann Stamp in Personal Finance on 22 May 2012 -

For any new puppy, kitten or any new baby animal owner one of the most important early decisions you need to make is whether to take out pet insurance.

Having had dogs for many years I know that when they are fit and healthy it doesn’t appear very high on your list of priorities. I have learned to rue the day I decided not to take any insurance out for my two dogs. Later when they became chronically ill as they got older it inevitably resulted in very high vet’s fees for the remainder of their lives.

The are generally three sorts of insurance available. Firstly there is ‘lifetime’ or ‘premium’ cover. These include a maximum benefit each year of typically £4000 for a dog and £3000 for a cat, these policies will still pay out if your pet develops an on-going or recurring problem providing you renew your policy. The maximum cover resets every year so a long term illness will still be covered as long as you maintain your premiums.

The next option is what is called a ‘mid-level’ policy. This places a monetary limit on treatment but has no time restriction so for example a specific illness would be covered for £4000 which could span a number of years until the limit is reached. This is particularly good for cats that are unlikely to reach the £4000 per condition limit.

The third option, a basic policy, offers the least amount of protection. Time limits on claims of 12 months are quite usual, as well as a monetary limit which means the lower initial cost won’t be born out if your pet becomes unwell longer term. Once the 12 months are up the condition which has been treated would be excluded in the following year.

In general, as with any form of insurance, any pre-existing conditions will not be covered when starting a new policy and this is why it is so crucial to take out a policy whilst your pet is fit and healthy. Excesses are common, ranging between £40 and £60. Some insurers will vary the excess depending on the age and type of animal and sometimes your postcode. Vaccinations and treatments such as worming and flea eradication aren’t covered by any pet insurance policy. Other benefits can be varied, including for instance cover for holiday cancellation due to pet illness, and even providing cover for offering rewards and the advertising costs for lost or stolen pets.

You can make the choice of saving the premiums in a savings account but you can never be sure as I have discovered when your pet will be ill or injured and then you would be faced with potentially a huge vet’s bill and not have enough money saved to pay. Approximately a third of people with pet insurance make a claim each year, a surprisingly high figure. You can check out the cost of these policies easily on the internet on both comparison sites and on the dedicated sites of insurance companies.

So when you have all the wonderful excitement of a new pet just consider pet insurance right at the outset when your options for the type of cover you want will give you the best possible choices.

Ann Stamp is a director of Checkmyfile and can be contacted at ann.stamp@checkmyfile.com

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