Help with Pet Insurance
At Ashman Jones we often get asked which is the best insurance company to go with. Unfortunately there’s no simple ‘best buy’ as the premiums depend on a raft of variables; such as your postcode address, pet species and age. If you are prepared to do a bit of research and shop around there are some affordable policies out there which will provide ample cover in the long term.
Four step plan to the right insurance for you
Step 1: Is insurance necessary?
Step 2: Decide what kind of policy suits you (includes what to look out for)
Step 3: Shop around
Step 4 Haggle! (this used to be very un-British but is now the norm)
Step 1. Is pet insurance necessary?
ANSWER: Most of the time YES !
Think about how much your pets will cost you, the likely impact of vets’ fees and how you’d react if they got ill (would you pay for treatment costs or have them put down?). Vets’ fees are rising, so be aware of the real potential costs. Lifelong skin treatment can easily exceed £12,000 and fixing a broken leg can be as much as £1,000 (£2,500 at referral centres).
As well as vet bills, pet insurance covers all sorts of weird and wonderful eventualities; for instance, if your cat is stolen, some providers pay for advertising posters and a reward, or even cover the cost of your holiday if you can’t go because your pet’s suddenly become ill. These are often added as hype to sell a policy and are rarely claimed.
Step 2. Decide what kind of policy you want
Premiums vary according to a range of variables including pets age, pedigree and location (vets bills are higher in London and the South East). Policies differ in a number of ways so first consider what you want.
This is one product where the old adage ‘read the small print’ really works. Buy the wrong policy and you could be faced with having to put your pet down, simple as that.
When applying for a policy be sure to disclose all your pet’s medical history. This might push up premiums in the short term, but will save money in the long term, as providers won’t pay up if they suspect that the problem already existed.
No going back
Just like the Dogs’ Trust slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ this is often the case with pet insurance too. The reason? Most providers exclude pre-existing conditions, so if your pet develops a condition, you’re stuck with that policy, as other plans won’t cover it - not without a huge rise in cost anyway. So ensure you get the right policy from the off.
What to watch out for
Pay out limits. Some insurers limit the amount they pay out each year. Others have a limit for each condition. Policies with a yearly limit are a safer bet; they will pay out for the lifetime of your pet, provided it does not exceed the limit each year. With per-condition limits, if your pet develops an ongoing illness such as arthritis, they could quickly stop paying for treatment.
Also check whether there is a time limit on how long you can claim for one treatment (some policies only
pay out for the first year of illness). The best policies offer a yearly limit for each condition, but no time
limit on how long you can claim for one ailment.
Life doesn’t mean life. Some insurers will try to sell you ‘lifetime cover’. However, frustratingly, they can still increase premiums once your pet gets older, increase excesses while still limiting the claim per ailment and exclude prior conditions upon renewal. True lifetime cover means the insurer promises not to increase the price with age and guarantees conditions are covered for life; some do it, but most don’t so beware of falling into this trap.
Excesses. If you are willing to pay a fair bit yourself, changing the excess level (the amount you pay of any claim) cuts the cost. Though beware of policies where you must pay a share of any claim, usually about 10%, rather than a fixed limit e.g. £100. If your pet gets seriously ill this can be very costly.
To decide on your excess consider ‘how much would it cost before I claimed?’ Getting a £50 excess if
you wouldn’t bother claiming for less than £200 is pointless.
Hereditary Conditions.Watch this if you’ve got a pedigree because certain breeds are more likely to develop hereditary conditions e.g. elbow dysplasia in Labradors and Springer Spaniels. Some policies specifically exclude treatment for hereditary conditions, so check to see whether this is the case. Many insurers also exclude conditions the animal was born with e.g. umbilical hernia or cleft palate.
Death.Some insurers will pay for your pet to be put down and a few cover the cost of cremation. If you paid a lot of money for your pet then consider insuring your investment in case they die early.
Dental. Policies that include dental treatment will usually demand that the pet has regular check-ups. This is performed automatically every year at the pre-booster health check but if you don’t believe in vaccination then you will have to make provision for these routine checks to be done as often as is required.
And finally…..You know your situation better than the insurer, so think about which of the following you are likely to claim on: cost of advertising and reward if your pet is lost or stolen; third party injury; cost of a holiday if you have to cancel to care for your pet; kenneling costs if you are hospitalised.
Step 3. Shop around
Once you’ve decided which cover suits you, you are ready to get quotes in. If you have access to the internet then a good place to start is with price comparison websites e.g. www.moneysavingexpert.com
You might need to do several searches to include data from all the insurance companies out there and tick the relevant boxes if you don’t want to be called by companies that have been searched on your behalf. The process is identical to finding car insurance which many people are familiar with already.
Step 4. Haggle
If you find a policy that you like you might get more money off by ringing the company that is offering it. Certain discounts are not available on-line but can be calculated when a telephonist inputs the data manually so it’s worth a try. There is huge competition for insurance these days which works in the customer’s favour. The worst case scenario is they say No but there’s no harm in asking.
This information leaflet is designed to lead you through the minefield of pet insurance. At Ashman Jones, our policy is not to ask whether your pet is insured. If you offer to provide this information we will happily record it on your pets’ notes but historically, when a vet asks if you have insurance, it is perceived that they are concentrating more on how to hike up costs rather than focusing on getting your pet better. Our invoices do not differ between insured and un-insured pets. However, we have produced this as we feel it is part of our duty of care to provide full information on all aspects of pet care.