As it’s a member of the family, you will most likely get very upset if anything happens to your dog. Vet bills though can be high and to cover these many people decide to buy dog insurance. Are there other options too?
Covering the cost of your dog falling ill or having an accident.
Dogs are loyal companions, indeed the saying goes they’re ‘mans best friend’.
Your dog lives in what can be a dangerous world and of course it’s only right that you’ll want to safeguard him from whatever life throws at him.
Your priority, should your dog suffer any illness or injury, is to get medical treatment quickly.
Dogs in particular can be subject to more health problems and accidental injuries than other pets, so it stands to reason that you need to make sure you are able to cover the vets costs when used to provide treatment.
There are a number of ways you can cover the vet costs:
1. Pay the fees out of your own funds, however, with vets fees ever rising, many people are not in a financial position to do this.
2. Save money regularly into a savings account.
Clearly if there is any interest paid on your account you will benefit with this approach, as you will if you don’t have to pay any vets fees as your dog manages not to fall ill or have an accident.
The potential downside though is that you haven’t saved enough before you have to pay out a chunky vet bill. Then how do you pay the bill?
3. Buy dog insurance, whereby for a monthly fee or premium you are covered for vets costs for an agreed range of circumstances and fees over an agreed timescale.
Clearly you need to ensure you find the best type of insurance to meet your specific needs at a cost you can afford.
What types of dog insurance are there?
There are four main types of cover to consider when buying dog insurance:
- Accident only
- Per condition with a time limit
- Per condition
- Lifetime cover.
1. Accident only dog insurance
This insurance, as the name suggests, covers your dog only if it needs veterinary treatment following an accident.
It does not provide cover if they have an illness.
Depending on the cover, there may also be a time limit for the treatment and a fixed amount of money available for treatment of each accidental injury.
2. Per condition with a time limit pet insurance
This will pay vets’ fees for accidents and illnesses for a maximum of 12 months after your pet has been diagnosed.
Often with this type of insurance policy there will be a maximum payout for a specific set of treatment.
This means that if the cost of the treatment reaches a set limit, you’ll have to pay for the remainder of the bill.
Example of accident only insurance
So, take the example whereby you buy dog insurance cover that has a maximum vet fee of £1,500 and a 12 months time limit.
If your vet bill is £1,800 you will be covered for the first £1,500 but you will have to pay the £300 outstanding balance yourself.
3. Per condition insurance cover
This type of policy is perhaps the simplest and most popular type of dog insurance policy people buy.
It provides cover for a set fee limit, but there isn’t a time limit for how long the treatment lasts.
The cover will continue for any treatment as long as you renew the policy after 12 months. Be clear though that this type of cover does not cover re-occurring illness or injury.
4. Lifetime or comprehensive pet insurance
The lifetime cover insurance offers the most comprehensive type of pet insurance.
Equally it is the most expensive but will cover for any kind of illness or injury and give you total peace of mind.
Insurers will set a high maximum amount per year on the policy, this is the overall amount they will pay out in any one year.
You will have to renew the policy each year, albeit it is possible that some insurers wil refuse to renew it.
Most comprehensive policies will cover the standard vet fees and accidental damage and will then add a range of benefits.
Additional policy benefits may include such as burial fees, dental pets, advertising and reward costs should your dog go AWOL, as well as boarding kennel fees or holiday cancellation costs should a vacation become shorter as a result of your dog becoming ill.
Additional cover may seem attractive but as always when buying insurance do make sure the cover you buy meets your needs.
There is no point buying cheap dog insurance only to find you don’t have the right cover.
In the same way, there is no point buying additional cover benefits unless you need them as they can add a lot more to the overall cost of the pet insurance.
What is not covered by dog insurance?
All dog insurance policies will have some exclusions. The specific exclusions will differ depending on the policy you buy and you should check these carefully before your finalise your purchase.
The most common exclusions are pre-existing conditions and anything related to pregnancy or birth. Routine, preventive or planned treatments such as vaccinations and spaying will also not be included.
What about insurance for pre-existing conditions?
Almost all insurers will refuse to cover an animal with a pre-existing medical condition. If they do, the premiums are likely to be huge.
Don’t forget your insurance excess amount
Whatever insurance you decide to buy, you will have to pay the “excess”, or first part of any claim you make yourself. This will be set individually by each insurer for their policy and typically comprises of a compulsory amount and a voluntary amount.
You can lower your premium rate (the amount you pay for your insurance) by increasing the voluntary part of your excess. Similarly you can reduce your voluntary excess amount which will increase your premium amount.
Some policies may have a co-insurance or cost sharing element
This means that if you make a claim for your pets vets fess, you will be charged a percentage of the remaining vet fees after your excess has been deducted.
This co-insurance percentage that you are charged will vary from policy to policy, but will usually be around 10% or 20%.
For example, imagine you may have a policy with an excess of £50 and a co-insurance fee of 20%.
If you incur a vets bill of £300 it would mean you would have to pay £50 + 20% of the balance left of the bill after the excess has been deducted ie 20% of £250.
This means you would pay £50 + £50, making a total of £100 of the £300 bill.
Do I need to buy third party liability insurance for my dog?
Third party liability insurance provides cover if your pet injures someone or damages their property. These costs can be high and so insurers set high limits of cover, up to a £1 million or more depending on the insurer.
And it’s not just about your dog attacking another pet or person, which you may think it will never do.
What about if your dog is off chasing something and accidentally knocks someone over or damages some property?
The person who has been injured or suffered damage to their property, could take civil action against you.
The court will then decide if you need to pay any compensation or cover their medical or legal costs.
Third party liability insurance is often included with many dog insurance policies as standard. If it isn’t included, it’s widely available as an optional extra.
Now take the following steps to help ensure you have protection for your dogs vets bills
1. Consider the options available to you to cover the cost of your dog falling ill or having an accident.
2. Choose the option that suits you best.
3. If you decide to opt for a savings account, make sure you set this up and start your regular saving.
4. If you decide to opt for buying dog insurance, consider the types of insurance available and choose the best type to meet your needs.
5. If you are opting for the higher cost insurance types with differing benefits, consider which benefits are important to you.
Think about the amount of excess you are prepared to pay too.
If you need more information, there is some useful material on the Association of British Insurers website.
6. If you are going to buy dog insurance, consider comparing quotes from different insurers. Comparison sites such as Confused.com, MoneySupermarket.com and others are a good starting point.
7. Make sure you take the time to understand the insurance you are buying.
This includes knowing exactly what it does and does not cover, what the excess is and what the limits are for the amount available to cover treatment from the vet for your dog.
Ultimately make sure you are in a position to pay for your dogs vet bills. And be aware, as the owner of a dog, it’s really a question of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’ you get hit with these bills.
Your beloved pooch will, at some point, whether you like it or not, fall ill or have an accident requiring treatment from a vet. You need to take action before it happens to protect yourself financially.