Why do we need insurance for our pet dogs?
It's a good idea that is all. ideally each dog owner should insure their dog with at least a third party cover as a just in case. If you dog escapes and causes an accident, they hurt someone tripping them up or cause a car accident you will be liable for this, or they do damage to someone property, again you will be liable, how would you pay for any claims they made against you?
The dogs trust offer third party insurance for the £25 a year membership fee this is probably the cheepest may of getting this kind of cover.
The Dogs Trust
What if you want to cover vet bills?
There are lots of things to consider when looking for pet insurance.
The better policies will pay out for larger amounts per condition and this will reset each year upon policy renewal for the life of the dog. But of course these policies can be slightly more expensive than other policies that only cover the dog for a maximum amount for life or a maximum amount per condition for life.
Also remember as soon as your dog is diagnosed or shows symptoms for something if you are not already covered for that with an insurance policy then this will be exempt and you will not be able to get any cover for that condition.
So you need to look at the possible conditions your dog may be prone too.
Some breeds may suffer from bloat others may need BOAS surgery to open up airways or you may have a dog prone to Intervertebral disc disease or a large breed prone to joint conditions or cancers. These things alone before your dog is even diagnosed with anything can mean you are restricted by who will offer you a policy.
Surgery and treatment costs
Surgery cost can go into the thousands yes it's a dog but treatment is expensive, you are paying for the vets qualifiction their expertise and time as well as the assistance of qualified and experinced nursing staff and the medications for pain and paying for the follow up appointments, and any complimentary therapy's that your vet may suggest will assist in their rehabilitation.
Then we have the other things insurance covers, behaviourists, kennel stay's, damage to property, special dietary requirements the list can go on.
The average insurance claim was £793 in 2018 and this will only rise year on year with the progression of treatments (New highs for pet insurance market, 2019). And of course with the huge cost of treatments most people don't have the ready cash sitting around to make large payment's so Vets can take direct payments from insurers (Dunn, 2006). Jerre (2009) say's that the most commonly claimed for condition in dogs in the UK is Cranial cruciate ligament damage, this can effect any breed of dog big or small, and one of the treatment methods most heard of is tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO). This procedure has an average cost of around 3k for a large breed dog, Then take into considerations the post operative rehabilitation and we are looking at around 4k +/-.
But you may have a lovely puppy who is happy and healthy now, why do you need to pay loads for a policy?
Well things can and do go wrong and this can happen quickly. Joint problems, allergy problems, eye problems, breathing problems can and do all happen in young dogs as well as older dogs.
Using a comparison site can help you greatly,
Compare the market
What should I look for?
My preference is to look for policies that offer a substantial amount between 8-15k per year per condition that resets with each yearly policy renewal so that everything is covered from early on and for the life of the dog.
Bought by many is one company that will cover pre existing conditions but they do have conditions for this and the money may be minimal in comparison to the total bill.
Why do I suggest this?
Well as I already said the cheeper policies may not cover the condition your dog presents with, leaveing you will a huge vet bill to find the money for. For instance some policies offer cover of 4k but this is broken down and they will only cover one condition up to that amount this is often written in the policy document, with some being very specific about the cover they offer for certain conditions and some saying they will pay out a maximum amount for each condition.
So what policies should I look at?
Of course what you can afford must be taken into consideration if you can't afford to pay £30 a month for 8k cover than you will be looking at policies that offer less cover. There is absolutly nothing wrong with this, so long as you are aware of what the policy states. Yes that means you really do need to read the policy document and know what you are getting.
Now there are over 20 insurance companies offering pet insurance policies but only about 25% of the dogs in the UK are insured (Asher et al., 2011), but why is this? we see that in humans those with private health care are seen more quickly, so why is this not the same of dogs?
Age ain't nothing but a number, or is it?
Some insurance companies will not insure older dogs so it is worth finding that for life policy before your dog hits around 8 years old. Although some insurance providors will cover older dogs now but again these are the more expensive for life policies and they again will not cover pre-exisiting conditions.
In my experience the companies offering the best policies are.
Bought by many
Some of these companies also reduce premiums yearly for not making any claims or offer multipet discounts for taking out policies with more than one pet at the same time.
Your budget and finding the right policy for you
But of course you do also have to consider your budget. A policy offering less cover may be what you can afford which is fine but try to go for the best policy offering as much as possible for what you can afford.
what if you just don't want to pay out for insurance?
Well as already mentioned if you don't take out a full policy and third party policy is advisable just in case your dog does cause and accident, But you certainly don't need to have insurance at all to cover vet fee's. There are other ways to pay, a savings account you put a lttle aside in every month, or a credit card sitting there waiting for that just in case moment. or if you are in recipt of council houseing benefit you may be entitled to reduced fees from the Peoples dispensory for sick animals (PDSA).
Insurance can be the difference between saving your beloved furry family members life or having to say goodbye to them because you can't afford to pay for the treatment that could so easily make a difference.
Read policy documents when you take a policy out and when you renew a policy, and always pick a policy that offers you the most that you can afford.
Asher, L., Buckland, E., Phylactopoulos, C., Whiting, M., Abeyesinghe, S. and Wathes, C. (2011). Estimation of the number and demographics of companion dogs in the UK. BMC Veterinary Research, 7(1), p.74.
Dunn, L. (2006). Small Animal Practice: Billing, Third-party Payment Options, and Pet Health Insurance. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 36(2), pp.411-418.New
Highs for pet insurance market. (2019). Veterinary Record, 184(17), pp.515-515.
Jerre, S. (2009). Rehabilitation after extra-articular stabilisation of cranial cruciate ligament rupture in dogs. Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology, 22(02), pp.148-152.
Clair Litster-Huckle has a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and has studied Canine psychology and Canine diet and nutrition.