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Quick Guide to On-Line Pet Insurance for Your Dog
Not all pet insurance is the same. Indeed, even when deciding on the type of dog they want, prospective owners need to be aware of how expensive their choice could be. For many breeds, getting coverage is difficult, especially in the competitive world of online pet insurance. The computer says no to a huge list of breeds, including dogs crossed with these excluded breeds. A “mongrel pup” could very easily grow into something resembling an outcast breed. If a veterinarian describes a dog as a “pit bull mix” at any time, the insurance company will refuse to insure the animal or pay a claim if coverage was already in effect.
Rather than looking at every online provider and scheme, this guide reviews the policies offered by the major online providers that dominate the UK pet insurance market. They cover the majority of regular dog owners with Pet Insurance. This quick guide focuses on the needs of the average pet owner, it is not intended to cover the needs of people raising show dogs for example.
The premium charged for roughly equivalent benefits varies widely, although £15 per month is about average for the type of competing product under consideration. Anything more and there’s probably a good reason, anything less and it could be an unwanted feature that most might want to avoid! However, cost-effective cover can be purchased online for a very reasonable cost, provided the buyer is aware of the potential pitfalls. The most important things to know are described in these tips.
Pet insurance for dogs – eight tips
1. The main reason why a policy is very cheap is because it covers less, let’s get that out of the way. For example, some insurance policies are only designed to cover a dog for the first 10 years of its life. This age limit can be hidden pretty well in the fine print. The subscriber knows that there are health problems with older animals. Veterinary bills are inevitable and costly, especially in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic or serious illnesses. The very low premiums charged for pet insurance that ends when a dog is 10 years old (or younger for some breeds) simply reflects that the policy is not in effect when most “end of life” claims life” occur.
2. Veterinary costs, how much to insure? Most people probably think that £2,500 to cover vet costs is more than enough. Unfortunately, this is often insufficient and is certainly more likely to be in more than 10 years, when claims are almost inevitable. A significant number now have a limit of £4,000 which has been taken as a benchmark for this guide.
3. Some providers keep their premiums low, but compensate for this by dramatically increasing their deductible for vet fees as the insured dog ages. This often also takes the form of a percentage contribution to the cost of treatment – usually 20%, but some are higher. This would mean a £2,000 vet bill would be split, with the policyholder paying £400 for the claim plus their policy excess, say an additional £90. In this case, the insurance company will only pay £1510. For retirees or other people on fixed incomes, the £490 they suddenly have to find could be a disaster. Thus, some buyers may prefer to pay more premium for a policy that does not change and always has the same deductible, throughout the life of their animal.
4. In addition to increased premiums, policy terms and conditions may change as the insured animal ages. Excess has already been mentioned. Standard policies paid monthly generally exclude any condition for which a claim has already been made. Eczema is a good example of a condition that can affect a dog for many years, only lifetime coverage would still allow the insured to continue claiming it, after their next policy renewal, after the initial claim. Most good pet providers offer a lifetime coverage option. All charge around 35% more for this than their standard monthly coverage.
5. Premiums increase due to the increased cost of claims as well as the greater likelihood of a claim occurring. Veterinary fees have risen well above the rate of inflation, which simply reflects the wide range of treatments now available. The quality offered can be comparable to that of a private hospital with prices to match. Also, as a dog ages, the premiums increase. One provider, E&L Insurance, takes a more transparent approach by only offering “Senior Pet” insurance for dogs over the age of 8, for example.
6. Be aware of online discounts and special bonuses for puppies. These discounts only apply to the first year of insurance, it will be the full rate the following year and the following 12 years. To check the real value, it is recommended to try several quotes online using different ages of pets, this will identify any supplier trying to entice in business with IPL discounts. Cheapest isn’t always the best value over time, so a few minutes spent comparing prices can go a long way.
7. Paying for the brand. Many large brands, including supermarkets and banks, offer pet insurance, but their coverage is outsourced to specialist providers. The brand will take a large percentage as they are spending a lot to market the product. They provide access to a large number of loyal customers and charge for the privilege. However, the same specialists often offer the same products directly and for less.
8. Beware of breed specific restrictions, known issues with some breeds, such as hip displacement in German Shepherds and the short lifespan of many larger dogs, will be reflected in the general conditions of the police. Underwriters will be more specific upfront about these restrictions, it is crucial to understand them. Basically, the insurance is only offered to cover unforeseen costs and not the inevitable payments for inherent troubles. Also, most policies don’t cover dental or gum disease, so never let a dog develop a sweet tooth.
When compiling the table below, each supplier was asked to quote online for a medium breed dog – new 8 week old puppy. The cover sought was £4,000 for veterinary costs, although alternative options were shown where this exact figure was not available. This sample was taken on October 10, 2010.
Provider / Consider / Veterinary costs covered / Premium
Argos Gold Cover / £65 / £4,000 / £15.77 Excess
E&L Cash (monthly) / £159 or £49 double deductible for claims over £1000. From 8 years old, 35% contribution towards veterinary costs / £4,000 / £8.82
Churchill / Excess of £65 plus 20% contribution from 7 years. Online discount / £3,000 / £10.98
LV=Liverpool Victoria/ £60 deductible. 10% Off Online / £5000 / £10.96
pet-insurance.co.uk/ £90 deductible. Standard coverage. Up to 10 years. 20% Off Online / £4,000 / £7.79
pet-insurance.co.uk / £90 deductible. Lifetime coverage. No age limit. The owner should pay 10% of an animal’s overnight hospitalization costs. Includes 20% off first year / £4,000 / £11.47
More … than / Excess of £70 plus 10% of the cost of the claim under 9, increasing to 20% for 9 and over. / 20% online discount. / £3,000 / £12.75
Plan of animals / £75 Deductible plus 20% contribution for over 8s reduction 1 month free. / £3,000 / £15.25
Sainsburys / £100 excess Three months free (limited time offer). Earn Nectar Points / £3000 / £14.73
Tesco / £60 deductible. Policy terms remain the same for the lifetime of the animal / £4,000 / £17.68
The best pet insurance
It depends on the coverage the pet owner needs. Some vets are willing to divulge typical treatment costs, it can be a sobering conversation! Arguably, an individual could open a separate savings account and pay the equivalent of one of the more expensive policies each month and become your own insurance company. However, many people don’t have the discipline to do this and if something happens after just one year, the amount saved won’t cover much.
Unfortunately, even a healthy young dog can get all kinds of scratches. Just ask someone who paid £3,000 for surgery because their pet was involved in an accident. Pet insurance also covers liability, which people don’t think much about until their dog comes out of an open door or slips its collar on a busy street.
Just looking for the lowest price? There is always the possibility of buying a policy with a large excess or contribution. This coverage will pay most very large bills, should the worst happen. Better that than no coverage at all. Products offered by E&L Insurance for example, particularly for dog owners living outside of London or the Home Counties, fall into this category.
It all depends on your personal situation. Many people on fixed incomes, those with existing debt that they are paying off, or naturally cautious people often prefer to pay for coverage with the deductible or minimum contribution. They would rather leave their insurance company to worry about getting a big vet bill. Therefore, although relatively expensive, a pet policy such as Tesco’s offer would suit them perfectly.
Fonts priced somewhere in between represent a compromise. The concern, however, is that many people are unaware of the terms and conditions of pet insurance policies and are simply lured by the low overall price of a well-known brand. Unfortunately, some find out too late that they have to pay a substantial contribution to any claim, especially when their dog gets older.
This guide is intended to help readers make an informed choice about the pet insurance product they choose for their dog.
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