Do I need Pet Insurance?

Sam Gilbert By Sam Gilbert

In the UK, there is no legal requirement to have pet insurance. So why do 6.6m pet owners choose to buy it?

What does pet insurance cover?

Most people who decide to get pet insurance do it to get help with unexpected vet bills. By paying a pet insurance company a set amount monthly or yearly, you don’t have to worry about covering the costs of vet treatment yourself if your pet becomes unwell or is in an accident.

Dog Insurance vs Cat Insurance

But there is another important reason to consider pet insurance if you have a dog. As a dog owner, you are legally responsible for anything that your dog does. So if your dog bites someone, harms livestock, damages property, or runs out into the road and causes a traffic accident, you are liable for all the costs and will need to find a way of paying for them. Remember Fenton?

Pet insurance helps with this by providing a type of insurance called public liability insurance, which pays out if these sorts of incidents occur. In the most extreme cases, these costs could run to millions of pounds. (This isn’t a factor for cats, as the law sees them as free spirits and doesn’t hold owners responsible for their behaviour.)

If your main concern is public liability insurance for a dog, Animal Friends Basic is the cheapest pet insurance policy we are aware of that includes this cover.

Can visits to the vet really cost that much?

If a pet needs major surgery or develops an ongoing condition that requires vet treatment and medication over many years, vet costs can run to thousands of pounds. For example:

  • Luxating patella – if your pet needed surgery on both knees this could cost £1,500
  • Heart problems – operations to deal with congenital heart defects in pets can cost up to £6,000
  • Hip dysplasia – if your pet needed both hips replaced, it could cost £7,000

These are the kinds of situations where pet insurance proves its value.

Ok, so how much does pet insurance cost?

Basic pet insurance can be as little as £3 a month, but the costs vary enormously based on the type and breed of your pet, where you live, how old your pet is, and how much financial protection you want. An older, large dog, such as a Great Dane, living in London could cost as much as £80 a month to insure. On average, UK pet owners with pet insurance pay about £15 a month.

For full details on this, read our article on Pet Insurance Costs.

What happens if I need to make a claim on my pet insurance?

Increasingly, well-known pet insurance companies such as Petplan and More Than can pay your vet directly, meaning that you don’t end up out of pocket while your claim is processed.

A claim typically starts by phoning your insurance company and then filling in a claim form to give them details of the injury or illness. Most reputable pet insurance companies pay 9 out of 10 claims.

One thing to bear in mind when choosing a pet insurance policy is the excess. This is the amount you have to pay towards any claim you make. It can be as little as £75 (with More Than), or as much as £140 (with John Lewis). Some policies will also ask you to pay a percentage of the costs as well as the excess – particularly if you are insuring an older dog.

How can I get cheaper pet insurance?

There are a number of options available that can help reduce the cost of pet insurance.

  • Multi pet insurance - where you insure more than one pet on the same pet insurance policy is usually cheaper than insuring pets individually, as pet insurance companies offer discounts
  • Be savvy and shop around to compare pet insurance prices and find the best deal for your pet
  • Join Bought By Many’s Pet Insurance Group - get exclusive discounts by using the collective buying power you share with other UK pet owners

What else does pet insurance give me?

In addition to help with vet bills and public liability cover for dogs, pet insurance can also provide help with costs if your pet is lost or stolen, or needs to be unexpectedly put in kennels.

What isn’t covered by pet insurance?

It’s important to remember that pet insurance is designed to give you financial protection from unexpected costs.

For this reason, it doesn’t cover the costs of routine vet treatment such as neutering or jabs. Pet insurance also doesn’t cover any medical conditions already affecting your pet at the time you buy the insurance (known by pet insurance companies as a pre-existing condition).

In addition, there are some treatments which are covered by more expensive lifetime pet insurance policies, but not cheaper basic pet insurance policies. These include:

  • Dental treatment for a pet
  • Alternative treatments, such as dog hydrotherapy
  • Pet diet food costs
  • End of life costs (that is, the cost of having a pet put down)

What are the alternatives to pet insurance?

The most common alternative is just to take a risk, and pay vet bills as and when they arise.

Some people choose to self-insure by putting a fixed amount of money into a savings account each month that they can then use if their pet needs treatment. The main downsides with this approach are:

  • If you need to pay for expensive treatment early in your pet’s life, you may not have built up enough funds in your savings account to cover the costs
  • You won’t be covered for public liability if you have a dog
  • Membership of the Dogs Trust provides a number of benefits including public liability insurance for your dog. Membership costs £25 a year, so it can be a cost-effective way of getting cover for public liability if you need it.

Ok, I’ve decided that I DO need pet insurance. What’s the best company?

Have a look at our Top 10 Pet Insurance rankings, which we created by combining the latest expert independent research.

TL; DR

  • If you have a dog, you need public liability insurance as a minimum
  • If you have plenty of money and are comfortable covering all the costs of vet treatment for your pet yourself, you don’t need pet insurance
  • If a big vet bill would be a problem for you, pet insurance is a sensible thing to consider

And finally…

Don’t forget to join our Pet Insurance group to get discounts and help make pet insurance better for everyone.

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