Pet owners often ask us what influences the cost of their pet insurance or vet treatment.
Other than shopping around for insurance or comparing the price of treatment at local vets it can be difficult to change the costs associated with owning a pet once you have one.
However, many people find it useful to understand the unexpected things that can affect costs. And if you're about to get another dog or cat, or get a pet for the first time, these factors may help you save money.
Where you live
Although it’s unlikely you’ll want to move house to save a few pounds on vet fees, many people don’t realise how much the price of vet treatment varies across the UK.
For example, something simple like a castration could cost as little as £60 in Northern Ireland, £100 in Yorkshire or £160 in London. And these differences will be reflected in more complex treatment for accidents or illnesses that may cost thousands of pounds.
The price relates to the costs vets face. Treatment is often more expensive in cities or large towns because vets have to pay higher wages to cover the living costs of their staff and these locations come with higher rents and fees for the practices.
Although pet insurance for those in cities may cost more than for those in rural areas, it doesn’t mean people in urban areas should disregard it. Pet insurance companies offer a range of policies to suit different budgets and without it you’ll have to cover the costs of any treatment.
But if you live on the edge of a city it may influence your choice of vet.
And wherever you live the price of vet treatment may surprise you. Stitches can cost hundreds of pounds, the average surgery is around £1,500 and ongoing chemotherapy can be about £5,000.
Vets are highly skilled professionals and often use advanced medical work to help pets. It’s often the case that blood tests for pets come back quicker than those for humans.
Owners often forget that their pet insurance premium will reflect the difference in vet fees across the UK, that’s why insurers ask you where you live.
Your pet's age
There’s not much you can do about this once you own a pet but it may influence the choices you make when you’re looking for the right dog for your home.
Older pets tend to cost more to insure because they’re more likely to suffer from illness or accidents and then need vet treatment that will cost insurers money.
If you buy or adopt an older pet be aware that they may have had treatment in the past for a condition, which means most pet insurers will not cover it going forwards and you’ll have to pay out for related treatment.
Insurance premiums can increase dramatically when dogs reach a certain age, usually around 8 or 9. But this varies between breeds because life expectancy is not the same for all dogs.
Recent rules mean that at renewal insurers now have to show the price you were paying the year before. A good company should be able to explain why your premium has increased.
Owners may see a more gradual increase in premiums for cats because they live longer and tend to need less frequent expensive vet treatment.
Type of pet or breed
Cats tend to be cheaper to insure than dogs and as mentioned above they may not need as much vet treatment.
However, this can depend on the individual temperament of the animal. Cats have a longer life expectancy than dogs and if you have a cat that frequently gets itself into mischief you’ll end up spending more to get it patched up.
If you own a dog you’ll find that pet insurance prices vary between breeds. Again, this reflects the likelihood of certain dogs needing vet treatment.
You can estimate some of your costs by getting insurance quotes for different breeds before you choose a dog.
And once you own a dog you should make sure you can cover the costs of insurance or treatment you may need for your particular breed throughout its life.
Some pedigree breeds, especially flat-faced dogs, are more likely to develop health problems. And larger and flat-faced breeds tend to have shorter life expectancies.
That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a good home but owners have a responsibility to make sure they can afford to provide the care they need.
Whether you have pet insurance and the type of policy you choose
The choice to have pet insurance does add a monthly cost but it’s designed to help owners cover large, unexpected or ongoing vet bills.
And the type of cover an owner decides on will impact their monthly costs. Lifetime cover resets the amount you can claim each year you renew so it can be useful when covering ongoing conditions (as long as you had insurance when the condition first developed). But it does cost a little more.
With insurance you often get what you pay for so it’s important to research the cover levels that may be appropriate for your pet and understand how different policies work. A good insurance company should be able to explain their cover to help you make a decision.
You can also speak to your vet to find out about conditions certain breeds are susceptible to and what a good pet insurance policy looks like.