Pet insurance- why would I get it? For me personally as a veterinarian, it makes absolute sense for my clients to insure their pets. Your pet is an inquisitive, living animal that may like to poke its nose in places, ingest things other than food, fight or go exploring. They may get wounds, break bones, get infections, get sick, need to go to hospital, get their teeth cleaned…I can go on and on, but you get the picture.
The statistics from the insurance companies suggest that a person with a pet insurance policy is 20 times more likely to claim on that policy compared to other insurances. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Your car is not going to drive itself and cause damage and your phone is not going to take a dip in the pool by itself. However, your dog or cat has a mind of its own which may lead to injury. Also, just like us they have the potential to get sick and suffer from pain.
In almost all instances they can be treated and made better as the advances in veterinary medicine now allow us vets to provide the very best care to our patients. However, there is no Medicare for animals and you as owners are expected to foot the bill for treatment that can help your pet. It’s at this point that we find a lot of clients will regret not having taken out insurance or must make difficult decisions about the treatment of their pets. We know these decisions are hard for them as we are with them at that point helping them make those very difficult decisions.
As veterinarians we have a vested interest in our patients being insured because then we can treat them by the book and not have to feel guilty about compromising a diagnosis or treatment because we were not allowed to investigate or treat as required. As veterinarians we work on many occasions with one hand tied behind our backs or one eye closed as we usually never have as much information as a human doctor would in treating a given condition. As veterinarians we are forever trying to balance the costs for our client vs what is ideal for our patient. Sometimes these two are aligned but more often they are not, and we suggest the best possible compromise…and let me tell you its difficult and mentally exhausting. So many times, I come home feeling dissatisfied and guilty at not having done the best for my patient because of cost constraints. So yes, as veterinarians we would be in heaven if all our patients were insured so we could do what is best for them and not have to compromise their health but more importantly you have the peace of mind you can do what is required for your pet when they need it of you.
So now let’s talk a bit about the policies that are out there. I won’t get into the many insurers because there are more than twenty and increasing all the time. Having said this the policies that are out there, apart from the fine print, are very similar.
In general, you can get three levels of cover for your pet (dog or cat). The lowest level covers accidents only, mid-level covers accident and illness (most popular) and the top-level covers accident, illness and regular veterinary visits. You will have to look at the details of the policy from your insurer to see what’s covered in each. I would generally recommend the middle tier policy that covers accident and illness at minimum.
Next you can select the level of cover that you want i.e. the dollar value that you can claim in a year, this can range from 8k to 20k approximately. Obviously the more you are covered for the greater your annual premiums.
As with any insurance policy when you make a claim you must pay a certain contribution towards the claim and in general the greater your contribution the lower the premium for your policy. Some companies will pay up to 80% of the value of the claim and you pay 20%. Some others will allow you to have an excess so all you pay is your chosen excess and then the company pays the rest. Some companies will offer a mix of the above. In general, the greater your excess amount the lower your premium will be.
Please note that things start to change as your pet ages and the policies will often expect you to make a greater contribution towards treatment. This is because the chances of you claiming increases as your pet ages. So, it is always best to ask your insurer how the policy changes as your pet ages.
Another thing to consider is that the policies can be either insured for life or provide a maximum benefit for a specific condition. An insured for life policy will cover your pet for the rest of their life for a condition such as diabetes, heart failure or epilepsy which requires life-long treatment, provided the policy is renewed every year without a gap. A maximum benefits policy on the other hand will not cover chronic life-long illnesses. Instead once the cost of treatment for the chronic condition reaches the maximum benefit amount in the policy at the time the condition first occurred, the company will stop paying for the condition.
So, if I now decide to insure my pet how do I get started? If your pet is older (e.g. over 8 years of age) do not despair. It’s not too late to insure them. Older pets can still be insured. However, please be aware most companies will either offer accident only insurance or some like Pet Plan will offer accident and illness but if they were to develop a chronic condition during a certain policy year then in the next policy year it will be treated as a pre-existing condition and will not be covered. However, this is still more beneficial than no insurance.
And what happens if you have a new puppy or kitten? If your animal is under 12 months of age, please give us a call or visit our friendly team at the clinic. We can help set you up with a temporary 4-week free insurance policy, so you have the peace of mind that your pet is still covered while you explore the best insurance options for you and your pet.