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Pet insurance - A waste of time?

December 22, 2005 01:03 PM EST | Insurance | Email to Friend

According to a survey published by Mintel, one in three pets needs an unexpected visit to the vet each year. This means that you are more likely to claim on your pet insurance than on a home & contents policy or even your car insurance.

The word "unexpected" is important here. If you are looking for pet insurance to provide cover for routine treatments such as vaccinations or worming, forget it - policies that do that are as rare as hens' teeth! And you won't find cover for elective treatments, such as neutering, either. This means that the most common reasons for visiting the vet are uninsurable.

But don't forget it's those unexpected visits that tend to be the expensive ones! Developments in animal care mean that more conditions can be effectively treated and costs of emergency care can be horrendous. A cat that argues with a car could cost 700, even more, to treat. After all, a series of X-rays could cost 400 and a MRI scan will put you back 1,000. If Buster the Bulldog tore a ligament that too can be treated - but the cost? Don't expect change from 1,500! This is serious money!

Having appreciated that most reasons for a visit to the vet are uninsurable, what do we get for our money?

Well, insurance plans largely fall into three types. The first restricts the value of the claim for each condition or event; the second limits the total annual payout and the third and cheapest option, limits the payout per condition and ceases cover after 12 months of treatment. Most will make a payout if you pet dies. And with all policies you will have to pay an excess on any claim, usually between 50 and 100.

And the cost? That depends on which type of policy you want, the excess you want to pay, the sort of pet you have, its breed, its age and even your post-code (vets charge more in Chelsea). But as a guide, an industry estimate suggests costs between 30 and 200 per year for a cat and between 50 to 500 for Buster.

The best advice is start the insurance when your pet is young. Most pets can be insured after they're 8 weeks old and you can then maintain the insurance over the course of its life. If your pet is in it's middle age when you want to start the insurance, say eight or nine for a dog, then it may be difficult to get worthwhile cover. This is because treatments for existing health conditions will be excluded from the cover and in any case, a new policy at that age gets expensive.

So how can you lower the premiums? Sometime insurers will give you a discount if you pet has been identity chipped and quantity discounts do prevail! Discounts are widely available for your second and subsequent insured pet.

Then there's always the Internet. The Internet is taking an increasing share of the insurance market and no wonder - its simple, quick and easy. What's more it's probably the cheapest avenue for all your insurance whether it be for your home, your car or pet.

Michael writes for Brokers Online they offer most UK financial services including pet insuranceAdditional reading - Pet Insurance

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