Posted By: Lynn Broom

Should I get pet insurance?

The options in veterinary medicine have progressed and improved hugely in recent years and, whilst not appropriate in all circumstances, advanced diagnostics and surgery are now available. With this comes increased costs and specialist treatment can easily run to several thousand pounds.

Accidents, injuries and illnesses often come ‘out of the blue’ and this can often involve a sudden and unexpected cost which is not something everyone can afford to deal with. Insurance provides the back up of financial support to help take one element of the decision making process – cost – out of the equation.

There are many different companies offering a range of cover options. It is important to compare like for like and to understand what actually is being offered. For instance you can choose between a ‘for life’ policy or a ‘one year only’ policy. This means that the insurance company will either pay for a condition for the life of the animal or will exclude the condition, either if it recurs (which will often include conditions with similar symptoms) or no more than one year after the condition was first noticed.

Monty is a 12 year old West Highland White Terrier is a very frequent visitor to the practice and is well known to all the staff. He has had more than his fair share of health problems over the years and, luckily, his owner chose a policy from when he was young which provided ‘for life’ cover. He has several long term conditions which will require treatment life long and these are still being covered by his insurance policy.

Different limits are applied depending on the policy and the treatment required. Some policies may limit each claim to a relatively low amount whilst others will apply £10,000 or even higher limits. A referral to a specialist neurosurgeon for slipped disc surgery can exceed £5000.

It is also important to note that pre-existing conditions will not be covered by insurance. Insurance is, put simply, financial back up for unexpected events. Pre-existing conditions have already been identified and are, therefore, not covered by insurance.

If, for instance, your dog has had previous itching in the summer, future summer itching and skin allergies often including ear infections, will not be covered by insurance taken out after the initial episode.

This also applies to changing insurance companies. Even if there has been no break in cover because you took out a new policy with a new company on the same day you cancel your old policy any previously covered conditions which have been present, even if they were not claimed for, will be excluded by the new company.

Also be aware that not all conditions and treatments are covered by all companies. Dental treatment is often excluded unless treatment required is as a result of an injury and, even if routine treatment is covered, it may be excluded if previous veterinary advice to carry out dental treatment has been significantly delayed. Only certain specialist diets and alternative therapies such as physiotherapy are covered even by the most comprehensive policies.

In summary insurance is a very good option to provide financial support in the event of an injury or illness but you need to be aware of the cover you are acquiring and the limitations and exclusions that may apply.

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