Vet’s bills cost money. That is an unavoidable fact. There is no NHS for pets so treatment costs must be paid for at the time they are incurred. Many people perceive veterinary charges as being excessive but the costs involved in running a veterinary business are extremely high. Vets are not well paid compared to other professionals of a similar level (e.g. doctors, lawyers) and most of us do not like having to help owners to make decisions based on finances.
Insurance is the best way to ease the burden, to reduce the pain of having to make a difficult decision as to what treatment option to pursue based on the available funds. However, making sure that you have the right insurance policy is key to this, otherwise you may find that the cover you were relying on will not pay out.
There are three main types of insurance cover as well as a couple of other minor ones. Always choose a Lifetime policy if at all possible.
Time limited policies
These policies will pay up to a maximum amount per condition for a period of 12 months from the start of the condition (this may not necessarily be the start of treatment). After this period of time, the condition and any related conditions will be excluded from the cover and you will not be able to get them insured by changing company as they will count as a pre-existing condition. These policies should be avoided if at all possible.
Maximum benefit per condition, no time limit
These are better than time-limited policies but once the maximum amount per condition has been reached, the condition and any related conditions will be excluded and, again, you will not be able to get them insured by changing company. These policies may be better than nothing if you cannot afford a lifetime policy but make sure that the maximum benefit is sufficient.
These policies will have a maximum amount which can be claimed in each policy year but as long as there is no break in the cover, any condition which has developed since the start of the policy will be covered for the remainder of the policy and the maximum amount renewed each year. These are the ones to go for! Make sure that the maximum payout is sufficient for what might go wrong.
There are some other types of insurance policy which are available.
Third party insurance is included on most other dog policies but if you decide not to get your dog insured for health conditions, you may still need to get third party cover. This will pay out if your dog damages property, or injures another person or dog. You may be covered under your home insurance or you can get this cover by becoming a member of the Dogs Trust. Cats do not need third party insurance as their owners are not responsible for their actions.
Accident only insurance
Some insurance companies have started providing accident only insurance. In general, these are a complete waste of money as the insurance company can find many reasons that a particular injury was not the result of an ‘accident’. You would be far better off paying for a maximum-benefit policy or even just putting the money aside for emergencies than paying for one of these.