Make in­sur­ance a pet sub­ject as vets’ fees can be ex­pen­sive

Yorkshire Post - - MONEY -

A PET can be great com­pany and be­come an in­te­gral part of your fam­ily. Just as its diet and gen­eral well be­ing are given the right pri­or­ity, so its health should be safe­guarded.

It is only the fool­hardy who do not have pet in­sur­ance. The vet fees and other costs can be far higher than many imag­ine whilst li­a­bil­i­ties – such as caus­ing a road ac­ci­dent – can be sky high.

Ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish In­sur­ers (ABI), 3.7m pet in­sur­ance poli­cies have been bought with av­er­age an­nual pre­mi­ums of £324 for dogs and £171 for cats. This is good value when the av­er­age claim is £757 which is likely to rise sig­nif­i­cantly as the range of treat­ments from hy­drother­apy to phys­io­ther­apy in­creases.

Di­rect Line says the most ex­pen­sive claims this year are for res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem dis­or­ders, in­fec­tious dis­eases and mus­cu­loskele­tal dis­or­ders.

The friendly so­ci­ety LV= re­veals some av­er­age claims for

Cru­ci­ate in­jury £995 Mass cell tu­mour £659 Di­a­betes £429 Ab­scess £306 Vom­it­ing £435. Some cru­ci­ates can cer­tainly ex­ceed £2,500 if surgery and phys­io­ther­apy are re­quired. The ABI says it can cost £30,000 to treat a golden re­triever with seizures and £10,000 for a cat with an in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease. Not sur­pris­ingly, claim pay­ments have risen 56 per cent since 2010.

Pet owners who opt for the self-in­sure route will take a long time to build up suf­fi­cient re­serves to meet such even­tu­al­i­ties.

In Oc­to­ber, a UK-wide alert was is­sued when three pedi­gree cats were di­ag­nosed with bovine tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. The cause was a diet of raw meat based on the con­cept that such food is more nat­u­ral. They were cats who lived in­doors and had no out­side con­tact.

Part of the rea­son for ris­ing pre­mi­ums is the ad­di­tional in­sur­ance tax levied which has jumped from five per cent in 2008 to 12 per cent to­day.

Pet own­er­ship is grow­ing with dogs the most com­mon and owned by over 6.6m house­holds, fol­lowed by cats in 5m homes. Yet many pets are unin­sured, es­ti­mated at 67 per cent for dogs and as high as 84 per cent for cats.

A good start­ing point for the right in­surer and pol­icy is to check the in­de­pen­dent re­search un­der­taken by De­faqto and Money­facts. The for­mer says pet pro­tec­tion is “likely to be the most com­plex in­sur­ance prod­uct that a per­sonal in­sur­ance cus­tomer can buy”.

This is be­cause poli­cies pro­vide cover in very dif­fer­ent ways which can have a marked ef­fect on the value of any claim paid. Apart from pay­ing vet bills, con­sider ad­di­tional cover which of­fers hol­i­day can­cel­la­tion, ac­ci­den­tal death, pub­lic li­a­bil­ity, loss or theft, over­seas cover and advertising with a re­ward for a lost pet.

Watch for poli­cies that ex­clude pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions. It makes sense there­fore to pro­tect a pet as early as pos­si­ble to en­sure any med­i­cal prob­lem will later be cov­ered. If a claim is made, do not ex­pect an­other in­surer to of­fer the same terms as, al­though its pre­mium may cost less, it is likely to ex­clude the con­di­tion.

There are five dif­fer­ent ways to of­fer cover. The first (21 per cent of poli­cies) lim­its each con­di­tion to a 12-month time limit. All fees are paid up to a set sum or for one year from the claim, which­ever is reached first. Af­ter that time, no claim can ever be made for that con­di­tion.

The sec­ond type of pol­icy (20 per cent) has no time re­stric­tion for any con­di­tion. You can claim each year for the same con­di­tion up to a set fi­nan­cial limit.

Thirdly and ac­count­ing for 17 per cent of poli­cies, fee pay­ments can be lim­ited to a fixed level which is re­set each year. Pro­vided the pol­icy is re­newed, a fresh con­di­tion limit is given for the fol­low­ing year. A fourth way ( just eight per cent of poli­cies) is for all fees to be paid up to a set amount but with a limit of no more than 12 months of claims for any sin­gle con­di­tion.

Fi­nally, there are poli­cies which are in­tended for the life of a pet. All vets’ fees are cov­ered up to an over­all limit and pro­vided the pol­icy is re­newed an­nu­ally, the vet re­im­burse­ment level is also re­newed. Not sur­pris­ingly, this level of pro­tec­tion ac­counts for 34 per cent of poli­cies.

De­faqto has an­a­lysed 452 poli­cies. Among the five star rat­ings awarded by both re­search com­pa­nies are Aviva Plat­inum, Deben­hams Elite, Di­rect Line (Ad­vanced and Select Premier), Le­gal & Gen­eral (Plus and Premier), LV= (Life­time £10,000, £5,000 and £3,000), M&S Premier and Pet­plan (Clas­sic and Ul­ti­mate).

As might be ex­pected, the Ken­nel Club gains top star rat­ing with Money­facts for both its KC Life­time poli­cies (£7,500 and £15,000)

How­ever, be on your guard when only a sin­gle star is awarded. De­faqto re­veals 32 such poli­cies. They in­clude 4 Paws Stan­dard (based in Har­ro­gate), In­sure My Pet Time Lim­ited, Paws and Claws (One Paw), Pet­pals Di­rect (Con­di­tion Care Plus, Time Care Es­sen­tial and Time Care plus) and Saga Saver Cover.

It also awards just one star to the ‘ac­ci­dent only’ poli­cies of the AA, Ad­mi­ral, An­i­mal Friends, Healthy Pets, More Th>n, Per­fect Pet and Vir­gin Money.

It may not be well known that the RSPCA of­fers cat and dog in­sur­ance through Covea which in­cludes a 15 per cent do­na­tion to help an­i­mals in need. This ranges from ac­ci­dent only with up to £1m third-party li­a­bil­ity through four fur­ther lev­els to £12,000 an­nual vet fees. The ex­cess is £100 for pets un­der seven years plus a fur­ther 10 per cent of the cost of treat­ment above this age. The treat­ment pe­riod can be per con­di­tion or per year. The RSPCA gives a 10 per cent dis­count for in­sur­ing more than one pet.

Prit Powar, Di­rect Line’s head of Pet In­sur­ance, says that as tem­per­a­tures in­creased and for a longer time this sum­mer, it re­ceived more claims for wounds.

“This in­di­cates that whilst more pets were out en­joy­ing the sun­shine with their owners, un­for­tu­nately it may have led to an in­crease in in­juries.”

For horses and other pets, Equine & Live­stock of Thorpe Un­der­wood, near York, of­fer cover. Dis­counts up to 25 per cent are avail­able for on­line or­ders.

Spe­cial­ist in­sur­ers will pro­vide pro­tec­tion for other pets. Ex­otic Di­rect, founded in 1996, has its poli­cies un­der­writ­ten by Al­lianz. Its ex­cess is per course of vet treat­ment and de­pends on the pet: £35 for bird of prey, rep­tile and tor­toise and £65 for large and/or ex­otic mam­mals.

Conal Gre­gory is AIC Re­gional Jour­nal­ist of the Year.

The av­er­age an­nual pre­mium is £324 for dogs and £171 for cats, good value when the av­er­age claim is £757.

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