Pet insurance is a mine field… so we have out together a few top tips when choosing pet insurance.

Whatever insurance company you choose, it’s important to make sure you understand exactly what your pet insurance policy covers (more importantly what is excluded). Particularly if you have a working dog for example or they compete at agility – be sure your policy will cover injuries sustained during these ‘working’ activities. Be honest about the level and type of work, condition of the dog and any previous medical history – there’s nothing worse than needing to put in claim to find the insurance won’t pay-out when you need it to because of a minor detail you failed to disclose.

Decide whether you are more concerned on the cost or convenience of your pet insurance. Many vet-recognised insurers will likely have higher prices; however, this also means that paperwork, proof of insurance etc will all be taken care of by the vets and they will liaise directly with your insurance company. Alternatively, in most cases with less recognised insurers, is that they are often cheaper, but contacting your insurers and sourcing the necessary information from vets to pass insurers in the event of a claim, will be your responsibility.
The cost of pet insurance will vary between insurers and can depend on a range of factors. Veterinary charges in towns or cities are generally higher than those in rural areas, and premiums reflect this. Claims costs have also risen in recent years, and this is due to technology advancements, complexity and the increase in treatments available to pet owners via insurance.

Pet insurance policies typically require you to pay an excess if you need to make a claim. Excesses usually apply to veterinary fees and third-party liability sections of pet insurance plans. Excesses on veterinary fees can vary considerably, so it is important to know how much these are and when they would be applied. Dependant on who you insure with, this could be a fixed sum that you pay per claim that is made or alternatively it could be a percentage taken from the final treatment costs.
Some insurance companies offer ‘lifetime’ policies. This is definitely a top tip when choosing pet insurance… ‘Lifetime’ means that the policy is continuous, in so much that if your pet is diagnosed with a condition that will require ongoing treatment and medication during a policy year, cover for the condition will continue even upon renewal of your policy (you will have to remain with the same insurer). It’s important to understand if this applies to the policy you take out and how it works. Most policies as standard ‘reset’ each year so any claims for pre-existing or recently diagnosed conditions may not be covered.

Have a look around for insurance that best meets your requirements and look at what your pet is covered for, not only the price. Our advice is always to speak to the insurers direct and ask explicitly to clarify certain aspects of your policy so that you are confident it meets your individual pets’ needs.

As your pet gets older, premium prices may go up due to the increased risk of illness and injury, so it is always good to keep in mind that your budget for insurance may need to increase as the years go on. Similar to this, ensure that you take into account your pets breed and whether they may be subject to common issues, injuries or illnesses of the breed, as this could also impact costs.
If you are looking at moving onto a new policy for your pet, or considering this as it may appear cheaper, it is likely that a new policy will not cover your pet for any previous conditions that it has had or is currently still receiving treatment or medication for, as this will be counted as a pre-existing condition.

Do your research and if you have working dogs or are members of any associations for example BASC, check if they partner with a specific insurer as there may be further discounts available through your membership – BUT don’t assume. Always double check that the policy is right for you and your dog before signing up to a policy and ensure you read all the policy documentation as soon as you receive it. There is normally a cooling off period in which you can cancel if you find out in the fine print something which wasn’t made clear to you.

This article has been written as guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. It is your responsibility to ensure any policy you take out is right for you.