Quick Guide to On-Line Pet Insurance for Your Dog

All Pet insurance is not the same. Indeed, even when deciding upon the type of dog they would like, prospective owners need to know just how expensive their choice could prove to be. For many breeds it is hard to get any cover at all, especially in the competitive world of on-line Pet Insurance. The ‘Computer says no’ to a huge list of breeds including dogs crossed with those excluded breeds. A ‘mongrel pup’ could very easily grow up to be something that looks like an excluded breed. If a vet describes a dog as a ‘pit bull cross’ at some point, the insurance company would refuse to insure the pet, or pay a claim if cover was already in force.

Rather than look at every on-line provider and scheme, this guide is a review of the policies offered by leading on-line providers who dominate the market for Pet Insurance in the UK. They cover the majority of regular dog owners with Pet Insurance. This quick guide focuses upon the needs of the average pet owner, it is not intended to cover the requirements of people breeding show dogs for example.

The premium charged for roughly equivalent benefits varies enormously, though think in terms of £15 a month being about average for the sort of competitive products under consideration. Anything more and there is probably a good reason, anything much less and there could be an undesirable feature that most might want to avoid! However, cost effective cover can be bought on-line for a very reasonable cost, provided the buyer is aware of the potential pitfalls. The most important things to know about are outlined in these top tips.

Pet Insurance for dogs – eight top tips

1. The main reason a policy is very cheap because it covers less, lets get that out of the way at the outset. For example, some money saving policies are designed only to cover a dog for the first 10 years of its life. This age limit can be quite well hidden in the small print. The underwriter knows there are health issues with older animals. Vets bills are inevitable and expensive, especially in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic or serious illnesses. The very low premiums charged for Pet Insurance that ends when a dog is 10 years of age (or younger for certain breeds) simply reflects that the policy is not in force when most ‘end of life’ claims occur.

2. Vets fees, how much to insure? Most people probably think £2500 to cover vets fees is more than enough. Sadly this is frequently inadequate and is certainly more likely to be so in over 10 years time when claims are almost inevitable. A significant number now have a limit of £4000 which has been taken as the benchmark for this guide.

3. Some providers keep their premiums low, but make up for this by dramatically increasing their excess for vets fees as the insured dog gets older. This often also takes the form of a percentage contribution toward the cost of treatment – typically 20%, but some are higher. This would mean a £2000 vet’s bill would be split with the policyholder paying £400 toward the claim plus their policy excess, say another £90. In this case the insurance company will only pay out £1510. For pensioners or others on fixed incomes, the £490 they would suddenly have to find could be a disaster. Hence some buyers may prefer to pay more premium for a policy that does not change and always has the same excess, throughout the life of their animal.

4. As well as the premiums going up, policy terms and conditions can change as the insured pet gets older. The excess has already been mentioned. Standard monthly paid policies will usually exclude any condition for which a claim has already been made. Eczema is a good example of a condition that may affect a dog for many years, only Lifetime Cover would still enable the policyholder to continue claiming for it, after their next policy renewal, following the initial claim. Most good pet providers offer a Lifetime Cover option. All charge circa 35% more for this than their standard monthly cover.

5. Premiums go up reflecting the increased cost of claims as well as the greater likelihood of a claim occurring. Vets fees have been rising well above the rate of inflation which simply reflects the huge range of treatments now available. The quality on offer can be comparable with a private hospital with prices to match. Furthermore, as a dog gets older, premiums will rise. One Provider, E&L Insurance, take a more transparent approach by offering only ‘Senior Pet’ Insurance for dogs over 8 years old for example.

6. Be aware of on-line discounts and special low premiums for puppies. These discounts only apply for the first year of insurance, it will be the full price next year and the following 12 years. To check for true value, it is recommended several on-line quotes are tried using different pet ages, this will identify any provider trying to lure in business with front loaded discounts. The cheapest is not always the best value over time, so a few minutes spent comparing prices can be very useful.

7. Paying for the brand. Many big brands, particularly supermarkets and banks offer pet insurance, however their cover is outsourced to specialist providers. The brand will take a significant percentage because they spend a lot on marketing the product. They offer access to a huge number of loyal customers and charge for the privilege. However the same specialists often offer the same products directly and for less.

8. Beware breed specific restrictions, the known issues with certain breeds such as hip displacement with German Shepherds and the short life of many bigger dogs, will be reflected in the policy terms and conditions. The underwriters will be most specific from the outset regarding these restrictions, it is crucial to understand them. Fundamentally insurance is only offered to cover unexpected costs and not inevitable payments for inherent disorders. Also, most policies do not cover tooth or gum disease, so never let a dog develop a sweet tooth.

When compiling the table below, each provider was asked to quote on-line for a medium size pedigree dog – new puppy 8 weeks old. Cover sought was for £4000 vets fee cover although alternative options are shown where this exact figure was not available. This sample was taken 10 October 2010.

Provider / Consider / Vets fee covered / Premium

Argos Gold Cover/ £65 excess / £4000 / £15.77

E&L Silver (Monthly) / £159 or £49 excess double for claims over £1000. From age 8 a 35% contribution toward vets fees / £4000 / £8.82

Churchill / £65 excess plus 20% contribution from age 7. On-line discount / £3000 / £10.98

LV= Liverpool Victoria / £60 excess. 10% on-line discount / £5000 / £10.96

pet-insurance.co.uk / £90 excess. Standard Cover. Up to age 10. 20% on line discount / £4000 / £7.79

pet-insurance.co.uk / £90 excess. Lifetime Cover. No age limit. Owner expected to pay 10% toward over night pet hospitalisation costs. Includes 20% first year discount / £4000 / £11.47

More Than / £70 excess plus 10% of the cost of the claim under 9 years, increasing to 20% for age 9 and over. / 20% on-line discount. / £3000 / £12.75

Petplan / £75 Excess plus 20% contribution for over age 8 discount 1 month free. / £3000 / £15.25

Sainsburys / £100 excess Three Months free (time limited offer). Earns Nectar points / £3000 / £14.73

Tesco / £60 excess. Policy terms stay the same for the life of the pet / £4000 / £17.68

The best Pet Insurance

It depends just how much cover the pet owner needs. Some vets are prepared to disclose typical treatments costs, this can be a sobering conversation! Arguably, an individual could open a separate savings account and pay in a sum equivalent to one of the top price policies each month and become your own insurance company. However, many people don’t have the discipline to do this and if something happens after just a year, the amount saved would not cover much.

Unfortunately, even a young healthy dog can get into all kinds of scrapes. Just ask someone who has paid £3000 for an operation due to their pet being involved in an accident. Pet Insurance also covers legal liability, not something people think much about until their dog runs out of an open gate or slips their collar in a busy street.

Just looking for then lowest price? There is always the option to buy a policy with a big excess or contribution. This cover will pay most of the really big bills, should the worst happen. Better this than no cover at all. The products offered by E&L Insurance for example, especially for dog owners living outside of London or the Home Counties, fit in this category.

Much depends on your personal circumstances. Many people on fixed incomes, those with existing debts they are paying down, or people who are naturally cautious, often prefer to pay for cover with the minimum excess or contribution. They would prefer to leave their Insurance Company to worry about receiving a big vet’s bill. Therefore, even though it is relatively expensive, a pet policy such as Tesco offer would fit the bill for them.

The policies priced somewhere in between represent a compromise. The concern however is that many people are unaware of the terms and conditions of Pet Insurance policies and are simply attracted by the low headline price of a well known brand. Regrettably, some only discover when it is too late, that they have to pay a substantial contribution toward any claim, especially when their dog gets older.

This guide is intended to help readers make an informed choice about the Pet Insurance product they choose for their dog.

Pet Insurance Myths

Recently Pets Best Insurance conducted another set of focus groups on pet owners to determine if we were addressing what pet owners really wanted, and to see if they understood the value concept of pet insurance. The results of the study confirmed observations stemming from years of prior experience in veterinary medicine and pet insurance. However, the results also showed that many pet owners believe myths about pet insurance born of misconceptions and incorrect information. Below are the myths we encountered and takeaways from our focus group.

“Pet Insurance Is Only For Sick Pets”
Actually, you must purchase insurance before your pet is sick, the same as you would buy auto or homeowners insurance before you have an accident or catastrophe. Although Pets Best provides a small amount towards a pre-existing condition insurance is really for future risk (loss).

“Insurance Is a Hassle”
Pets Best pet insurance plans are simple. You just pay your veterinary bills and submit the bills to us. We reimburse you directly in less than a week (unlike some plans which are complicated and utilize schedules which may be substantially less than your actual veterinary expenses). Check out the ‘plans’ section on their site.

With Pets Best 80% payment after the deductible, it is easy to figure out how much we will reimburse you for your claims. Since pet owners typically pay out of pocket for their pet’s medical expenses, the turnaround time for payment is shorter, unlike human health care where hospitals and doctors bill the insurance company.

“We Could Not Choose Our Own Vet”
Fortunately with most pet insurance plans there are no Managed Care principals, Pet HMOs or Veterinary PPOs to contend with. At Pets Best you can always select the veterinarian of your choice. Pet insurance is not typically involved in the decision process for treatments, care or cost. The only exceptions are plans that utilize a benefit schedule (which will affect your out-of-pocket costs) and one that is trying to set up a network of veterinarians.

“Pet Insurance Must Be Expensive”
Although premiums vary by company, plan type, age of pet, and species of pet (cat or dog), in most instances pet insurance is very affordable and the monthly cost is about what you would pay for a dinner for two. Pet owners can choose a less costly plan with lower limits and a higher deductible or a higher cost plan with lower deductible and higher limits. Prices will vary from company to company, but most are reasonable. See an overview of Pets Best insurance plans by visiting the ‘plans’ section on their site.

“Pet Insurance Has Too Many Exclusions Or Does Not Cover What I Need”
When it comes to accidents or illness, pet insurance actually has very few exclusions. Pet insurance is designed to transfer the risk of your pet’s future unknown health cost to the insurer. Close inspection will see that it truly does.

When it comes to protecting your pet’s health and the many thousands of accidents and illnesses that can happen to pets (other than hereditary, congenital and pre-existing conditions) all accidents and most illnesses are covered.

With Pets Best many of the typical exclusions are limitations, where the payment, although smaller, does provide some coverage and value. Ask your veterinarian or their staff how many times a pet’s illness can present financial hardship and hard decisions.

Pet insurance is like your own health insurance; it is designed to pay for your pet’s medical needs, whether it is a simple skin rash, a virus, an ear infection or severe cancer.

As a pet owner, your decisions surrounding pet insurance speak to your understanding the myths and facts about the real value pet insurance can provide. In addition to granting peace of mind and protecting your pocketbook, most pet owners still do not understand the benefits.

As a doctor of veterinary medicine and an animal lover, I will not rest until every pet owner is at least aware that pet insurance coverage exists. It can be budgeted at a reasonable cost so pet lovers never have to be concerned with their pet family member’s health costs.

Curious about what it would cost to insure your pet? Pets Best is happy to provide a free quote for pet insurance. Still have questions about pet insurance? Visit the Pets Best frequently asked questions about pet insurance forum.

4 Simple Steps To Buy Pet Insurance

If you have not already realized, the costs of veterinary care is escalating. By purchasing a pet insurance for our pets is also a wise choice to keep pet care costs within an affordable range. As pets become an important member of our family, purchasing a pet insurance is one of the ways to ensure our pets in getting the best care it possibly deserves.

Here are the 4 simple steps to purchase your pet insurance

1) Pet Insurance Online

Since most pet insurance companies have their own websites, one of the best ways to begin your research in pet insurance is to look for them online. When you do so, you will find a wide variety of insurance options and pricing. Some companies will even give you an additional discount if you purchase their pet insurance online.

However the first thing you should do is to select a number of pet insurance companies and make sure that you only deal with those reputable companies. Therefore check to see if each company is truly legitimate by going through them with The Better Business Bureau website.

Looking for a pet insurance online enables you to look for a policy that suits your needs faster. It is also more accurate because you have access to thousands of different sites. With this much information that can be gotten so easily you will able to make an informed decision in purchasing a proper pet insurance.

2) Pet Insurance Ratings

Since the internet is so easy to access, there will also be just as many scams regarding pet insurance companies. With thousands of pet insurance websites, there is also another method to get the best pet insurance that most suits your needs. That method is by looking at the pet insurance ratings.

By reading the pet insurance ratings you are able to tell which the best pet insurance company is and which insurance company to avoid. If you look at the pet insurance ratings, you can be sure to get what you pay for.

If you are wondering where to look for the pet insurance ratings, you can find most of them done online by independent companies. This is the best done by independent companies because you know that they aren’t biased and therefore they are going to give you great information.

3) Pet Insurance Quote

Pet insurance quotes are available since 1928. Today there are numerous pet insurance quotes for you to decide one that most suitable for you and your pet. Furthermore if you get a pet insurance quote with a complete explanation from several carriers will be a very wise choice to make.

i) You can start by getting a pet insurance quote from your veterinarian. In turn, your veterinarian may offer a discount plan intended specially for his clients, or he may recommend a locally based plan that would be more suitable for you and your pet. This sort of pet insurance may be better for you than one of the bigger plans, depending on both your financial means and the breed of your dog.

ii) You can also choose to shop around and ask for pet insurance quotes from different insurance companies. When you ask for different pet insurance quotes, you will have a solid basis when you compare the services and prices of the insurance companies.

One of the reasons for getting several pet insurance quotes from different companies is that often congenital and hereditary illnesses or pre-existing conditions are not covered by pet insurance. Therefore it is best that you do a thorough research and consult your veterinarian.

iii) After you have found reliable pet insurance companies that may meet you and your pet’s needs, narrow down to at least five of them. The reason being the more pet insurance quotes you have, the more difficult it is for you to make a choice. If you want to simplify things, you can narrow down your choices right from the start.

4) Compare Pet Insurance

Since there so many pet insurance companies, you will be faced with numerous options. Therefore for you to get the best value for your money you need to compare pet insurance options and policies to see which policy is most suited for you.

Before you start your comparison:

i) You must have a general idea about what options you need for your pet. For example, basic plans are the cheapest but they also cover only the basic emergency and illness care.

ii) You also need to look at things such as deductibles, copays, and lifetime limits.

iii) You need to find out how a claim is filed and how the claim is paid. It is also useful to know what items are excluded and what items have payment limits placed on them.

iv) You should find out if you are allowed to visit the vet of your choice or do you have to use a vet recommended by them.

v) Do also find out which ones cover after hours emergencies such as accidents and sudden serious illness and that if the accident or illness is serious and your pet may require a specialist.

When you find the policy that you feel is most suitable for you then all you have to do is fill out their form which gives them your pet’s information. The pet insurance company may also set up to accept payment online.