How to get the best dog insurance policy
Vet bills for your dog’s medical care are often expensive, and illness or injury can come unexpectedly, putting a significant strain on your wallet - that’s where pet insurance comes in. More than a third of dogs in the UK are covered by some degree of pet insurance, making them twice as likely to be insured than cats (at only 16%).
Dog insurance policies are designed to pay out should your furry best friend need medical treatment. These policies are paid for in either monthly instalments or annual premiums, and they cover a variety of costs associated with owning a pet dog.
Keep reading to find out more about how to take out the right insurance policy for you and your dog, and what to expect along the way.
Why should I insure my dog?
Dog insurance is primarily used to cover unexpected vet bills. In the UK the average vet bill is around £600, whilst surgeries average at around £1,500, and should you not be able to raise the funds in time you could face the possibility of your pet missing out on the correct treatment and care.
According to the Association of British Insurers, 1 in 3 pets need to visit the vet at least every 3 years, and injury or illness can strike at any time. Here’s a list of the top 10 claims people make through their dog’s insurance:
- Skin disorders
- Torn/ruptured cruciate ligaments
- Tumours, warts, cysts, growths
- Tumours and growths
What options can I choose from?
There are four policy styles to choose from when it comes to dog insurance, and while the policies will vary from provider to provider, they generally appear as follows:
- Accident only. These policies will only cover injuries that your dog sustains, rather than illness. The majority of these policies have time and pay out caps and limits, so ensure you understand the dog insurance policy in full before signing anything.
- Maximum benefit. These policies will cover the cost of treatments up to a set figure. Then once the limit has been reached, you’ll have to cover any extra costs yourself. Maximum benefit pet insurance has no time limit.
- Time-limited. Time limited pet insurance policy offers a fixed payout per condition, over a set period of time. Usually, time-limited policies provide cover for up to 12 months from the date the accident happens, or the illness commences. When the term ends the policy will stop paying out for that condition.
- Lifetime. These do insurance policies cover your pet for everything (aside from any stated exclusions), up to a set payout limit. The policy is then renewed annually and provides coverage for your pet throughout its lifetime. If your dog falls ill or gets injured, you can claim for each condition individually.
What does dog insurance cover?
Dog insurance is primarily used in the UK to offset the costs associated with veterinary bills. While coverage varies from policy to policy and the different providers, here is a list of circumstances that many companies readily cover:
- Vet’s fees. Including diagnostic work, scans, and surgery.
- The cost of medicine. This payout may be capped at a certain price, depending on the providers.
- 3rd party accidental damage. Many insurers provide coverage for damage your dog may cause to other people’s property, however there will always be limitations on this and vary depending on the provider. For example, More Than don't pay out for your dog ‘fouling, vomiting or urinating on/in any items’.
However, while dog insurance is usually associated with coverage for illness and injury, there are other factors which many insurers include within their policies, including:
- Death and cremation services.
- Insurance for medical issues whilst travelling.
- Dental treatments.
- Kennel boarding fees.
- Theft of your dog.
- The associated costs of losing your dog.
- The cost of a missed holiday due to your dog’s health.
Are there any exclusions?
As with any insurance policy, exclusions do apply and so it’s important to make sure you understand exactly what’s covered before you commit to a policy. While these factors will differ from company to company, here is a list of exclusions that many dog insurance providers hold:
- Working pets. Many insurance companies won’t insure dogs used for either breeding or commercial use, such as security and racing.
- Dangerous pets. As a rule of thumb, dog insurers won’t insure dogs who are registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or the Dangerous (Amendment) Dogs Act 1997.
- Vaccinations. Your policy won’t pay out if you don’t keep your dog’s up to date on their vaccination.
- Certain breeds. Some breeds of dog are prohibited in the UK, these won’t be covered in any insurance policy.
- Pregnancy. Many insurers will refuse to page out for any associated costs resulting from your dog’s pregnancy.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. Any pre-existing or chronic conditions won’t be covered under your dog insurance policy, so your insurance provider won’t pay out for symptoms and costs related to these conditions.
- Grooming costs. Your policy won’t pay out for the costs associated with your dog’s nail clipping, bathing, or de-matting.
- Treatment for parasites. Many insurers won’t pay out for the costs associated with treating parasites, such as flea treatments and deworming.
- Spaying and castration. Most insurers won’t cover the cost of your dog’s spaying or castration.
- Your pet’s age. Once your pet reaches a certain age, they may no longer be eligible. This varies from company to company.
- Dental treatment. In most cases, dental treatment isn’t included within your policy and exists as an optional extra.
How much does dog insurance cost?
The average annual premium that UK dog owners pay is £287, or just over £23.90 monthly. However, like all insurance, the premiums you pay will vary between providers and depend on a variety of factors. To help you work out what you need to consider, here is a list of those factors:
- Your pet’s age. The older your pet is, the more you’ll have to pay to insure them. Many insurers will have an age cap on the animals they insure, and it’s common for some providers to request that you pay between 20-30% of any treatments, if your dog is older than 9 years old.
- Whether your pet is chipped. This is particularly relevant if you’ve taken out lost or stolen pet cover.
- Where you live. Depending on where you live in the country, the cost of vets’ fees can be very different. For example, treatment for diabetes can cost as little as £96 in Leeds, and as high as £444 in St Albans. Therefore, your monthly premiums will depend on where you live.
- The level or style of cover you want. With varying levels of cover and a variety of add-on services available, your premiums will be largely dependant on what you’re looking to insure for.
- The breed of your dog. Larger dogs, such as Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, will be among the more expensive breeds to insure. However, smaller dogs such as Pugs and Spaniels are usually considerably cheaper to insure.
How does the breed of my dog affect the cost of insurance?
Aside from the size of your pet, dog insurance providers also take into consideration a variety of breed-specific factors when working out your premiums. Here is a list of factors which generally raise the cost of insurance:
- Breed-specific medical conditions. For dogs which are more likely to suffer specific health complications as a result of their breed, providers will charge more. For example, pet insurance for Basset Hounds costs from £7.80 monthly, while Bulldogs cost an average of £15.50 to insure.
- Pedigree. Mixed-breed dogs and mongrels are known to be cheaper pets to insure. For mixed-breed dogs, the cost of their insurance will depend on the dominant breed.
- Gender. Female dogs are cheaper to insure, regardless of whether your male dog has been spayed or neutered.
Why shouldn’t I just pay the vet bills?
You can, there’s no legal obligation for you to take out dog insurance. However, illness or injury can occur at any time, and figures suggest that owners without insurance pay out an average of £600 per visit to the vets.
If you have the ability to have the savings and funds set aside and ready for the worst, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just pay the vet bills. Many people self-insure by setting aside money monthly in the case of illness or injury.
However, dog insurance offers the security that should your pet fall ill, you’ll never be caught short. Pet insurance is particularly beneficial should your pet require ongoing treatment in the future, such as cancer treatments.What should I look for in an insurance policy for my dog?
If you do decide to take out an insurance policy for your dog, then you should consider the types of health problems they’re likely to encounter based on their lifestyle and medical history.
You should also consider how long you’d like their insurance policy to last, and what you’d like it to cover. While accident-only insurance is the cheapest, it may not be the most beneficial depending on your dog’s breed. You should also consider any additional circumstances you’d like to cover, and whether you’d like to take out a multi-pet policy for more than one dog/animal.
What information will I need to provide to get a quote?
Typically you’ll need to have the following information to hand when insuring your dog:
- Your dog’s breed.
- How much you paid for them.
- Your dog’s gender and name.
- Your dog’s age and date of birth.
- Whether your dog has been chipped.
- Your dog’s medical history.
- Whether you’ve received any complaints or legal action in the last 5 years as a result of your dog.
- If your pet has been used for commercial use. This includes breeding, security, and racing.
- Whether your dog lives in a pub or licenced premises.
- How many pets you want to insure. As some providers offer discounts for multi-pet policies.
- Your dog’s medical records. While most insurance companies will require no medical assessments, you may have to submit your pet’s medical records - especially if they’ve had health complications in the past.
Where can I get a quote now?
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