More than half of UK households have a pet in residence. Currently, cats seem to be the most popular pets at 8 million with dogs not far behind at 6 million. There are about 3500 veterinary practices that specialise in treating every type of animal from horses and cows to ferrets and hamsters.
Veterinary practices are improving their services all the time and as human medicine progresses some of the diagnostic techniques and treatments find their way into veterinary practice. Most practices now have wide-ranging facilities such as multi-parameter monitoring during anaesthesia, digital x-ray equipment, an in-house laboratory, ultrasound scanning and intensive care/isolation wards to name but a few. Treatment can be costly; repairing broken bones following an accident can easily exceed £1500, particularly if referral to a specialist is needed. This may come as quite a shock and so it’s not surprising that more and more pet owners are taking out insurance policies, and the majority of veterinary staff also have insurance for their pets. Most species can be insured for reasonable monthly payments. Please be sure to ask for a lifetime policy and not an annual one, as with the latter a condition occurring during one year’s cover is usually then excluded from your ongoing plan, and you may be left funding a chronic condition for many years to come.
A pet health insurance policy which has been carefully chosen to give levels of cover appropriate to your pet and your needs will give you peace of mind, allowing you to concentrate on looking after your pet should the need for veterinary care arise.
The policy holder has to pay an initial excess for each condition claimed for, and the amount of this excess can vary widely between different policies. Some, but not all, policies will give additional cover for the cost of special diet foods or supplementary treatments such as hydrotherapy.
Many policies offer additional extras – one which is certainly worth considering is third party liability insurance. This offers legal protection should your pet cause an accident or an injury to another person.
Many pet insurance policies only cover vaccinated pets. In such cases, if a pet whose vaccinations have lapsed develops one of the diseases which are prevented by vaccination (e.g. parvovirus or distemper), the policy will not pay out for treatment which could otherwise be life-saving – this is one of many good reasons for keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date.
Should your pet need involved or long-term treatment which is likely to be expensive, it is advisable for you to contact the insurance company first to discuss the issue with them. The contract is between you and the insurers, not between the practice and the insurers. In certain circumstances it may be possible for a direct claim to be made to the insurers on your behalf by the practice, if the correct authorisation is given to us by the insurers. You will be asked in these circumstances to pay any excess to the practice at the time of the first invoice being raised.
Making a direct claim in this way may involve a delay in treatment, as a so-called ‘pre-authorisation form’ may need to be sent to the practice by the insurers in order to clarify what needs to be done and what the costs are likely to be. Direct claims can only be made after prior discussion and arrangement with the practice and again, a small administration fee will be charged for making a claim in this way.
This is an important benefit to protect pet owners against being sued if their pet causes damage or injury. These could be incidents such as a dog biting a child or a cat causing a road accident.