Insurance

I talked previously about how important our Vet is to us. I thought I might also share with you how I approach pet insurance and covering veterinary costs for Jake and Truly.

I’m sure if you have pets you will have noticed how much more expensive it seems, I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the last fifteen years or so. There are many schools of thought about the increasing influence of pharmaceutical companies in the care of our pets, and I don’t intend to cover that here today. However, I do notice that more and more often the resolution for a  condition seems to be in the form of a prescribed treatment.

But, I will also say that there are conditions my dogs have had over the years that previously would have been deemed untreatable. Medicine is continually evolving, and Vet practices nowadays have so many more facilities to hand, such as x-ray, MRI and CT scanners, and they provide surgical options previously not possible within a local practice.

Types of insurance

How can we mitigate the unplanned costs for our pets? We can choose to insure through a pet insurance company, or we can self-insure. Which (the consumer organisation) have a summary of the various options on their website, and you can read more here

What I’ve noticed when it comes to pet insurance, is that insuring your dog isn’t quite like insuring your car. When the annual car insurance renewal notice arrives, I take this as an opportunity to shop around for a better price. I then use this to lever either a better deal with my existing insurer, or move to a new one. We can be fairly sure that there’s a standard approach to what’s covered. Unfortunately, I’ve found that dog insurance doesn’t work the same way. You need to read the terms carefully to understand what’s covered, and what’s not. Whether diagnosed conditions are covered for life, or if there is a maximum cap on what you can claim for, or conditions that are excluded and not covered under the policy. You need to check what the policy excess is, as you may find that many of your trips fall below this excess amount, meaning your insurance really only provides protection for the ‘big’ claims.  

I’m not going to name companies for obvious reasons, but after Jake’s first year of insurance I was shocked to see it trebled in price. This was because the discount incentives provided through the Vet practice for the first year had ended. During this first year he’d managed to get into a few adolscent scrapes, but nothing significant. I thought no problem, I’ll shop around for another insurer! What I didn’t realise was that when I moved to a new insurer for a ‘better price’ it excluded any prior conditions. He’d had a suspiscious lump removed, and an eye injury treated, small things I thought. As he’s got older, he has developed age-related conditions such as arthritis, as well as fatty lumps and bumps (common in both of his breeds).

Insurance companies generally consider a dog to be geriatric after 8 years, so Jake’s insurance renewal increased to over £100 per month. The list of conditions not covered pretty much made it redundant. At this point I decided he needed his own savings account, into which I would save the same amount and build up a pot of money for Vet bills. This is referred to as ‘self-insured’. Since I set up Jake’s savings account, he has needed surgery to have two enlarged salivary glands removed. Following an unsuccessful (and unsatisfactory) outcome at a local hospital specialist our Vet referred him to a neck specialist I’d found in the Midlands. For both referrals and treatment, the final bill exceeded £7k, but in the end it was a great outcome, and he is definitely back to his beany self!

Obviously, there are risks in self-insuring. If your dog’s cover doesn’t exclude pretty much everything in the way Jake’s did, you need to be cautious about cancelling it. When you decide to cancel your policy an accident or illness can happen on day 602 or on day two. I do have a credit card that allows access to funds in an emergency situation, and we have liability insurance through my membership of Dog’s Trust

Liability

If you decide to self-insure I recommend you at least take out liability insurance. Pet insurance provides you with public liability insurance (also known as third-party liability), and insurers will also offer liability only cover. If you own a dog you are legally responsible for what your dog does (unlike cat owners). Bought By Many explains that “if your dog bites someone, harms livestock, damages property, or runs out into the road and causes a traffic accident, you are liable for all costs and will need to find a way of paying for them… and these costs could run to millions of pounds when you take into account damages and legal fees”. You can read more about it here

Truly

With regards to Truly, she is insured by Bought By Many. I think they are the best insurer I’ve dealt with. They recently offered complementary online Canine Health and First Aid training with a Vet for policy holders, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

Insurance provides peace of mind, but it doesn’t cover everything either. As I said above, you will be required to pay an excess amount for each claim, and some practices will charge to claim from your insurer on your behalf. Many will expect you to pay up front, if you aren’t insured through ‘their’ insurance company.

In terms of budgeting for costs, pet insurance doesn’t cover vaccinations, castration or spaying, or pregnancy. Or, for preventative treatments for fleas, ticks or worms, grooming, clipping claws or teeth maintenance.

Maintenance

I brush Jake and Truly’s teeth and coats daily, check and clip claws weekly, and clean their ears twice a month. I find it helps to keep a daily eye on their health and keep a maintenance cycle going. Jake has had a scale and polish twice in his life, and Truly once in the last five years. They need to be under a general anaesthetic for this treatment, which I consider high risk at their respective ages. Therefore, if I can reduce the need for a scale and polish I will.

I’ve also talked previously about the importance of good weight management of your dog to prevent common diseases, but it also helps in the management of existing conditions. Such as Jake and his arthritis.

Your Vet practice is a great place to go for help and advice, many offer clinics run by the nursing team.

If you have any experiences you’d like to share, please use the contact us link provided.

Until next time

Jen

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