Unfortunately, nobody can predict the unforeseeable and we all realise in life that accidents happen and our pets can develop serious illnesses. Of course in these cases we want to be able to provide the best possible care. However, like human medical bills the cost of veterinary care comes at a price. Therefore, we recommend taking out an insurance policy so that in these cases you do not have to give payment a second thought!

1.Why do I need medical insurance for my pet when I do not have it for myself?

In the UK, we are extremely fortunate to have the NHS which gives us free health care. Unfortunately this service does not stretch to our pets, and vets are in turn therefore private practitioners (i.e not gov funded). Over recent years, veterinary medicine has greatly progressed and nowadays we can offer similar diagnostic tests and procedures that are performed in human medicine. Consequently, the modern high tech equipment, specially trained staff and complex surgical procedures come at a high cost.

Some pets are very lucky and can go through life with yearly visits to the vet for their boosters and other preventive medicine. However, the majority of animals will at some point be affected by an accident or a serious illness. These situations can arise very acutely and as result are both traumatic and stressful. By having a policy in place it allows you to ensure your pet can be given the very best treatment and care.

2.What is covered by my insurance policy?

Insurance policies primarily cover accidents and illnesses. These can range from repairing a fractured leg to treating your pet for a tummy upset or to diagnose a condition such as an kidney disease. In addition, some insurance companies will give extras such as paying for prescription food or alternative therapies such as hydrotherapy or acupuncture. Lastly, most companies give the option of covering your pet for 3rd party liability. This is something to seriously consider as it will offer legal protection should your pet cause injury or accident to another person or property.

3. What is not covered by my insurance policy?

Any preventative care is not covered i.e. vaccinations, worming and de-fleaing, neutering and routine dental procedures. Most companies will only cover vaccinated pets so if you have allowed your pets immunisations to lapse and he/she contracts a disease covered by the vaccine (e.g Parvo Virus) the insurance broker will not pay for any treatment involved.

4. Is it difficult to make a claim?

In 99% of cases the answer is no and making a claim is very straightforward. In most cases we will ask you to bring a copy of your policy and a claim form to the clinic. A member of staff will check through your policy and ask you to sign the claim form. From here, we fill in the remainder of the document and send it away on your behalf. There is an option of paying either us (the vet practice) or the client (you) directly, which will be discussed relative to your situation and the outstanding excess will be paid to the vet clinic.

In certain cases, your pet may require on going treatment or very expensive treatment and in this instance we recommend contacting your insurance company. This will make them aware of the situation and they can discuss with you the limit of the policy and any exclusions which may apply.

5. What is the best policy for me?

Understandably this is a difficult question to answer as everyone is working with different expectations and budgets. Therefore we have included in the following points the most important factors when choosing your policy:

* Check when your cover starts. Most insurance companies put a restriction on claiming for any medical conditions within the first 14 days but will pay for any claims that are due to an accident e.g. a road traffic accident.

* Make a note of the level of cover provided. Certain policies have a maximum amount which they will pay per condition, others will only pay for 12 months after a condition has been diagnosed and all insurance companies will have a limit on how much you can claim each year. We recommend choosing a lifetime cover – this essentially means your pet will be covered for any illnesses diagnosed throughout their life until he/she dies. This is obviously more expensive compared to choosing a policy that has a limit on 12 months per condition. However, think of the longterm – would it not be better to pay a slightly higher premium and be guaranteed for life in comparison to paying a lower premium but then having to pay in FULL for all treatment after a year?

* Check how much your excess will be. This is the amount the insurance company will deduct for the total of your treatment bill and it is your responsibility to pay this to the vet. Excesses generally vary between £60 – >£100. Please note certain companies will charge an excess PLUS an additional percentage of the overall total so bear this is mind.

* Make sure you are aware of what the policy exclusions are. Remember there is no point in paying for a cover that is really cheap but has a long list of conditions/diagnostics which they will not pay for.

* Like with all legally binding documents READ THE SMALL PRINT.

* Lastly, a common misconception is that like your car insurance you should shop around for the best deal each year. If your pet was diagnosed with e.g epilepsy which is an ongoing problem and you change policy your new company WILL NOT PAY for any further treatment as this is seen as a pre-existing condition!

6. True or False – there is no such thing as a cheap insurance policy?

TRUE – if your policy is working out very cheaply we guarantee there will be a long list of exclusions/a low claims limit/time restriction on claiming per condition. Always try and get the best policy which you can afford!

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