Dog insurance buyers' guide
With so many rival companies offering pet insurance, it's tough working out which policy suits you best. Our price comparison website can help by doing a lot of the leg work for you -- but do you need dog insurance, and what should you look out for when you compare policies?
Can I get free treatment for my dog in the UK?
With no 'National Health Service' to take care of our dogs if they're involved in an accident or become unwell, many owners see dog insurance as a must-have. Veterinary care doesn't come cheap, after all, and bills can quickly mount up if the problem is serious or long-term.
To qualify for your dog to receive subsidised treatment at a PDSA PetAid Hospital, you must be receiving Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, and live within a defined catchment area around a PDSA hospital or practice – and you will still be asked to make a contribution to the costs.
Do I need dog insurance?
If you're feeling the pinch and you aren't eligible for PDSA treatment, pet insurance may still seem like a luxury you can't afford. If your dog is young and fit, you may think you're unlikely to make a claim. In fact, recent estimates show that more than half of pet owners do not insure their pets.
If you have substantial savings to cover vets' fees if the worst does happen, you will at least be able to make sure your dog receives the treatment it needs. But if you don't, you could find yourself in the unbearable position of being unable to pay for expensive treatment. Research shows that one in two pets will need veterinary treatment this year, and that one in three owners with pet insurance ends up claiming on their policy at some point. Veterinary bills for a dog can amounts to thousands of pounds, and vets' fees are rising by as much as 12% each year. The potential expense gets greater as your pet ages, too, and long-term conditions such as diabetes or arthritis could easily cost more than £10,000 over your dog's lifetime.
What does dog insurance cover you for?
There's no single answer to this question because every policy offers a different level of cover. However, the basic idea is that pet insurance covers vets’ fees if your pet is unwell or has an accident – usually with a limit set on the maximum amount you can claim. Some policies offer extra cover such as offering a cash reward if your pet is lost or stolen, or contributing towards kennelling fees if you need to be hospitalised. Many policies also offer third party accidental damage cover.
Main differences between levels of cover
Some of the more expensive pet insurance policies available offer 'cover for life' (or 'lifetime cover'), protecting your dog not only for urgent operations, but also for ongoing treatment of long-term conditions such as arthritis. Cheaper policies tend to limit the payouts to 12 months for ongoing treatment, or only pay for the same operation once or twice.
Decide whether you're comfortable with a lower level of insurance, or want to invest in top-notch 'cover for life', then compare quotes from several providers.
Premiums vary dramatically because each insurer gives a slightly different weight to each 'risk' factor, and cheaper policies often include lower claim limits and several exclusions – so compare several quotes and read through the small print before you buy.