4. Pet health insurance

4. Pet Health Insurance

Key Points

  • Pet Health Insurance will cover veterinary costs for illness and injuries your pet may suffer from, and is relatively cheap to take out.
  • With modern veterinary care pets are surviving serious illness and injuries that would have resulted in death not long ago. Bear mind that this treatment can be very expensive.
  • Take out your pet health insurance early so that your pet is fully covered and has no ‘pre-existing’ conditions that will be excluded from cover.
  • Check if your policy has ‘cover for life’ as well as other important benefits. Look beyond just comparing premium costs, and be aware of the limited cover offered by ‘accident only’ policies.
  • Ask if your policy allows for direct payments to your vet if required.

If you have a pet there is one ‘must have’ – pet health insurance. It is a fact that 1 in 3 pets will require unexpected veterinary attention every year.

Knowing that if your pet does need veterinary attention he or she can have the very best treatment available without having to consider the cost provides great peace of mind. Costs for surgery or other treatment can be considerable, and having a good pet insurance policy in place means that all you need to worry about is your pet’s recovery, rather than how you will pay for it – or even if you can afford it in the first place.

So, the day you get your new pet, get on the phone or the internet, and get a good health insurance policy in place.

Here are links to the current companies offering pet health insurance in Ireland:

123.ie     Allianz     Petinsure.ie     Petinsurance.ie     Tesco Pet Insurance

But my pet is healthy – why do I need insurance?
By their very nature, illness and injuries are unexpected, and pet health insurance is your way of ensuring that when (not if ) your pet does need veterinary care all you will have to worry about is your pet getting better, rather than the size of the vet’s bill. Blood tests, radiology, MRI scans, chemotherapy, joint replacement surgery, intensive care hospitalisation and referral to specialists are all available to ensure your pet receives every chance of recovering from conditions that only a few years ago would have resulted in death or euthanasia – but they come at a price, and that’s why health insurance is so essential for pets. Whilst they are the ‘big’ things that we know will cost a lot, even seemingly simple things can be expensive. For example, to successfully treat a case of vomiting or diarrhoea could end up costing quite a penny!

What will my insurance cover?
This depends on the policy you take out but in general your insurance will cover all illnesses or injuries your pet may suffer from. It may also cover 3rd party liability, the actual monetary value of a pedigree pet should they unfortunately die, costs of advertising and reward to assist in recovery of a lost pet, boarding kennels or cattery fees if you have to go to hospital and possibly holiday cancellation costs if you have to stay at home to look after your unwell pet.

What will my insurance NOT cover?
Again this depends on your policy but in general it will not cover the cost of ‘routine’ procedures such as vaccinations, neutering, food and flea/worm medications – these are not ‘risks’ that can be insured against.

Your insurance will also not cover a ‘pre-existing’ condition – these are any conditions which occurred before you took out your policy. For example, if you pet had a skin condition before you took out the policy, then your insurance will not cover any further incidences of skin conditions. You can still take out insurance though, and it will cover everything else that might affect your pet apart from the pre-existing condition. Your vet can discuss your pet’s clinical history with you to give you an idea of what may be seen as ‘pre-existing conditions’ that may be excluded from cover, but this is why it is so important to take out your pet’s insurance policy as soon as you can – so that there is no pre-existing condition that will not be covered.

Depending on your policy there will probably be an ‘excess’ which you will have to pay per episode – the insurance company will cover your costs except for a set amount, or ‘excess’. The amount of the excess varies with policies and can rise once pets go over a certain age. Also there may be a ‘ceiling’ or maximum amount covered in any one policy year. This varies with policies but in general for veterinary fees it is a relatively high figure of several thousand Euro. You will have to pay any further fees once this ceiling is reached.

Are all policies the same? What should I look for?
No, just like human health insurance all policies are not the same. While your veterinary practice can guide you on what to look out for they cannot advise on which policy you should take out. You should read through the terms and conditions of the policies you are considering and in particular pay attention to the ‘What we do not pay for’ or ‘What is not covered’ section. Also look beyond comparing just the costs of different policies – while one may look a little cheaper it may be because it does not cover as much and may in the long run end up costing you more!

It is very important to consider if the policy has ‘cover for life’. In other words will the policy cover a condition for the life of the pet as long as you keep your premium payments up to date? Think about the situation if your pet gets a condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or a recurrent skin condition, all of which will require lifelong treatment. If your policy stops paying out after a certain period of time or if a financial ceiling has been reached then you will be faced with the cost of this after that.The few Euro extra spent on the better policy may well be very well spent!

The same applies to ‘Accident Only’ policies – the cover offered by these is very limited. Most problems vets see pets with are in fact illnesses and would not be covered by an ‘accident only’ policy.

Can I change insurers?
Be aware that unlike in the human health insurance market, your new insurer will not cover any pre-existing conditions. Changing insurer to save a small amount in premiums may result in having no ongoing cover for conditions seen in earlier life that were and would have been covered by your ‘first’ insurer. If though you do want to consider changing it’s best to ask your vets to go over your pets medical history with you and forward it on to your prospective new insurer to seek clarification on what conditions would not be covered. Also you will need to ask your prospective new insurer if they will offer you a quote as this may depend on previous claims history.

How much does it cost?
The cost depends on your pet’s species and breed will vary depending on the company offering the policy. Dogs cost more than cats; it will be more expensive for pedigree pets and certain ‘select’ breed dogs will cost a little more again. Some insurers will offer discounts for microchipped pets, for insuring multiple pets and for persons over a certain age.On the other hand some insurers will increase your premium if you have had claims, whilst others currently may not. These are all questions to ask, and you can generally get quick online quotes from the various insurers.