Whether your much-loved pet is a hamster, a horse or anything in between you’ll want to give him or her a happy, healthy life.
Animals need a nutritionally balanced diet, a secure place to sleep, plenty of exercise and the right amount of space or water around them.
Depending on the animal or their breed, they may also need extra care, such as grooming and behavioural training.
Pets are a great addition to the family but they are not without their costs. In fact, a recent survey suggested that dogs, for example, will cost owners over £10,000 in day-to-day expenses.
That means the figure excludes any fees for unexpected or urgent medical treatment or any damage a dog may cause to personal possessions or a third party.
For owners of all pets, it may be worth taking out a pet insurance plan as it will help meet any unplanned costs, particularly veterinary fees.
What does it cover?
Pet insurance can pay the vet bills (at least in part, depending on your plan) if your pet has an accident or is unwell.
In many cases, you can also claim on your policy if you have had to cancel a holiday. It may also contribute towards the cost of advertising and a reward if your pet ever gets lost or stolen and pay out if your pet dies after an accident.
Many policies also offer liability insurance in case your pet causes accidental damage to a third party, while others will help meet the costs of your own medical emergencies, by paying the boarding fees for a kennel or cattery if you have to spend time in hospital.
Day-to-day costs of having a pet are generally not included and these include routine check ups at the vets and the cost of spraying, flea control and vaccinations.
How is it calculated?
The price you pay depends on where you live (pet owners in London tend to pay more to reflect the higher vet fees in the capital), the type of pet you have (it’s no surprise that hamsters are cheaper to insurance than horses) the age and breed of the animal (pedigree’s are pricier than cross breeds).
Underwriters, as with all insurance policies, are looking for the risk of a policy having to pay out. So if your breed of dog has a tendency towards a medical condition that’s particularly expensive to treat, for example, the premiums rise.
For smaller, younger animals, living in a part of the country where vet fees are less expensive than elsewhere, the cost falls.
If an animal has any pre-existing conditions, they may be excluded from the policy. Some policies will also limit the payouts to only 12 months for ongoing treatment or only pay out for the same operation once or twice.
How to compare cover
Pet plans vary enormously, which is why you need to read the small print before you buy. Most owners want their policies to pay out for the big stuff: urgent operations, ongoing long-term medical care for their pets and third party liability insurance. Others will want it to also cover expenses such as alternative therapies.
Some vets suggest homeopathy or acupuncture as effective treatments and there are policies that help owners pay for these.
Using a comparison site will help you compare the costs of policies but make sure you are you buy it at the right level for your needs.
Reduce your premiums
Affordable policies usually include a higher than usual excess (the fee you pay before you can claim on the policy).
If you can afford to pay increased excess, it can lower your premiums. Installing extra security for your pets (such as getting him or her micro-chipped) can also mean you are offered cheaper insurance.
By Joanne O’Connell
Find out more about pet insurance