When a pet is unwell or has an accident the last thing you’ll want to worry about is whether you can afford the vet’s bill.
Pet insurance is there to help you pay for large expenses, such as veterinary care, so if your pet needs treatment, make a claim on the policy.
The process should be relatively straightforward and leave you with plenty of time to look after your pet.
When can I claim?
Whenever your pet requires emergency medical care or ongoing treatment, you should check with your insurer to see if you can make a claim.
Pet insurance policies are all different but many will also pay medical expenses for your pet if you have taken them on holiday and they require urgent treatment abroad.
On other policies, it’s possible to claim for alternative therapies such as acupuncture if your pet needs it, and help with the cost of advertising and rewards if your pet ever gets lost or stolen.
Depending on your level of cover, you may also be able to make a claim if your pet dies after an accident and some policies include liability insurance in case your animal ever causes damage to a third party.
It helps to let your insurer know as soon as possible that you wish to claim on the policy so try not to delay the call.
The best way to start the claim is by giving your insurers’ helpline a quick call (the telephone number should be on the policy documents).
What to say
You insurer will want to know the details of what’s happened to your pet and the likely costs that the situation involves.
If your pet needs medical care and is already being treated, make sure you know the name of the condition your pet has and the treatment or operations.
Your vet should be able to give you the estimated costs or you may already have an invoice or a receipt for payment. The telephone adviser can answer any questions about your claim.
The next step
Most insurers will then require you to fill in a claim form and gather together the relevant documentation to support the claim – such as medical receipts or invoices. Usually you need to have sent off the claim form within 30 days.
If your pet has already received medical treatment and the vet’s bill is outstanding, you may need to pay it before you receive the money from your insurer.
However, if your pet has a condition covered by the policy that will require ongoing treatment, you may be reimbursed for the initial costs and then claim recurring costs going forward.
Is the money paid directly?
In many cases the money is paid straight to the policyholder. Sometimes, however, the vet will be paid directly by the insurer. The claims helpline advisers will let you know when this is the case.
How much can I claim?
What you can claim and how much you can claim directly relates to the type of pet insurance you have bought and the level of cover it provides.
The plans are often restricted in the sum the insurer will pay out for the same or separate conditions. That’s why it’s important to buy the right cover for the type, age and breed of your pet and your own financial situation.
There’s no point paying over the odds. Shopping around for cover helps lower the price. But if you want it to pay out for specific things, make sure you read the small print before you buy.
How long should I wait?
Once you’ve sent off the paperwork and providing all of the supporting documents (the receipts and invoices) are in order, you will usually have a decision from your insurer within a couple of days.
When to complain
If you’re not satisfied that an insurer has paid out properly, the first step is to complain to the insurer. If you have gone down its complaints procedure and you still feel you’ve been unfairly treated, the Financial Ombudsman can help you take it further.
By Joanne O’Connell
Find out more about pet insurance