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Pet insurance buyer's guide

A cat wearing an orange hat

Pets are part of the family and owners want to give them a happy, healthy life. Everyone loves to see a glossy-haired dog or cat that’s bounding with energy and glowing with health.

To give your four-legged friend the best chance to enjoy a long life, you need to provide a nutritionally balanced diet, lots of exercise, regular grooming and plenty of attention.

Alongside their day-to-day care, animals need to be protected against disease with up-to-date vaccinations and have regular routine check ups at the vets.

Think about the long-term

While you’re providing your pet with a healthy lifestyle, it’s also vital to consider the future.

Should they suddenly need an operation after an accident or be diagnosed with a serious illness, could you meet the costs of their care? It’s hard enough when a favourite pet is unwell or injured.

The last thing you need to be worrying about is a hefty veterinary bill. But fact is that fees can quickly escalate.

While you may be able to afford treatment for a hamster, medical fees for horses are another matter and bills for cats, dogs and rabbits can easily be out of reach for many owners. That’s where pet insurance comes in.

What does it cover?

Pet insurance helps with the costs of vets’ fees if your pet has an accident or is unwell.

In many cases, you can also claim on your policy if you take your pet on holiday and he or she requires urgent medical attention while you are abroad.

It may also contribute towards the cost of advertising and a reward if your pet ever gets lost or stolen as well as pay out if your pet dies after an accident, or illness. Many plans include liability insurance, in case your pet causes any accidental damage to a third party.

Plans may also contribute towards boarding costs if you have to spend some time in hospital and need your pet to be taken care of. Others you can claim on if you have to cancel a holiday because your pet is unwell.

Comparing products

When you’re choosing a policy, you need to compare cover not just on the cost but also on what it offers. Policies vary and there may be exclusions to a cheaper policy that makes it not the right cover for you, despite the attractive price.

There’s no point paying over the odds, however. A comparison site is a good place to start and should help you get the right level of cover at the lowest price.

What won’t it cover?

Most people use pet insurance to take care of the big stuff, the majority of policyholders take it out to pay for unexpected, expensive vet bills.

Most policies exclude routine healthcare charges, such as vaccinations, spraying and flea control.

The underwriters will also take into account how healthy your pet currently is. If they have any pre-existing conditions, these may be excluded from the policy.

Factors to consider

The cost of the cover depends on several factors, such as the age of your pet (an older pet will cost more to insure than a younger one) their health, medical history, the breed (fees are usually higher for pedigrees than cross breeds) and where you live.

For example, it may cost a little more to insure your pet if you live in London simply because vet fees are higher in the capital.

Lower the cost

Affordable policies often include a higher excess (the fee you pay before you can claim on the policy). If you can afford it, it’s often worth considering a policy with an increased excess so you get the reduced premiums.

Another way to lower your payments is to show that you take security seriously: a way to demonstrate this is by getting your pet micro-chipped.

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