VETERINARY CARE FOR YOUR PET IS EXPENSIVE.
There is no NHS for pets so owners have to pay for their pet's medical costs themselves.
Most responsible pet owners will make some sort of financial provision for caring for their pet if they get sick or injured. This is something you seriously need to be aware of before you buy a puppy or even take on a mongrel from a rescue shelter. Legally and morally, you just can't neglect or ignore a sick pet - this will likely land you in big trouble.
All pets get sick at some point in their lives and on average, according to research, dogs have at least three major medical catastrophes in their lives. Recent research suggests that crossbreds in fact are just as likely to get ill as a pedigree - they often have those same genes that heighten the risk of diabetes, osteoarthritis or cataracts, for example. That's why insurers now want to know what the dominant breed is in a crossbred dog when you are insuring them.
We are not going to beat about the bush on the thorny issue of veterinary fees - they are steep. If you've ever had a veterinary bill, you will know this. Veterinary fees have doubled in the last ten years and most research suggests they will increase further in the next 5 years. So why are veterinary fees so expensive? Well, this is down to a number of factors....
- The pace of technological improvement in diagnostic equipment has been rapid and dramatic. When I first qualified for example, I remember developing x-rays in a dark room, dipping the films into unpleasant smelling chemicals and then hanging them up to dry. Ten years later, we had a processor which automatically fed the films through those chemicals, also drying them automatically which speeded things up somewhat. Most recently, now some twenty years later, we are using digital radiography, producing very detailed images, very rapidly and with NO chemicals (and no risk of pollution). So we're basically upgrading our diagnostic equipment on a very regular basis, requiring continuous investment. Newer diagnostic equipment we've added to the clinic this year includes a new high powered microscope, a digital tonometer to check pets' eyes for glaucoma and a digital blood pressure monitor so we can screen older cats for high blood pressure (this can cause strokes or blindness!). Our goal is always to make an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible. We guess that maybe in the not too distant future we will even have an MRI scanner in Limavady.
- Pharmaceutical companies are constantly developing newer and better ways of treating illnesses. The cost of researching, testing and licensing these newer medications is astronomical so new drugs tend to be very expensive. Just from reading newspaper headlines, people will know the high cost of chemotherapy drugs, for example, in human medicine. One of our key drugs to treat canine atopy (a lifelong allergic condition) costs around £2000 a year (and that's just in small dog. Multiply this by 6 for a Great Dane!). There are of course cheaper drugs for this condition but some of them are just not very safe for long term use. Medical techniques are getting more advanced – veterinary practitioners are on the brink of introducing stem cell therapies and monoclonal antibody treatments for pets, with a range of vaccines against cancers just around the corner also.
- With many veterinary shows on TV, pet owners' expectations of what a vet can do have increased significantly. Nowadays, a dog or cat is a much loved member of the family, or may indeed be somebody's only companion or company. So when that beloved family member is sick or injured, the vet is often under immense pressure to get the pet back to full health as quickly as possible. As such vets will try to use the latest treatment methods to ensure the best result. To maintain our license to practise and keep up to date with the latest techniques and treatments, vets and nurses have to attend conferences and undertake additional training courses every year. Veterinary CPD (continuing professional development), although an enjoyable and vital component of our profession, is expensive.
- Traditional veterinary overheads associated with running a veterinary clinic such as rates, insurance, professional fees etc continue their relentless march upwards.
So how does pet insurance work?
Basically the pet owner pays a monthly premium by direct debit so that if a pet falls sick or is injured, the insurance company will usually pay most of the bill. The cost of the policy depends on your pet's age and breed. If our pet is older or you have a breed that is at high risk of medical issues (eg Bulldogs) or potentially more dangerous, then sometimes the premiums may be too expensive. In older pets or after a claim, premiums may rise suddenly. In these situations, it may be a better option to pay a set amount into a savings account each month that can be used to pay for any potential veterinary bills. Generally, most customers who have pet insurance are very glad they have it when things go wrong.
What does pet insurance cover?
- Veterinary Fees - excluding vaccinations, worming, neutering, breeding issues
- Complementary Treatment such as hydrotherapy, laser therapy
- Third Party Liability
- Death from Illness (optional extra)
- Death from Injury (optional extra)
- Boarding Fees - if you have to go into hospital
- Advertising & Reward - if your pet is lost
- Loss by Theft or Straying
- Holiday Cancellation
- Quarantine Expenses & Loss of Documents
- Emergency Repatriation
- Multi-pet Discount
- Pet Owner Support Package
- Pet Bereavement Helpline
- Legal Helpline
Top tips from the vets at All Creatures for insuring your pet
- If you are considering pet insurance, then ask your vet to help you with this. Having considerable experience with the full spectrum of pet insurers over the last twenty years, we will help to guide towards the effective, reliable policies and highlight the risks of some of the others. At All Creatures, all our staff have had additional training on pet insurance and are qualified pet insurance advisors. You are welcome to make a complimentary appointment with any of our vets, nurses or reception staff to help you in setting up a policy to suit your budget and your pet's particular needs.
- Don't put off cover until your pet is older. Younger pets are more likely to require treatment - conditions such as hip dysplasia, osteochondritis, atopic dermatitis, epilepsy, congenital heart / liver / kidney disease, intestinal foreign bodies and infectious diarrhoeas, are generally noticed initially in pets under a year of age. The number of claims to pet insurances for pets under 6 months is similar to the number for pets over seven years. People often underestimate the cost of looking after a new pet and leave setting up the insurance too late. As such we recommend setting this up as soon as you get your pet.
- Don't be caught out by the small print. Read through your policy cover carefully - don't leave it until something goes wrong. If you see a policy that you like, ask us for our opinion on it.
- Some basic policies, although cheaper, can be very restrictive and have a time limit for treatment of the illness. We strongly recommend that you take out a LIFETIME policy (Advanced or Gold policies) - this will cover treatment of the same condition for the life of your pet. Many conditions that dogs get are lifelong, such as diabetes, epilepsy, osteoarthritis, atopic dermatitis. These conditions are all expensive to treat – the medication to treat an epileptic Rottweiler, for example, costs around £50 a month - if you have a basic year policy, you will be left on your own to cover the treatment costs after one year. Even if you change policy provider, the pre-existing illness will be excluded.
- Make sure your pet is up to date with all the necessary vaccinations and health checks - claims can be refused if you have missed these. The insurer will want to see your pet's entire medical notes when you make a claim - some insurers now have direct access to the pet's notes on the veterinary database.
- Check out the excess on your policy. We generally recommend policies that have a fixed excess. Some policies may charge a fixed excess PLUS a percentage of the bill, ranging from 10 to 33%. This can mean you contributing more towards the overall bill.
- Don't buy insurance on marketing gimmicks such as cashbacks or vouchers - you are generally paying for these somewhere else. When buying insurance cover, cheapest is rarely the best.
- It may not be a good idea to switch your policy if you have made a claim and the premiums rise. No pet insurance will cover pre-existing illnesses, so if you have made a claim for a particular illness on your policy and then want to switch to a new provider, that illness will be excluded from your new policy. If you have made a claim on a policy and want to change to a new insurer, you should discuss the full implications of this with your vet.
- Although your insurer may allow direct claims, these are always at the discretion of the practice. If you are making a direct claim ie the practice claims back the treatment costs on your behalf, you will need to provide a copy of your pet insurance policy to the practice at the outset of treatment and you will have to pay the excess on the policy upon completion of the treatment. Sometimes your pet's treatment costs may fall below the policy excess in which case a claim will not be submitted to the insurer and you will be asked to pay for the treatment.
- The following site has a good guide to explaining the variations between policies....
Get your own online quote now at http://www.petplan.co.uk/
In summary, we strongly recommend that you take out pet insurance for your pet....
It's better for your pet - they can benefit from the most advanced diagnostic and treatment methods and our highest level of care
It's better for you - it allows you to budget for your pet's care while giving you the peace of mind that when something goes wrong, you know your pet will be getting the best of care and you won't be out of pocket
It's better for the vet - we can concentrate on giving your pet the best treatment without having to take diagnotic shortcuts, worrying if we are going to get paid or not or having to use more basic drugs which may not be as safe or effective.
DID YOU KNOW?
If you do not have third party cover for your pet and they damage a car in a road accident or bite someone, then you are liable to get sued for the full repair or damage costs.
FREE 4 weeks pet insurance cover for all new puppies registered at All Creatures