Pet insurance is an excellent way of budgeting for your pet’s health care, so that in case of a crisis, you can afford the best treatment. There are now many different pet insurance products on the market, and it’s important to read the fine print. The basic idea is that you pay a small monthly amount ( as little as €6.49) and the insurance company will pay your vet bills if your pet has an accident or falls ill.
Where to get pet insurance
There are a number of companies offering pet insurance in Ireland including:
and perhaps more. The number of providers is continually changing. No matter what company you choose, it’s important to be aware of the terminology used by insurers, so that you understand what is covered.
Some insurance Definitions
This is the amount of money that you pay each month or once a year for your insurance cover. A more expensive premium is likely to offer more comprehensive cover. You need to read the small print, choosing a premium level that’s affordable while still offering you enough benefits.
This is the amount of money that you pay yourself for each claim; the insurance company will reimburse you for the total amount, less the excess. You should read the small print of the policy to determine the amount of the policy excess, and how often it needs to be paid. The excess may be a fixed amount per condition, or a fixed amount plus a percentage of the fees, or just a percentage of the fees.
When choosing a policy, you may be prepared to choose a lower premium by accepting a higher policy excess.
As pets grow older, many pet insurance companies ask owners to pay a higher policy excess.
Third party cover
Most pet companies offer 3rd party liability cover for damage caused by your pet for which you may be legally liable.
Items that will not be covered by the pet insurance policy. You should check these carefully in the small print.
Common exclusions include:
- Preventive or optional aspects of pet care eg. vaccinations, neutering and parasite control.
- Pregnancy and whelping/kittening
- Behavioural problems.
- Illnesses that start in the first 2 – 4 weeks of the policy’s commencement date.
- Home visits by the vet
- Pre-existing conditions (vets are often asked to submit details of pets’ previous clinical histories to check for these)
- Working dogs and dogs restricted under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
- Routine dental treatments
- Special nutrition, such as “prescription diets”
- Travelling overseas
- Complementary treatments, such as hydrotherapy, homoeopathy and acupuncture
- Euthanasia and cremation
Types of Pet Insurance Policies
Life Long Cover
This is the most comprehensive type of pet insurance policy and tends to be most expensive.
The policy is renewed annually, but conditions that have develop during one year continue to be covered for the whole life of the pet. The insurance covers you up to a total amount each year (e.g. €4000)
Example costs for a dog like Kiko would be €147 per year/ €12.98/month with Tesco, or €151 per year with Blue.ie. or €152 with Allianz Petplan or €153 with Petinsure.ie (but extra €35 discount available for first year on signing up). Small print is different for each company, so read carefully!
Annual cover tends to be less expensive, but it is likely to pay out less over the lifetime of the pet.
This type of policy is renewed annually, and it only covers a condition for twelve months from the onset of the condition. The key difference with this policy is that after 12 months any condition claimed for in the previous year is excluded from the insurance cover.
It is likely to be provide effectively for sudden, one-off crises like accidents or illnesses when your pet makes a full and complete recovery. However if your pet develops long term, chronic illnesses (e.g. arthritis, diabetes, skin disease and certain types of cancer), the cover may not be enough.
Cheapest example is Tesco Value Cover at €73.50 per year/ €6.49/month, covering you for up to €2500 vets’ fees in a year.
What happens as pets grow older?
Most pet insurance companies have an age threshold (e.g. 8 years) beyond which they will not accept a pet for a new policy. A small number of companies will start cover at any age.
As long as a pet has been insured prior to this age threshold, most companies will continue to offer cover for the pet.
When an age threshold is reached (e.g. 9 with Tesco), the policy excess usually increases, and a different way of calculating the excess may be introduced (e.g. a percentage of the total instead of an absolute amount). (Eg Tesco the excess for a dog goes up from €100 to €150)
As pets grow older, premiums may increase, but this does not usually relate to the amount of money claimed. Sometimes a range of different policy conditions may be introduced for older pets, including more exclusions.
Some pet insurance companies offer discounts for certain circumstances:
- Online purchasing of insurance
- Multiple pet ownership – e.g. if you have more than three pets insured
- Microchipped pets
- Old aged pensioners
- “Special offers” e.g. Tesco Clubcard holders get an extra 5% discount, plus Customers who take out a policy in January will get €10 worth of Pedigree / Whiskas vouchers.
Other features commonly offered include:
- payment of boarding fees for a pet if an owner is hospitalised
- refunding of the cost of a pedigree pet in case of death or theft of pet
- cost of advertising if a pet is lost or stolen.
Tesco insurance offers “Vetfone” , a 24-hour freephone veterinary advice line manned with qualified veterinary nurses who will offer you advice about your pet’s health. Vetfone will advise if your pet needs to visit a vet and how quickly which may save you the cost of unnecessary vet bills.
The simple bottom line is this: if you have a pet that you care about, you ought to include pet insurance in your annual budget.
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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.