By Lana Charge (Msc Veterinary Physiotherapy, CCBW and Canine Hydrotherapist)
Well, our answer, in every case is always – INSURE. And here is why.
We have all shown our gratitude to our amazing NHS staff who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe. Unfortunately, there is no NHS for our beloved pets. This means that veterinary care is in fact more like seeking private medical care for yourself – which can be expensive.
When you make the decision to own a pet, the last thing on your mind is preparing for an emergency and the costs involved, but accidents can and do happen. From snuffling a few mince pies at Christmas time to getting in a fight with the pesky neighbouring cats, we have seen it all!
You may remember Bonnie, the gorgeous black Labrador puppy who fancied her chances against a water sprinkler – coming away with broken bones! A bit like your GP, we are first opinion practice – this means that when cases require specialist attention, the patient may need to be referred to the appropriate specialist veterinary practice with the right people and tools for the case. In Bonnie’s case, this meant a trip to the orthopaedic department at Southfield’s Veterinary Specialists to fix her broken bones. The total came to four thousand pounds. Bonnie was not yet ten weeks old.
Fortunately Bonnie’s owner had a good insurance policy in place to cover these costs so the focus could be on Bonnie getting better as quickly as possible. This is why we recommend you insure your new pet before you even go and pick them up.
So insurance is super important, but how do you know which company and which policy to choose? There is almost too much choice! We recommend comparing not only the price but the finer details too – some policies only cover conditions for a year, and others have a maximum price they will cover for. Good insurance policies will also cover further treatment such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy when recommended by the vet for optimal outcome, and allow you to enquire as to whether costs will be covered before you agree to a procedure. You can always discuss your options with your vet if you are not sure and need advice.
As people who spend a lot of time arguing clients’ cases with insurance companies, take it from us – consider very very carefully before changing insurance company. You may have been changing for a cheaper option, but it could end up costing you more. This is because once your pet has been seen by a vet for a condition (for example, itchy ears), and you then change insurance company, this pre existing condition will be marked as an exclusion. Thus your new company will not pay out for this condition and possibly all related conditions (eg. all ear conditions). The same goes if you take your uninsured pet to see a vet for itchy ears – if you decide to insure them after that visit, ears will be excluded from all claims. We recommend insuring your pet as soon as you get them, and sticking with that company.
What about for older or rescue pets? Is it still worth insuring them? Absolutely – the prevalence of long term diseases such as osteoarthritis and dental disease greatly increases with age, so cover is more important than ever to make sure you can keep your pet happy and healthy. Vets are also more likely to need to run blood tests as the amount of medication increases, since some drugs can have detrimental effect on organ functioning and require monitoring.
Finally, whilst health plans and pet care plans offered by vets are fantastic for helping you protect your pets against fleas, worms and other diseases, they are not a substitute for insurance.
As pet owners, you just want the best quality of life for your pet. Help yourself to help them and take our advice – always insure them!