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Pet insurance – putting your pooch first is barking

Dog in car

Brits are more likely to get cover for their pets than themselves, says a new survey. This seems crazy, but is there method in this madness? Are you someone who puts your pet first?

I don’t have any pets, I don’t even like animals, so buying pet insurance to protect a moggy or pooch is lost on me.

Then again, if you are a pet owner I can see the attraction. Not so long a go I read that it can cost in the region of £2,000 to fix a knee injury suffered by a dog, and even getting an x-ray will set you back £350. Sums like these bring it home how expensive a four-legged friend can be.

I think that the research, conducted by Provide, the insurer, has merit. But it has to be taken in context. One reason why we may not get health cover for ourselves, but buy insurance for our pets is that the NHS is there to help, whereas a sick or injured pet doesn’t have access to free treatment.

Putting your pet first

As good as the welfare state may be, it does have its shortcomings. Provide’s research illustrates one problem in particular – just 9% of self-employed or low paid workers have health cover.

If these people suffer long periods off work, they could get into serious financial problems. Even with money being tight, income protection may be worth considering – although not payment protection insurance (which is a con).

Life is tough right now. Around one in five single parents don’t have any savings to fall back on. So while protecting your pet may seem a sensible, caring thing to do, charity begins at home. If you have any spare cash, consider looking after yourself before your pets. After all, you’ll be able to tend after a sick animal, they won’t be able to do much for you.


I was under the impression that the research in question was commissioned by a company that provides or represents companies that provide accident insurance and therefore it was hardly the most unbiased research ever conducted. Pointing out that people insure their pets but not themselves seems laughable until you take into further consideration the kind of cover that these policies provide have a lot of exclusions and aren’t always straightforward to claim on.
I seem to remember an old Which? position that pet insurance was quite a good idea, but I have an impression that Which? wasn’t so convinced by the value of accident insurance.
Everyone I know who has a pet has faced massive bills at one time or another. If I was to buy a dog or cat I’d definitely get insurance. I only know one person who has lost earnings because he had an accident at work – I think that the problem was that he was self-employed and therefore didn’t have the same cover as other employees.
What is the real case for getting either of these things Dan?

I don’t have pets either, but I understand the point of the insurance and the psychology of having a pet. Owners actually see pets as their no.1 concern because when things are going bad or your depressed, your pet still loves you regardless and they show it more than a child or relative.

Also pets are way more fragile than humans and we have much stronger immune systems.

I do think that the evidence presented for this article is a little sketchy and circumstantial though. Pet insurance overall is to protect against the high costs of vet bills and that is something worth doing if you own a pet. Whether or not you are a single parent or earning a low wage is irrelevant and I don’t think it is a choice between your children and your dog.

Sanna says:
12 August 2011

Before taking out pet insurance check (informally) with your Vet which one to chose. Vets are not allowed to make recommendations, but they know which insurances pay promptly (and thus will deal with them directly over a claim) and which will try and avoid paying (this means you have to pay the full amount and then try and claim it back). And read the small print! I discovered that “my” insurance (E&L, York) requires you to pay one third of fees as well as an excess. Do check all the things you have to do before telling your vet to go ahead with treatment: do you have to ring the insurance? Do you have to get quotes from other vets? Will the condition leading to the claim be excluded from cover in future? Do you have to provide them with your shoe size? For my recent claim it did not matter as they (E&L) refused to pay in any case. The reasons for this refusal were so spurious that it is a waste of time explaining them here.

So, be warned and chose your insurance carefully! What is the solution? Pick a good insurance or simply put a fixed amount of money each month into a special account and then pay vet’s fees out of that?

I believe that vets in this country are more expensive than in other European countries. They know we love our pets and make good use of it. You can’t really blame them for that, can you?

Hi Sanna – boy do I know what it’s like dealing with ‘E&L’. So much so that our dispute with them was featured in May 2010 Which ‘Legal Services’ case history. (I might add that WLS were brilliant and E&L went scurrying for their cheque book to pay the claim at the first mention of ‘Which’ !)

We have since moved from E&L and found other companies much easier to deal with – of course bottom line is that actually we don’t ever want to claim as it means one of our pets is ‘unwell’.

Your comment about checking with the vet is spot-on – a raised eyebrow will talk volumes about poor companies and they certainly do know who to avoid.

Good Luck

It depends on how much you value “peace of mind” – I prefer to plan for problems beforehand.

I have a fair experience about dogs as pets – I have helped to find homes for unwanted dogs for many years and help run a kennels..

I have a contingency fund based on the lowest premiums I could find for my three large dogs. As I found the pet premiums were not cost effective as most usual problems like annual vet visits and teeth are NOT covered nor are pre-existant injuries – my dogs are greyhounds (a naturally healthy long lived breed) so if my dog injured a leg playing at home the insurance company would refuse to pay out on the ground the injury was caused or exacerbated by a “pre-existed” injury (leg injuries are common for racing greyhounds)..

But dog problems can be expensive – one cost me over £3000. But another only cost £80 for an injured foot with premiums at over £200 a year for that one dog – in her 13 year life I would have paid £2600 for an £80 injury.- not to mention a vast increase in premium when she reached 8 years old.

I realised this and stopped paying the premiums saving a fortune. The injured paw cost was paid very quickly by the insurance company.

In fact I have a large “profit” from the savings I made. The interest used to cover all vet expenses including annual visits. Actually my last 15 dogs have cost very little including euthanasia. which again isn’t covered anyway.. Normally around £200 per dog for it’s 10 year life at home. But this only works well if you have several dogs.

Many people have insurance because they know the cost for their single dog will be limited to a single annual premium.

But most of my dog owning friends use the contingency fund – which invariably works well even for a single dog (though the amount needed to be saved is higher proportionately than for multi dogs)

Hillyone says:
9 January 2012

I recently made my first claim on my dog insurance. The total bill was £200+. By the time I’d paid £99 excess, and a 35% co-payment (should have read the small print) I actually received £66. The company required details of all my dealings with my vet in the 11 years of my dog’s life, and have excluded absolutely everything we’ve ever discussed – any heart condition, because of a minor heart murmur discovered at her first immunisations; fatty lumps; any joint condition (because we’d considered she might get arthritis with age) and any eye condition (because she has a thickening of the liquid in the eye). What exactly is it worth insuring her for??

Pet Insurance does not pay – unless the illness or injury occurs when the pet is young.

The charges are designed to return a profit for the insurer.

All existing problems are not covered. – nor are routine inoculations and inspections or problems such as teeth decay. In the main it is a con – but you do get peace of mind that some (not all) of the exceptionally high costs will be covered.

We do not recommend pet insurance for anyone who can afford to save the premium instead – as many problems are not expensive to treat – and a couple of incident free years will pay the cost.

We encourage those multi pet owners (as many of our adopters are) to make a contingency fund.

The only things that are worth insuring for are some cancers and very serious long term injuries – but these are only worth it they occur at a young age, Premiums increase enormously (triple) when a dog reaches 8 years old.

All in all it is not worth insuring them. The only dog I “lost” money on was one greyhound who had an anal cancer which cost £3000 to treat unsuccessfully. He was 11 y o and had £1890 in his “account” but I had also been using the account to pay for all the treatments and examinations that were not covered by the standard insurance.

Every single other dog has cost me less than the insurance premiums. So I made a “profit. Have not needed to save anything in recent years as the fund covers running costs (though recent low interest rates have caused capital to reduce)