Not all pet insurance deals are what they seem

With 13,000 claims a year rejected, too many owners are barking up the wrong tree by taking out inadequate policies. Nicola Cappin and Melanie Bien report

You can't wrap your pets in cotton wool but you might think that if you take out insurance, you won't have to worry about the cost of treatment if they fall ill.

Well, not necessarily. Research from Sainsbury's Bank shows that 13,000 claims are turned down every year. And if you have to pay the vet's bill yourself, you may find it a struggle: treating a cat for a broken leg costs around £300, while a dog's cruciate ligament rupture can cost up to £1,200, according to the RSPCA.

"In some cases, insurers won't pay out after the first 12 months of the pet's illness," warns Brian Brown, associate director at Defaqto, a financial research group, and author of a new report on pet cover. To make matters worse, some insurers charge a percentage of the bill as an excess if this comes to more than the standard excess.

The only way to avoid this is to read the small print when looking for cover. "Pet insurance is probably the most complicated personal insurance product there is," Mr Brown adds. "It is also one of the most emotive. For peace of mind, buy a policy that gives good cover for the worst-case scenario, such as long-term chronic conditions."

Pets are big business in the UK: 4.8 million households have a dog and 4.5 million a cat. But most pet owners don't bother forking out for insurance at all. Seven out of 10 cats and dogs aren't covered, says Sainsbury's Bank.

It isn't just a large bill from the vet that these owners are risking. "Insurance can dramatically reduce the cost of owning a pet," says Robert O'May, insurance product manager at Sainsbury's Bank, "but more importantly, it can ensure the pet receives the medical treatment it needs if it's injured or falls ill."

Sarah Styler from Bretforton in Worcestershire was certainly glad she had cover when her dog, Clemmie, was injured by a horse last year. "We live in a converted barn and have lots of animals," she says. "Clemmie loves to round up all the animals but one day one of the horses kicked her in the mouth. She lost five of her teeth and needed £1,000 worth of treatment."

Ms Styler pays £40 a year for her NFU Mutual policy. "It has turned out to be really good value," she says. "Clemmie had a rough year, and we ended up putting in another £300 claim when she developed a blood disorder and had to spend two weeks in hospital. Mind you, Clemmie is eight years old now and it's the first time we have had to make a claim."

Basic insurance costs as little as £6 a month (see the table above) for a standard policy for a dog. Depending on the animal's age and breed, this pays vets' fees up to £1,500 and a lump sum if your pet dies, as well as covering you for holiday cancellations, boarding fees, theft or straying from home, advertising and rewards, third party liability and accidental damage. Premiums rise to £28.65 a month for Petplan's top-of-the-range policy, which puts no limit on vets' fees.

When choosing a policy, check how much you can claim for any one illness or injury, and whether there is a time limit on treatment. Good cover should also provide third party liability in case your dog gets in a fight with a neighbour's dog. Some policies offer homoeopathy or acupuncture treatments, while insurer Direct Line even offers a 24-hour bereavement line for customers.

According to Defaqto, the best-value policies are from Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's Bank, Pet Protect, Scottish Pet Insurance, Paws Pet Insurance and NFU Mutual. It also rates Petplan for dogs and Intervet for cats among its best buys.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Quantitative Risk Manager

    Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments