When the cover is kept on a leash, your wallet will still be stretched at the vet

Animal insurance is the fastest-growing market in the industry. But with all the caveats, is it worth the premiums?

You might be prepared to pay £4,000 for orthopaedic surgery and hydrotherapy to return your own joints to full working order, but would you cough up the same amount for your dog?

Thanks to spiralling vets' fees, pet cover has become the fastest-growing form of insurance in the UK.

Although it is marketed as giving animal lovers peace of mind, many policies actually provide inadequate levels of cover, according to research from Sainsbury's Bank, which provides pet policies.

Often, pet insurance is kept firmly on the leash, it reports: only 60 per cent of policies provide cover for vet fees in excess of £3,500.

And half do not give financial protection against long-term conditions and illnesses; in many cases, the costs of treatment for a recurring tumour would not be met after 12 months.

A lot of policies are riddled with such terms and conditions, as well as other exclusions, according to a survey by Which?, the consumer organisation.

"Pet insurance won't pay for any routine vaccinations - which insurers normally insist are kept up to date - neutering or routine care such as teeth cleaning," says a Which? spokesperson. "This means it doesn't cover the most common reasons for visiting the vet."

A rough industry estimate suggests that it costs between £50 and £500 a year to insure a dog, and £30 to £200 to cover a cat, so over the life of your pet, you should expect to pay out up to £5,000.

But given that most of our trips to the vet are the result of requirements that won't be covered, what do we get for our money?

Basic policies foot the bill for vet fees of at least £500 (see the table above) and pay out when your pet dies.

On the other hand, comprehensive cover of £200 compensates you for the following: a pet "counsellor"; a lump sum for cancelling a holiday if your pet should need life-saving emergency treatment; and liability for third-party damage.

Policies should cover your pet in the event of an accident or illness, and usually, the full cost of treatment, including surgery and drugs.

Developments in animal care mean the cost of treatment can be steep: mending a dog's torn ligament can cost £1,500, and an MRI scan will set you back some £1,000. A cat that has been hit by a car might need treatment costing £600.

As a rule, start insurance when your pet is young; a new policy for an older pet is generally more expensive. Most insurers will specify a minimum age that the pet needs to be at the start of the policy (normally eight weeks old), and you can keep the cover in place over the course of its life.

Starting insurance for a pet over eight or nine years old is difficult but not impossible. More Than has no age limit, but Churchill and Direct Line both stipulate a maximum limit of eight years old.

"With both vets and industry data showing that pets are living longer, it's unacceptable for insurers to only cover young pets," argues David Pitt of More Than.

"Veterinary care has developed significantly over the past decade, but as pets get older, they are more likely to suffer illnesses, which can often be lengthy and expensive to treat."

Cover won't stop as the pet gets older, says Peter Gerrard of the price-comparison website insure-supermarket.com - "it just becomes much harder to start a policy".

Wary consumers should check whether their insurer imposes limits on compensation. Some put a cap on a payout per ongoing illness, whereas others limit the overall annual payout. In either case, if a pet has a pre-existing medical condition, it is unlikely to be covered.

Some providers will also lower premiums for pets that have been electronically tagged.

Don't forget, you'll normally have to pay an excess with a claim, usually between £50 and £100.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    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
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam