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Wednesday 24th April 2024

Do I need pet insurance for my dog? 

Mouthy Money Your Questions Answered panelist, Caroline Allen, answers a reader’s question on if they need to buy pet insurance for their dog. 


Q: Is it mandatory to buy pet insurance for my dog? 

A: It isn’t mandatory to buy pet insurance for your dog but it is highly recommended. Unfortunately, many pet owners may not realise just how much veterinary care can cost.  

Vet care has advanced substantially over the last few years and now pets can benefit from advanced surgeries and testing, such as MRI scans, bone plating and blood testing that we are traditionally used to seeing in human hospitals. However, as there is no NHS for pets all these treatments and tests need to be paid for.  

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Many people massively underestimate the cost of medical procedures and so it can be a major shock when their pet becomes unwell. For example, a ruptured cruciate ligament in the knee could cost £3,000 to £5,000 to repair and surgery to remove a corn cob stuck in the intestine can be £2,000 to £4,000, or more if there are complications. 

 
Many owners would, understandably, not be able to find several thousands of pounds should their pet become unwell but this can be the reality if you don’t have insurance. Pet insurance therefore gives peace of mind and means that owners don’t have to compromise on vital vet treatment for their pet.  
 

However, if you feel that pet insurance isn’t right for you, or may struggle to make monthly payments, it may be helpful to make enquiries with your registered vet as some veterinary practices will offer payment plans so that you can pay the vet bills in instalments rather than one lump sum.  

Like all payment services this is subject to strict financial services, so not all practices will be able to offer this service and it will only be suitable in some situations.  

Many charities such as the PDSA and Blue Cross also offer financial assistance for veterinary care for those who are eligible (based on postcode and benefit/income criteria), but these services are in very high demand and have to maintain strict rules about who can access them.  
 

We would always urge anyone considering getting a pet to thoroughly do their research to make sure they can give them the time, money and care they need for the rest of their lives – and we’d like to see pet insurance considered as an integral part of pet ownership. 
 

When buying pet insurance it is important to understand exactly what will be covered as there are many different policies with different levels and lengths of cover. As a general rule, pricier packages often include more cover, but there can be considerable variations between companies.  

The key thing to look at is whether the policy is “lifetime” or yearly. If you get a yearly policy then any conditions, even lifelong issues such as diabetes or arthritis will not be covered when you go into the next policy year. With lifetime cover those conditions will continue to be covered up to the amount allowed per year. Clearly lifetime cover is much better for ongoing conditions, but understandably will cost more. 
 

The other thing to watch out for is the overall level of cover and if that is broken down per condition – £1,000 might sound like a lot but with modern tests and medications that amount could easily be spent investigating a condition, leaving you paying for the actual treatment. Always get the highest level of cover you can afford.  
 

Another aspect to watch out for is if the insurance covers pre-existing conditions if starting with a new insurance provider, or changing your policy, as problems may not be covered if this is the case. Always be honest about your pet’s previous health issues and make sure you understand the exclusions on your pet’s policy before committing.  

Caroline Allen is the Chief Veterinary Officer at the RSPCA where she has worked for over eight years. Caroline spent nearly twenty years as a GP vet in London before she joined the RSPCA. She is a trustee of the BVA- Animal Welfare Foundation. She studied veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge and has a one-year-old rescue dog, a lurcher called Jess.  

Rebecca Goodman

Award-winning freelance journalist with a decade of experience working for online and print publications in the consumer sector.

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