Pet insurance: why you owe it to that special family member

PUBLISHED: 15:55 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 January 2020

Take out a good pet insurance so you and that special family member can rest easy. Picture: Getty Images

Take out a good pet insurance so you and that special family member can rest easy. Picture: Getty Images

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Cats and dogs are naturally adventurous - and that can get them into trouble. For peace of mind, responsible pet owners would be wise to take out pet insurance to avoid a potentially difficult choice, says Chris Ridge, clinical director at Raddenstiles Vets.

The majority of UK pet owners look on their pet as a member of the family. Picture: Getty ImagesThe majority of UK pet owners look on their pet as a member of the family. Picture: Getty Images

All the people who come to our surgery look on their pet as a member of the family, and I'm guessing that's true of the vast majority of UK pet owners.

If a human family member gets sick we're lucky enough to have a National Health Service that is free at the point of delivery. Not so for our pets: no NHS for them, and the equipment and expertise needed to treat sick animals comes at private healthcare prices.

Raddenstiles Vets offer all patients under 12 months old, four weeks of free insurance to get started. Picture: Getty ImagesRaddenstiles Vets offer all patients under 12 months old, four weeks of free insurance to get started. Picture: Getty Images

This can create very real dilemmas for pet owners faced with, say, a sick dog or cat or one that's been involved in an accident.

For example, unless it's immediately obvious, it can cost £500-£1,000 just to find out what's wrong with a patient. Has your dog eaten something it shouldn't, like a stone or a stick? That could cost £500-2,000 to fix. Injuries resulting from a road traffic accident could set you back anything between £500 and £5,000.

Scary numbers for most of us, but there is a way to avoid that heart-breaking choice for both owner and vet - whether to put an animal to sleep which could be saved but for lack of funds.

At Raddenstiles Vets, we always recommend that owners should take out pet insurance, and we believe the best solution is a lifetime insurance policy rather than annual policies. It's more expensive but, usually, once your pet has been treated for something on an annual insurance policy that condition will be excluded when you come to renew at the end of the year.

There's no financial advantage to Raddenstiles in making this recommendation - indeed, we offer all patients under 12 months old, four weeks' free insurance to give owners time to get the insurance that's best for them.

In addition, none of our patients will pay more for treatment because they've taken out insurance. Our fees are the same for everyone. The only difference is that the options are not limited for financial reasons as they otherwise might be.

There are lots of insurance companies out there and it appears that most people find cat and dog insurance more complicated than most other insurances, so do your homework and read the small print. Fundamentally you'll get what you pay for and my recommendation is buy the best cover you can afford.

It's often the people with the least available funds who need pet insurance the most.

According to the Association of British Insurers, 84% of the eight million cats in the UK are not insured and 67% of our 8.5 million dogs are uninsured - and these are really worrying statistics.

It is heart breaking for clients and staff when patients arrive with treatable injuries or conditions but where the cost of the treatment will run into thousands and there are no funds to pay for it. Unfortunately this happens all too frequently from road traffic accidents, eating stones, sticks or poisonous foods, illnesses which can range from skin conditions to cancers, orthopaedic conditions or complex injuries all of which we can treat at Raddenstiles.

The sad fact is vets just can't undertake highly complex and expensive operations for free. We will always do our very best for any animal, and work with the client where we can but we wouldn't be able to continue here for long on a charitable basis.

It's agonising for us, knowing that there could have been a better outcome if only the owner had taken out adequate insurance.

Here at Raddenstiles we have advanced veterinary practitioners and some very innovative equipment, which is used to provide a comprehensive range of treatments and surgeries.

It's all available to our patients - but to ensure full access, I'd advise you to take out a good pet insurance so you and that special family member can rest easy.

Call Raddenstiles Vets with surgeries at Exmouth (01395 264747) and Sidford (01395 514255) or visit raddenstilesvets.co.uk

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