James Walker: Right policy proves you care for your pet

Even chameleons can get the blues. Picture: Milan Viden
Even chameleons can get the blues. Picture: Milan Viden
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If there’s one subject that people are passionate about, it’s pets.

Over the years, I’ve helped sort out problems with depressed chameleons, wonky Labradors and even a sheep with a skin condition. But it never ceases to amaze me how varied and unusual pet complaints can be. And one thing is for sure; in Britain, we really love our pets. And if they get ill, then we’ll do all we can to help them.

This can lead to some quite wacky scenarios. A friend of mine had a pedigree dog that was diagnosed with depression. It went away to a training course and treatment centre for two weeks that cost more than my last two years’ worth of holidays combined. And I once met a man who proudly showed me the photographs of his “animal hydrotherapy centre” that he’d set up in his back garden. It was a shed with a jacuzzi in it; £600 a pop apparently. Needless to say, some of his customers weren’t thrilled to discover his entrepreneurial flair when they claimed on their pet insurance and found his treatment method wasn’t covered as it was “unofficial”.

Given the costs that can arise for treating a sick or injured pet, I’d have to say that pet insurance is pretty much essential.

Pet insurance is a really big business – insurers know you’ll want to avoid the terrifyingly high vet’s fees that can sometimes arise. But in recent years lots of insurers have pulled out of the pet insurance market because people are more likely to make a claim than on say, home insurance.

Don’t worry, there are still lots of policies out there, but here’s a few things to bear in mind (and don’t forget Resolver can help you out at www.resolver.co.uk if you have a problem).

The best policy you can buy is a “lifetime” policy, which covers your pet for treatment for life, though only for a set amount each year. These are the priciest policies, but make the most sense for pet lovers.

You can also buy “maximum benefit” policies which will pay a set amount for each illness.

Finally, there are “time limited” policies (they only cover your pet for a set period) and “accident only” policies. If you’re on a budget, an accident only policy is worth considering. As the name suggests, it will only cover you for genuine accidents not illnesses. But if money is tight, it can really help out if your pet is injured. Take time to read the policy to understand what is being defined as an accident – and get the insurer to explain anything that isn’t clear.

A lot of the people I speak to don’t want to think about their pet getting ill, so leaving aside some basic injections and treatments, many people dodge speaking to a vet until something bad happens. I’d really encourage anyone with a pet to get to know their vet. The security of knowing that the surgery is there, its opening hours and where to go if you need emergency treatment is priceless – though I hope you never need to use it.

Speak to your vet before signing up to see whether their fees are likely to be covered. There’s quite a lot of variation with vet’s fees – and if yours is pricey, check with the insurer how much they’d be willing to cover.

And finally, if you need to make a claim, speak to the insurer and tell them about the costs asap. Some vets may recommend “experimental” treatments that aren’t recognised and might not be covered.