James Walker: Beware Jacuzzi clause in Fido's policy

It never ceases to amaze me how varied and unusual problems with pets can be. I've helped sort out pet insurance claims over the years on everything from parrots that can't balance, dogs whose legs give way when they run too fast and cats with some pretty scary personality disorders. 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.
Canine hydrotherapy could be costly. Picture: Alexander Caminada/Rex/ShutterstockCanine hydrotherapy could be costly. Picture: Alexander Caminada/Rex/Shutterstock
Canine hydrotherapy could be costly. Picture: Alexander Caminada/Rex/Shutterstock

This can lead to some quite unusual scenarios. A friend of mine had a pedigree dog that was diagnosed with anxiety. It went away to a training course and treatment centre for two weeks, which cost more than the owner’s last two holidays combined. Another case I looked into involved an experimental “animal hydrotherapy centre” which someone had set up in their back garden. It was a shed with a Jacuzzi in it. That was £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.

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It is also 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.

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, the policies will only cover you for genuine accidents not illnesses. But if money is tight, they can really help out if your pet is injured. Take time to read the policy through to ensure you 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, they 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 if 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.

Resolver can help you sort out complaints about pretty much anything for free. Check out www.resolver.co.uk and share your experiences at [email protected]