A dogs’s life: Pet insurers pay out £602 million

A TORTOISE with digestive trouble and a kitten which needed to have its stomach pumped after falling into a toilet are among the animals whose treatment was claimed for on insurance last year as payouts for medical problems in pets rose by 15 per cent.

Millions of dog owners have no insurance for vet bills. Picture: Getty
Millions of dog owners have no insurance for vet bills. Picture: Getty

Pet insurers paid out £602 million in claims in 2014 – the equivalent of £1.65m a day – according to the latest figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The average cost of a claim has risen 7 per cent to £679, while for dogs the typical cost is even higher, at £683.

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Pet insurance has become more common in the UK as owners opt to cover themselves against high vets’s bills if their animal becomes ill.

However, while the number of UK animals covered by pet insurance policies has now passed 3.5 million, there are even more pets which are not covered, leaving their owners facing bills of thousands of pounds if their animal is struck with a serious illness such as cancer.

Out of an estimated UK-wide dog population of nine million, approximately 2.4 million are covered by pet insurance – leaving nearly three quarters of dog owners without it.

For cats, only 15 per cent benefit from pet insurance – around 1.2 million out of an estimated population of 7.9 million.

Insurers are also providing cover for more than 250,000 other pets such as horses, rabbits and even exotic animals such as snakes.

Mark Shepherd, general insurance manager at the ABI, said: “It’s good to see an increase in the number of animals and their owners who are now benefiting from the protection offered by pet insurance. However, it remains a concern that the majority of pet owners in the UK don’t have any cover in place.

“The cost of getting quality veterinary treatment for your pet can quickly reach into thousands of pounds, particularly if they have to have surgery or need chemotherapy to tackle cancer. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind that you won’t have to deny your pet life-saving treatment because the veterinary bills are too expensive.”

He added: “It’s encouraging to see more consumers taking advantage of this, and the hope is that other owners will give more thought to how they would cope if their pet fell dangerously ill or had a serious accident.”

Examples given by the ABI of unusual situations which owners with insurance have claimed for include a £600 claim to treat the young cat which required a stomach pump and antibiotics after slipping into a toilet bowl, as well as a cockatiel which was having trouble flying properly, costing nearly £500 in vets’s bills. Treatment for the tortoise with stomach problems cost more than £560 – which was also covered by insurance.

Some insurance providers have pulled out of the pet insurance market in recent years, claiming cover was unaffordable. Halifax and Lloyds TSB – owned by Edinburgh-based Lloyds Banking Group – three years ago pulled cover for policyholders and stopped selling new policies but reinstated cover for existing customers less than a year later.