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How to Get The Best Health Cover for Your Pet

01/06/2016 15:01 | Updated 01 June 2016

As a nation of animal lovers, we naturally want the best for our pets. The rising cost of advanced diagnostic equipment and procedures has led to more expensive veterinary treatment.

How can pet owners shoulder the cost whilst doing the best they can for their pets?

There are various options available. These include pet health care plans, which cover routine procedures like vaccinations and flea and worming treatments. We will look at pet insurance and how to ensure that your pet is covered against unexpected illness or injury. Pet health care plans should ideally run alongside pet insurance as they serve two very different requirements. Health care plans are great for routine treatments whereas pet insurance covers the unexpected.

The cost of veterinary treatment is rising however it is also becoming critical that we take steps to ensure that we can afford to cover routine treatments as well as unexpected illness and injury. Last year, the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons surveyed its members about the rising cost of fees and found that nearly 76% of the small animal vet practices who responded had increased their fees over the previous 12 months. The cost of routine procedures such as vaccinations had risen 3.3% in a year. Cat dental treatment had gone up 17.5%. The Association of British Insurers said in 2014 that the average cost of a claim had risen by 7% from the previous year to £679.

So, what is the reason for the rise in the cost of veterinary treatment?

It's primarily being driven by the rise in the cost of diagnostic and imaging technology. As there's no NHS for pets, vets say the cost of this increasingly sophisticated diagnostic technology, which can diagnose conditions like cancer or orthopaedic conditions for example must be met somehow.


Pet Health Care Plans

Pet Health Plans are one way of helping to spread the cost and also address any issues before they arise with regular health checks. They are usually paid on a monthly basis by direct debit and cover all sorts of routine treatments as well as providing discounts on a range of other treatments and medication. The Vet is one veterinary clinic that has introduced these pay monthly pet plans. The plans can help spread the cost of more routine procedures such as vaccinations and flea and worming treatments, as well as providing discounts on neutering, dental treatments and lifetime medications. According to research across The Vet's six clinics, pet health care plans can save around £150 a year on caring for a dog, cat or other small animal.

Pet health care plans are relatively new but are becoming a really sensible way of ensuring a pet is kept in tiptop condition. They spread the cost of routine treatments and also staples like flea and tick treatments that would otherwise be quite an expensive outlay. Pet health plans typically start at around £10 a month. They are not however a replacement for pet insurance as they do not cover unexpected illness and injury. But they are useful for the basics.

Puppy & Kitten Health Plans

All new puppy and kitten 'parents' want the very best for their new family members. This is why so called 'starter health plans' are more than worth a look at. Bringing your new pet home can be exciting but something of a minefield of information and new challenges, particularly if you are a first-time puppy or kitten owner.

A 'Best Start' plan does what it says on the tin: it gives your new pet the best start in life. The plans typically cover the first few months of your pet's life. They include procedures such as microchipping, which is now compulsory for all dogs, the first full course of vaccinations, flea and worming treatments and discounts on neutering for example. They typically cost around £60 for the first three months of your puppy or kitten's life with you. Again, these are good starter plans however they should run alongside pet insurance.


Pet Insurance

While pet health care plans cover routine procedures and treatments and save money by diagnosing potential issues at an early stage, pet insurance can help to cover the cost of unexpected bills.

Each year, 1 in 3 pets becomes ill or suffers an injury, according to Datamonitor. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that, despite rising costs, only one in four dogs and just 15% of cats have cover. However, pet insurance doesn't typically cover pre-existing conditions or routine treatment. This is where pet health care plans really come into their own. By spreading the cost of more routine care and medication, pet owners can help save on the cost of health care. The cost of caring for a pet can then be managed more and health conditions can also be diagnosed earlier with the plans' free veterinary checks, which are usually on a six monthly basis.

It's also worth reading the small print of what your insurance will cover. Some will provide life-long cover, others only for accidents. Many clinics like The Vet now subscribe to pet insurance networks such as Vetsure, which was set up by a vet and is advised by a team of vets. The cover enables pet owners to pay only the excess at the time of treatment therefore avoiding the usual expense of paying in full then claiming the residual amount back from the insurance company.

Clients can drop in to Vetsure accredited clinics and arrange cover directly. This can even help to save money as Vetsure accredited clinics benefit from preferential rates. As cover can be arranged directly at your veterinary clinic it will also provide peace of mind in ensuring the right cover is chosen for the pet and you are not left with any confusion about the various options.


Self-insuring Your Pet

One additional way of shouldering the cost of veterinary treatment can be to create a savings account specifically for your pet's health care. However, this means that the onus is fully on you to continue to fund this account and to keep it exclusively for your pet's health care needs. You might also hugely underestimate the amount you should be saving and find out too late that there's not have enough 'in the pot' for unexpected illnesses or injury. It's something of a gamble at the end of the day.

As our pets are increasingly becoming members of our families, it's becoming more vital than ever that we adequately make provisions for their health care, which should encompass both routine treatments and the unexpected.

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