Smart Consumer: You'd be barking mad not to take out insurance on your furry friend
It might seem like an unnecessary expense but not having pet cover can be costly.
A vital factor to consider is if the policy includes lifelong cover or not
Buying insurance for your dog or cat is a bit like playing the lottery in reverse. You can find yourself spending money on it every month and never getting anything in return. But, if you don't have it and your furry friend requires serious medical intervention, you may need a medium-sized jackpot to pay the bills. Smart Consumer looked at the pros and cons of taking out a policy for the family pet.
There are those who think you would have to be barking mad to shell out good money to insure your moggy or pooch. But if your four-legged companion develops a lifelong condition such as arthritis or diabetes, the bills for medication, special food and vet fees soon mount up and you could find yourself having to make a choice between personal bankruptcy or premature euthanasia for your beloved pet.
Con Fleming, who runs Sandycove Veterinarian Clinic in south Dublin, says pet insurance is "a great thing to have if you run into difficulty". Not only does it offer animal owners peace of mind in case of unexpected illness or accident, it also covers them in case of third party liability – for instance, if their dog or cat causes an injury to someone else.
Con says he gets a "sense" from some dogs that they might be a bit unpredictable and he also recommends getting insurance for breeds such as German Shepherds and Collies.
He also reminds pet owners that as their companions get a bit older, it might be wise to consider taking out a policy.
There are a number of companies offering pet insurance on the Irish market but only 123.ie is willing to provide first-time cover for pets over eight years of age.
Another important factor to consider is whether the policy includes lifelong cover – that is, if your pet develops a lifelong condition, this ensures that you are covered for as long as the policy is maintained and not just until the end of the policy year.
Beware, too, of limits on certain conditions that some pedigrees are prone to. Allianz charges more for select breeds, including Great Danes, St Bernards and Rottweilers. We were quoted €194 per year for a seven-year-old mongrel and the policy included a maximum of €4,000 in vet fees and third-party liability of €250,000, among other benefits. A similar policy for a four-year-old cross-breed cat would be €133.34. Petinsurance.ie was quoting €99 for Essential cover, which covered accident and dog liability only.
The company's Premier policy at €170 covers vet fees for illness and accident up to €4,000 a year but only for 12 months; while the Premier Plus package at €194.50 offers lifelong cover.
The Tesco Pet Insurance website was no longer offering quotes to new customers. Meanwhile, 123.ie was offering a 10pc discount for multiple pets. Their policy covers vet fees up to a maximum of €2,500 per condition per year and offers public liability cover of €250,000.
The company's standard excess is €69 but there is a slightly higher rate for pets aged eight and over.