Tuesday 12 December 2017

Smart Consumer: Insuring your pet can save more than cash

If you've made the decision that nothing but a four-legged friend will do, perhaps due to repeated badgering from the kids or as a fluffy friend for yourself, then don't forget that there is a big financial cost involved.

A typical dog can easily cost up to €1,000 a year to keep.

But while a typical vet consultation costs between €45 and €60, the cost for serious treatment can run into thousands of euro.

This is why many turn to pet insurance, but that can cost as much as €260 a year -- so is it worth it?

Dublin-based vet Liam Moriarty believes that it can work well if your dog is insured continuously from day one so that you have life time cover.

But he cautions that patients often forget about the excess, usually between €75 and €100, that will apply to the policy. This means that you won't be able to claim anything back for a visit to the vet that costs that amount or less.

Bear in mind that many policies will insist that as a general condition you must arrange and pay for a yearly health and dental check for your pet and keep the pet vaccinated. If you don't, you may not be covered. And given the excess, you'll have to pay for these yourself.

The other pitfall he mentions is where pet owners "dip in and out of insurance", without realising that the pet might not be covered.

"Let's say your dog develops a heart condition, has an operation and is put on medication, you have a one-year policy and that covers it", explains Moriarty. "But then you go to renew your policy the following year and your dog's heart condition is now a pre-existing illness and the heart medication will not be covered."

This is the rub. Pet insurance policies normally exclude cover for pre-existing illness. And if your dog gets sick and you decide to buy insurance then it's already too late, as most policies won't cover for illness that has been diagnosed clinically within a certain time frame (around two weeks) of buying the insurance.

So you either stick with pet insurance for the life of the dog or decide not to at all.

And with technological advances and more treatment available these days, such as MRI scans and CT scans, the costs for operations and surgical procedures can be huge.

For example, an operation for a cruciate ligament can cost between €600 and €1,500; an MRI scan in a spinal case can cost €2,400 and cataract surgery can cost between €2,000 and €3,000.

The irony is that if you have enough money to pay for a one-off operation, you might be able to do without insurance. But if you don't have the cash, you may need to fork out on continuous insurance to cover these expenses or otherwise be faced with the decision (I'll whisper this), of whether your dog can be treated at all.

One final thing. According to Moriarty pure-bred dogs -- given they are effectively in-bred not to mention the issue of poor controls -- are likely to suffer more congenital health problems, so the cost of their healthcare will be higher.

On the other hand, a dog you rescue from the pound is likely to have fewer problems and so be cheaper when it comes to health care.

Irish Independent

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