Everything you need to know about pet protection

Matyn James/a dog

Martyn James on protecting your pets - Credit: Resolver/Archant

Martyn James of Resolver on everything you need to know about protecting your four-legged friends. 

Though the UK has changed dramatically in recent years, we still have national obsessions that are quintessentially British.

A big chunk of the population feel the pull of the open road, jumping in a caravan or motorhome at every opportunity. Others spend small fortunes down at the garden center or heading out to hike in somewhere that’s green. But above all else, as a nation we’re obsessed with our pets.

Over lockdown, an astonishing 3.2 million households purchased or adopted a pet – and a huge and evolving industry has grown up around them, from daycare to specialist food providers.

According to the latest research that brings us up to 34 million pets in the UK, including 12 million dogs, 12 million cats, 1 million rabbits and 600,000 hamsters!

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This demand has led to spiraling prices and a worry trend of pet theft – to such a degree that the government is considering much tougher penalties for pet thieves. And from the complaints I see, cost is clearly a worry for many pet owners.

As people start to go back to the office, there’s a huge demand for dog walkers and pet daycare.

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Many people are starting to report anxiety in their pets after the months of unadulterated attention they’ve experienced suddenly ending. Pet therapy classes are apparently booming.

Which brings us to the most important pet expenses you’ll encounter - pet insurance and vet’s bills.

Though many more policies have come on to the market in recent years, lots of people are put off by high prices or confusing contracts.

Pet insurance varies considerably like all insurance products but it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford – but that doesn’t always mean the most expensive.

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 that will pay up to a set ‘cap’ for each illness.

Finally, there are ‘time limited’ policies which only cover your pet for a set period (your standard 12 month policy) 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 though so understand what is being defined as an accident – and get the insurer to explain anything that isn’t clear.

Pet theft cover is a new type of insurance and usually you have to purchase it separately.

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, many people avoid 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.

I’ve seen dogs sent for hydrotherapy treatments that turned out to be frolicking in a paddling pool in a shed – for hundreds of pounds. So make sure you look into what every treatment involves and how it helps the underlying medical condition.

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