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 centre 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.
This demand has led to spiralling prices and a worrying 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.
And as people start to go back to the office, there’s a huge demand for dog walkers and pet daycare. Many people are starting to report anxiety in their pets after the months of unadulterated attention they’ve experienced suddenly ending. Bet therapy classes are apparently booming.
Pet insurance choices
Which brings us to the most important pet expenses you’ll encounter – pet insurance and vet bills. Though many more policies have come to market in recent years, lots of people are put off by high prices or confusing contracts. Like all insurance products, pet insurance varies considerably but it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford – which 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 to understand what is 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.
Vets and vet bills
Those of us that are blessed with a pet 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.
Get to know your 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 hopefully you’ll 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 fees – and if yours is pricey, check with the insurer how much it would be willing to cover.
If you need to make a claim, speak to the insurer and tell them about the costs as soon as possible. Some vets may recommend ‘experimental’ treatments that aren’t recognised and might not be covered. So make sure you look into what every treatment involves and how it helps the underlying medical condition.
Resolver can help you sort out complaints about pet insurance, vets and every pet service you can imagine.