logo Leave a Review

Protecting Your Pet: What You Need To Know

Pet ownership has soared in recent years, especially as COVID-19 restrictions began to take hold in early 2020 - in fact, recent data published by Warwick University revealed that pet insurance providers noted a 78% increase in individuals registering new pets in the week prior to the initial lockdown! But what do we really know about keeping our pets protected? 

Protecting Your Pet: What You Need To Know Banner
At Compare by Review, we wanted to better understand how the public approach pet insurance and how this can impact our beloved companions – so that’s exactly what we did!
 
Within this research project, we’re tackling some of the most prominent questions that come attached to our pet insurance shopping habits by; surveying the UK public, compiling a critical analysis and starting conversations with trusted veterinary establishments. This includes what we look for in a policy, where we find our insurance options and how our chosen insurance policies can affect our pet’s overall care - as well as presenting expert insight from industry-leading professionals. 
37%
of people that have made a pet insurance claim didn’t have enough cover
1 in 3
people buy insurance solely based on price
13%
of people do not buy pet insurance because they can’t afford it

Our Research

 
We surveyed 623 members of the UK public via an online questionnaire, in association with the Toluna Group.
 
We surveyed hundreds of UK pet owners to distinguish what prospective pet owners need to understand when considering their insurance options. This included the cost of pet ownership, the process of purchasing pet insurance and the consequences of a poorly chosen policy. 
 
Here’s what we uncovered:
 

The Cost of Pet Ownership

 
We all know that owning a pet isn’t cheap. For example, the PDSA estimates that homing a dog will cost you at least £4,500 to £13,000 throughout its lifetime and this estimate does not include veterinary fees should your pet fall sick or suffer from health complications. So, it’s not hard to understand that many individuals will look for ways to alleviate costs and opt for cheaper alternatives. It’s perhaps for this reason that a staggering 1 in 3 people buy insurance solely on price, not taking the time to check a review. However, is this exclusive focus on the best price distracting pet owners from considering the level and quality of cover?
 
Broken down, we found that 22% of people look for the cheapest price on the market, irrespective of whether it covers them adequately, and a further 10% of people shop around for deals and discounts. Unfortunately, this means a whopping 32% of current, and prospective, pet owners could be leaving themselves vulnerable to buying inadequate policies!
 
And that’s not all. Our research further revealed that 13% of people avoid purchasing any pet insurance at all as they cannot afford it. Of course, this is an extremely risky decision to make as the cost of veterinary care is notoriously high. In fact, ABI found that the average pet insurance payout amounted to £822 - meaning individuals who neglect an insurance plan could find themselves substantially out of pocket at a later date. 
 
But, perhaps the most startling finding is that 37% of respondents that have had to make a pet insurance claim didn’t have enough cover. Whilst we can not make a concrete conclusion, the parallels between our intentions when purchasing pet insurance and the level of cover received after the fact cannot be ignored. So, how can we alter this narrative?
 

The Process of Purchasing Pet Insurance 

 
Like any cause and effect relationship, the obvious way to improve the overall outcome is to investigate the cause and make some level-headed adjustments. At Compare by Review, it’s our understanding that insurance is too often purchased on price alone, with individuals often solely relying on price comparison websites, rather than customer experience and this may mean our much-loved pets don’t receive the level of cover they need and deserve. Not only does this leave our pets uninsured but it additionally means that we will need to dip into our pockets should we come to claim.
 
To help combat this issue, we recommend that individuals change their methodology when sourcing an insurance provider. So, instead of opting for providers at the top of a price comparison search alone, we should be searching for a provider who has proven value and excellent customer reviews.
 
And, of course, we’re not the only ones that think this way. In fact, our survey identifies that 72% of people only buy pet insurance if the reviews are good!
 

The Consequences of Low-Cost Pet Insurance 

 
Whilst the decision of what insurance to purchase will only take seconds to make, the consequences could be far-reaching - which is why it’s vital that pet owners gather all the information before making anything final. 
 
It can be easy to rationalise why your pet might not need the full level of care offered by an insurance policy or any policy at all, but the truth is none of us knows when an accident or sickness might strike. To better demonstrate this, in 2019 there were a staggering 992,000 pet insurance claims made with payouts totalling £758 million. And it’s unlikely that all, or perhaps any, of these incidents were predicted.  
 
And whilst this is a major concern for animal lovers across the country, it’s not the only bad news. In addition to pets being left underinsured, data has also found that many of our pets are completely uninsured - with an estimated 84% of cats and 67% of dogs in the UK being left in this predicament. But certain animals could be more at risk than others, and at Compare by Review, we wanted to further investigate this.
 

Variable Costs By Breed

 
Is your pet’s breed covered by your insurance policy?
 
The type and breed of your pet could have a significant impact on the level of care they require. For example, cats are often cheaper to insure than dogs. And, as certain breeds are more susceptible to certain conditions, they often carry a higher insurance cost. 
 
A common example that we see time and time again is through Brachycephalic breeds - such as Pugs, French Bulldogs or British Bulldogs - which have relatively short muzzles and noses. This means that the throat and breathing passages are often smaller and/or flattened. As a result, these breeds can often suffer from life-limiting conditions that can be costly to treat and, in some cases, require corrective surgery. 
 
The risk arises when pet owners are not aware of health problems such as these prior to getting their pet and then find themselves struggling to source a comprehensive insurance option at a reasonable price. Should this happen, and should pet owners find themselves without an adequate insurance option, specific breeds could miss out on the cover they need. 
 
To better demonstrate how pet insurance costs can be impacted by breed, we’ve put the following table together:
 

1st

Review Score

9.71

based on 2564 reviews

Cheapest dog quote

£25.75

per month

Cheapest cat quote

£14.56

per month

Maximum vet fees

£6k

per year

Cover from

8

weeks
Pet Protect is the only insurer that includes a PitPat Dog Activity Monitor worth £39 with their dog insurance to help keep your dog healthy and happy.

2nd

Review Score

9.52

based on 426 reviews

Cheapest dog quote

£35.52

per month

Cheapest cat quote

£17.42

per month

Maximum vet fees

£12k

per year

Cover from

6

weeks
4paws allows you to pay monthly at no extra cost. They also have a 24/7 emergency claims line so you can make a claim any time, anywhere.

3rd

Review Score

9.46

based on 3323 reviews

Cheapest dog quote

£57.40

per month

Cheapest cat quote

£26.93

per month

Maximum vet fees

£12.5K

per year

Cover from

8

weeks
Claims can be made online and can be settled directly with your vet. Agria pays 97% of claims.

4th

Review Score

9.35

based on 25208 reviews

Cheapest dog quote

£32.14

per month

Cheapest cat quote

£17.68

per month

Maximum vet fees

£6k

per year

Cover from

4

weeks
Your vet can make a pet insurance claim online on your behalf. All policyholders also get free 24/7 vet video consultations.

5th

Review Score

9.34

based on 532 reviews

Cheapest dog quote

£56.76

per month

Cheapest cat quote

£15.75

per month

Maximum vet fees

£8k

per year

Cover from

5

weeks
Scratch & Patch have a 24/7 careline available for all policyholders. There's no co-insurance payment on any of their plans.
 
Of course, we know that this can all be a bit confusing at first glance which is why we always recommend speaking to a vet for advice on healthy breeds or using the Puppy Contract if you’re buying a puppy - to ensure you get one that is happy, healthy and well-socialised from a responsible breeder.
 

Variable Costs by Age

 
Will Your Pet’s Age Affect Its Insurance Policy?
 
Much like people, animals often become more susceptible to certain illnesses and injuries as they grow older. This means that insurers will assume that you will be more likely to make a claim on your pet insurance policy - which in turn will drive up the cost of your premium. Again, the problem lies in the fact that many people won’t be aware of this reality when homing a new, but slightly older pet. 
 
Whilst a more mature age means the cost of insurance will likely be higher, it could additionally mean that some insurers will refuse to offer a policy for your pet by implementing an upper age limit. 
 
Alternatively, some insurers will not offer your pet cover until they reach a certain age - with 8 weeks being the common benchmark.
 

Variable Costs by Condition

 
Could Specific Medical Requirements Impact Your Claim?
 
It’s no secret that your pet’s specific condition can have an impact on the cover your insurer provides, but are you aware of just how significant this can be? For example:
 
  • Pre-existing injuries or illnesses – if your pet has a pre-existing condition, it’s likely that the particular condition won’t be covered by a standard policy.
  • Routine and preventive treatment – whilst it might seem essential to you, many insurers will not cover costs for treatments such as; vaccinations, spaying, worm and tick treatments, grooming or dental treatments.
  • Pregnancy and birth – With most standard policies, any pregnancy or birthing care is often not included. 
 
Whilst this can be a scary thought, it needn’t be. At Compare by Review, we encourage all individuals to take the time to read and fully understand their policy options - as well as research past customer experiences through reviews. This way, you can enter an insurance agreement with full transparency and peace of mind.
 

How Inadequate Pet insurance Affects Animals

 
When discussing pet insurance, it’s all too easy to get lost amongst the numerous options, the numbers and the specific policy clauses. But when this happens, we tend to forget about the thing that matters most: the animals we’re paying to protect.
 
To further examine the UK’s pet insurance predicament, we spoke with Jessica Leeland, Veterinary Care Assistant at Palmerston Veterinary Group. When discussing whether insufficient insurance could impact the care of an animal, she noted that;
 
  • “In my experience, in some cases, procedures have been delayed if insurance is not sufficient or pet insurance claims have been rejected.”
 
This once again suggests that the cost of veterinary care and our chosen insurance policies do not always level out - creating difficult situations for pet owners across the country. To further emphasise this understanding, our survey found that 37% of people who have made a pet insurance claim didn’t have enough cover; a statistic that is undoubtedly troubling. When questioned about the limits of pet insurance and the residual effects on care, Jessica continued; 
 
  • “In my experience, there are cases where pet owners cannot afford costly or ongoing treatments and therefore the animal has to be euthanized. For example, I have witnessed diabetic cats being euthanized due to the owner not being able to afford the ongoing treatment for diabetes. There are many exclusions from pet insurance policies. On the whole, the majority of costly/ongoing treatments are covered by insurance.”
 
All in all, it’s fair to say that our insurance choices can have a massive effect on our pet’s lives and their overall wellbeing and yet, our research has revealed that 1 in 3 people purchase their policy considering price exclusively!
 

What the Experts Say

 
“People underestimate the importance of taking the time to find an adequate pet insurance policy. It’s all well and good purchasing a policy, but if it doesn’t provide you with enough cover for vet fees, you could be left paying thousands out of your own pocket.” - Mark Gordon, CEO at Compare by Review
 
“There is no NHS for pets and it can be expensive to keep one. We always recommend that owners seek advice from a vet if they have any questions or concerns. Advances in veterinary science and technology mean that a range of techniques and treatments are now available to save and restore animals to health. However, these treatments can be costly and, as with human medicine, costs are likely to be higher in emergency and out-of-hours situations due to higher overheads.” - Mandy Ryan, Head of Media and Public Affairs, British Vet Association
 
“In my experience pet owners often have no idea what they have or haven’t signed up for and have limited knowledge on insurance. It seems that the only thing most people are concerned about is the monthly cost and not the limits on cover or what is included in the policy.” - Lorna Mitchell - Practice Manager at House & Jackson LLP
 
Purchasing Pet Insurance for Peace of Mind 
 
Like the 72% of people who only buy pet insurance if the reviews are positive, Compare by Review understands that insurance is about more than cost alone. It’s our view that consumers should stop and consider their purchase with care - taking into account their pet’s age, breed and potential conditions. Only then can the UK’s pets all receive the cover and level of care that they deserve!