How much insurance cover do you really need?

Most owners are comfortable with the concept of insurance which is there to help protect against unexpected vet bills. After all, there is no NHS for pets! But with so much choice from numerous providers, with different types of policy (lifetime, time-limited etc) and also a variation on how much cover you receive, it can all be a little confusing. Here we will explore the latter in more detail – how much cover do you really need to protect your pet?

The easiest answer, of course, would be to choose the largest amount of cover possible! This would give you the option of all sorts of treatment for your pet; including referral to specialist centers for therapy or surgery.

But usually, this large amount of cover comes at a price, with larger monthly premiums. This can make the insurance policy unaffordable for some people. So usually there is a balance to be struck with owners choosing as much cover as they can afford for their pet, without blowing their budget.

How do I decide how much is enough?

The trouble is that many members of the public, just do not know how much the average bills are for some of the potential health problems their pets could suffer from. Particularly, as with many things lately, vet bills have been steadily becoming more expensive.

Why are vets’ bills so expensive now?

Vet’s practices can offer so much more to their patients these days. However, with this expert treatment comes larger bills to cover the cost of staff training, specialist equipment and cutting-edge medications. Things have definitely moved on since James Herriot’s time! Insurance particularly comes into its own when owners want to access specialists and more advanced treatment options at referral centers. However, even run of the mill conditions can start to add up if your pet requires ongoing care. It’s worth bearing in mind that “medical inflation” isn’t just a veterinary problem – it’s just as true in human medicine.

Do we need insurance for more than accidents and emergencies?

Most owners think about insuring their pets against sudden injuries like road traffic accidents or wounds; but certain chronic health conditions can end up costing more than these one-off events over time. For example, dogs suffering from skin allergies may require long-term medications; as well as repeated rounds of antibiotics or medicated shampoos, plus the associated consultation fees. That’s before you consider even more costly allergy blood testing or immunotherapy.

What are “normal” claim sizes?

According to Which, the average pet insurance claim was £ 757 in 2017. The most common condition claimed for was actually tumor or cyst removals. Claims for osteoarthritis in dogs are also quite high. Even most lower end insurance cover would stretch to these, but if your pet suddenly ruptures a cruciate ligament causing severe lameness, this could easily cost £ 2500 – 3000 per leg for surgical repair. Spinal surgery (common in Dachshunds and Bassett hounds) will cost even more than this, by the time you factor in MRI scans and specialist surgeons.

Always consider the risk factors

When deciding how much cover to go for, you should not only consider some of the conditions mentioned but also think about the likelihood of your dog succumbing to one of them.


Sadly, many pedigree dogs are prone to certain health complaints and are more likely to need expensive cover in place to treat them. For example, brachycephalic breeds like pugs and French bulldogs are prone to numerous health complaints, such as breathing issues, skin allergies and eye complaints. They are highly likely to make expensive insurance claims. Dachshunds are another example, they are very prone to disc issues in their spine, which could require costly surgery to fix, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels suffer from mitral valve disease, requiring investigations and medications for their heart. In some cases, expert heart surgery could be explored with a cost of £ 10,000-12,000 proposed by one referral center.


Also, more generally, larger dogs will be prone to conditions like osteoarthritis, plus the cost of treating a large dog usually results in a much higher bill than for a smaller breed. This is due to increased drug doses, as well as things like higher anesthetic costs for these big dogs.

Whilst it’s impossible to look into a crystal ball and know for sure whether you’ll need to make a claim, you should definitely factor in your pet’s breed and size when deciding how much cover you might need. Some pedigree cat breeds are also more likely to have health complaints than moggies, just as with dogs.

So what should I do?

In conclusion, how much cover you need is a hard question to definitively answer as there are so many variables to take into consideration. These include your personal budget for monthly insurance payments, your chances of making a costly claim based on breed likelihoods, the size of your dog, as well as whether you would be able to make up any shortfall or not if the treatment costs did end up exceeding the cover on your policy.

Any insurance is better than no insurance, so don’t be put off by confusion over policy terms. Speak to your vet if you have any general questions or ring your insurance company to discuss things with them further.

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