The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last month announced that it was preparing to launch a formal market investigation into the veterinary market. This is due to concerns that customers aren’t given enough information about pricing to help them compare different veterinary practices, and that they may potentially be overpaying for medicines of prescriptions.


There’s no escaping the fact that vet fees have increased sharply in recent years, with pet insurance payouts topping a record £1 billion in 2022, according to latest data from the Association of British Insurers - the highest amount ever recorded.

The ABI says that this high figure is down to the steep cost of veterinary treatment, including drugs and diagnostic equipment, which has resulted in more expensive claims being made. Claims for spinal surgery are the most common high value insurance claims made, often amounting as much as £8,000 - £10,000.

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A spokesman for the ABI said: “A fractured femur for a pedigree cat cost over £8,000. The most common ongoing claims are to treat diabetes and skin conditions. Treatment for arthritis in a dog can cost over £2,000, and £1,000 to treat diabetes in a cat.”

Pet insurance can provide valuable peace of mind that if your pet needs medical treatment, costs should be covered. However, 40% of pet owners don’t have insurance for their dog or cat, although this is down from 44% in 2023.

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Alex Cross, insurance director at Tesco Bank, said: “It’s encouraging to see the number of uninsured cats and dogs is falling. But it remains the case that a high proportion of cat and dog owners aren’t protecting themselves or their four-legged friends. Mishaps and illnesses are more common than we perhaps like to admit and that can mean bills well into the hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.”

If you’re buying pet cover for the first time, make sure you understand exactly what you’re buying. For example, if you choose a time-limited pet insurance policy, sometimes known as a 12-month policy, there will be a set limit you can claim for treatment of an eligible medical condition, and you can only claim for each condition up to 12 months. The most comprehensive type of cover is lifetime cover, as if your pet develops a long-term medical condition, you can claim up to the limit shown on the policy each year. Bear in mind that no policy will cover pre-existing medical conditions, and they also won’t cover the cost of routine treatments.

Although premiums can be relatively inexpensive when your pet is young, depending on what breed it is, they can rise sharply as your pet ages, or if you’ve made a claim.

If you’re worried about the cost of pet insurance, it’s worth contacting your insurer to see if there are any ways you might be able to reduce your premiums. For example, it may be possible to increase your policy excess (the part of each claim you must pay) to bring down costs. However, make sure it remains affordable, otherwise you might struggle to make a claim.


Another option you might want to consider is to self-insure and set up a savings account which you regularly pay into so that you have some money readily available to cover vet fees should your pet need medical treatment. The downside of this approach is that it takes time to build up a savings pot, so if your pet needs treatment soon after you’ve decided to self-insure, you may not have enough to cover the vet’s bills. However, on the plus side, if you take this route and your pet doesn’t need treatment during its lifetime, you’ll have built up some rainy-day savings.

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