We all love our cats and dogs. Which is why “Better call the vet” is one of the most chilling phases in the English language. That is the moment we discover the true cost of medical care – even for animals – which the NHS generally shields us from.


Many conditions that in the past would have led to your beloved pet being quietly euthanised can now be cured or at least improved… for a price. One dog I know had both his hip joints replaced – for £3,000 each. It gave the dog a new lease of life but at a cost that’s unaffordable for most people.

Pet insurance can pay some of those costs. You should register your pet with a local practice, and chances are insurance will be on offer at once. Resist it. Go to a price comparison website and pick your own. Remember there are not-forprofit vets or charities such as Animal Friends or the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, which offer cheaper or free treatment.

Although the average pet insurance premiums sound low – one comparison site says it is £72 a year for a cat and £129 for a dog – it is not always clear what those cover. Most policies will not pay for simple things or routine trips, and on major events there will be an excess – that’s the amount you have to pay – and often a maximum claim allowed per condition or per year. One person tweeted me to say her seven-year-old labrador had oral cancer. Biopsy, CT scan and surgery came to £8,400, but her policy only covered the first £4,000.

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As your pet gets older the premiums rise. One reader told me of a five per cent premium increase to £654 a year for a healthy five-year-old dog. But many others who have paid far less in premiums than the cost of the treatment for accidents, chronic conditions or major diseases were, of course, happy they had it.

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All insurance is a gamble. But remember you are playing against professionals. The idea of self-insuring can be the cheapest option. A financial journalist I know works out what the premiums would be each month and puts that amount into a savings account labelled Vet. She hopes that when little Poppy needs treatment there’s enough there to pay for it.


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QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer you personally, but I will reflect your
concerns in his column.