In this day and age when the sophistication of the treatment for our pets is every bit as advanced as we enjoy for ourselves and only restricted by the owner's ability to pay, what should we as pet owners do to try and insulate ourselves against these costs?
When you take on a pet you also take on the responsibility for that animal's well being for its life which is a huge commitment. That is not to say you can't make a value judgement as to whether or not you spend all that is necessary to make your pet well in every circumstance.
We at Swanbourne Veterinary Centre believe we have an obligation to our clients to always explain the options available, including euthanasia should that be appropriate. Our pets should always be regarded as free spirits where the quality of their lives must always be the overriding factor when embarking on treatment no matter what is possible. The test must always be "is what we are recommending in the best interests of this animal where its life as a fully functioning creature must always be the aim of every treatment?"
Remarkable things are now possible with CT scans, MRI and ultrasounds common place, and specialists now abounding in private practice and also the university. Can we realistically cushion ourselves against the sorts of costs occasionally reported in the newspapers in the form of orthopaedic procedures, oncology and snake bite treatments?
The answer must be in a viable pet insurance structure tailored to meed the needs of everyone no matter their income such that they have choices as to the level of cover and so on. Currently it is very much a matter of the chicken and the egg in that claiming adequately to cover large accounts is only feasible if the owner has opted for the top cover (around $800+ a year) and there has been total disclosure as regards previous medical history.
Our advice is to organise cover as soon as the new puppy or kitten comes home and to purchase the best possible cover you can afford. The alternative is to open a bank account for the pet and feed into this the equivalent of $800 a year so by the time the pet is 10 years old you have a kitty of about $8000. But, who is that organised!
For those pets obtained as adults I would advise the new owner demanding as much veterinary history as is possible as these are the animals that the insurance companies have most difficulty with and with whom they do cartwheels to avoid paying out!
We always send a covering letter with our claim done on behalf of owners and to this we attach all paid invoices, laboratory results and relevant case history notes. We charge a $20 once-off fee for this service of completing and sending off all insurance claims for the lifetime of your pet.
Currently the penetration into the market of pet insurance is less than 2% (whereas it is as high as 50% in the UK) so premiums are high and they are very careful paying out! The more owners taking on pet insurance the more the premiums will remain the same (probably at best... does anything ever go down!) but the cover will improve.
The pet industry desperately needs a strong and viable pet insurance structure for the benefit of all stakeholders. We are unable to give advice as to which policy is best but we can advise you how best to claim to maximise the possibility of recover.