Why it’s more important than ever to get pet insurance

Cats are “worryingly” under-insured in the UK. Photo: Taylor Grote/Unsplash

UK pet insurers paid out a record-breaking £785m in 2018 to cover the unexpected costs of owning a pet, even though the number of claims submitted fell.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI), who released the figures on Friday, said the rise was likely caused by ever-increasing veterinary bills, as both the sophistication and cost of treatment rise.

While the number of claims fell from over a million in 2017 to just 990,000 last year, the size of the average claim climbed by £36 to £793, resulting in total payouts shooting up by £10m. 

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Various examples reveal the thousands that insurers can pay out on individual pets. PetPlan has been supporting a terrier since its Covered for Life policy began in 2010 and, through a number of treatments for a serious congenital lung disorder, have paid out more than £40,000.

Direct Line recently helped a French bulldog that had fractured its leg. This claim cost £7,300 in total.

Despite this, average premiums were down slightly for the first time in eight years, at £279 compared with £281 in 2017. In 10 years, the size of claims has shot up by 75%, while premiums have only increased by half.

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More pets were covered than ever before in 2018, with nearly 4.3 million animals being protected.

The association also discovered a “worrying level” of under-insurance among cat owners, who make up a very small proportion of pets insured despite an estimated 7.5 million cats living in UK households.

Only 1.3 million cats are insured compared to 2.8 million dogs — potentially leaving the owners of 6.3 million cats at risk of having to foot expensive vet bills out of their own pockets.

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“There is no NHS for animals, so if you’ve not got a pet policy in place, you risk having to foot veterinary bills out of your own pocket. These can often be in the thousands of pounds, and vet treatment is only getting more expensive, not less,” Joe Ahern, ABI’s senior policy advisor for pet insurance, said.

“It’s promising to see the average premium coming down regardless of this trend, and I’m pleased to see our members paying out more than ever before to protect the well-being of pets across the country.”