Update: Munch has a cancerous tumour in his throat. It isn’t responding to treatment and he is very unwell, so we have made the difficult decision to let him go. If you have any concerns about your pets, please don’t leave it, even if you think it’s just a cough or something trivial. Please get them insured and get them checked out.
Normally I try and keep things lighthearted around here, but today I have a very serious message to you all.
If you have a pet, then please please have a serious think about getting pet insurance if you don’t already have it. Believe me, you don’t want to have to stand in front of the vet, when your pet is seriously ill and have to worry about whether you can afford to let them have the treatment they need to make them better.
I have a 12 year old cat named Munch (his name isn’t art-inspired, he used to have a brother named Monster and Monstermunch is a popular savoury snack in the UK a bit like Cheetos). He’s had a bit of a cough for a little while but we thought at first it was a hairball until Friday night it got really bad and he was struggling for breath. We took him to the vet first thing Saturday, who kept him in and ran some tests.
Turns out he has feline lymphoma. It’s apparently fairly common in cats and responds quite well to chemo. He’s just had his first dose of chemo and seems a bit brighter, but over the next 8 weeks he’ll have to have a tablet every day and go back to the vet each week for his next chemo dose. Then we wait and see whether that’s zapped the lymphoma.
As you can imagine, it’s been a very worrying time. At one point we didn’t know whether it would be treatable and my kids were struggling to make sense of it. I had to explain what was going on to them in a way that didn’t frighten them unnecessarily, but without giving them what might have been false hope. We’ve been very lucky that Munch’s vet, G&C Marlow have been fantastic with him – making his stay with them as comfortable as possible, giving him treats and his favourite food to keep his spirits up and have been brilliant at keeping us informed and consulted every step of the way.
Unfortunately the sort of expert care that Munch is getting isn’t cheap. Luckily, we’ve had Munch insured ever since we first got him. In 11 years, this will only be the second time we’ve ever had to claim on our pet insurance (he once had treatment for a skin complaint), so I can see how some people might think paying every month for something that might never happen is a waste of time. If I’m honest, seeing the premiums go up each year now Munch isn’t a young cat anymore sometimes used to make me wonder how cost effective it was, especially when we’ve been tightening our belts during the recession.
All I can say is, that when you hear that actually, there’s something serious wrong with your pet – a beloved family member who’s been part of the household since before you got married, before your children were born, who’s been there to cuddle after a bad day at work or made your kids smile as he’s finally gotten over his caution at the toddler stage to snuggle up at the end of their bed at night, the last thing you want to worry about is the cost. All you want is to make them well again.
If you’ve got a pet, please consider getting insurance for them so you don’t have to put a price on their health at a critical moment. And if you do decide to get insurance, here are a few things you might want to bear in mind….
Don’t just focus on the monthly premium price
Lots of pet insurance deals focus on the price you pay per month, but this isn’t always the whole story. Make sure you check the fine print to see how much the excess is (how much you have to pay yourself before making a claim). Some of the policies with cheaper premiums manage this by making the excess very high, so ask yourself how much you could afford to pay up front. If you don’t have that amount of disposable income then it might be better to opt for higher monthly premiums for the peace of mind of knowing if the worst happened you could just get the treatment your pet needs straight away.
A pet is for life, but not all insurance polices are
Lots of people assume that when you buy pet insurance, that if your pet becomes ill with a long-lasting condition, the policy will continue to pay out for as long as the illness lasts. However, this isn’t always the case. If you want a policy that doesn’t put a limit on the time you can claim for a condition, make sure you go for one marked as “Lifetime Cover”.
Check the maximum payout
The biggest reason most people have pet insurance is to cover vets bills. But different providers and policies offer different amounts of financial cover. For example, the Tesco Standard policy will only cover illness or injury fees up to £3,000 per condition, whereas the PetPlan Covered for Life Ultimate policy offers cover up to £12,000. Of course, generally speaking the better the cover, the higher the premiums. So it’s a case of weighing up what you can afford against the likelihood of needing expensive treatments (you can always ask your vet what’s typical for a dog/cat/rabbit in their experience – they’ll see cases every day so will have a better idea of how common various conditions are and what the costs are).
For me personally, I’d always go for the peace of mind of knowing that if the worst happens, finding the money to fix it wasn’t something vying with my concern for Munch’s welfare, so we have a fairly comprehensive policy, but if your budget is more stretched, there are also basic policies available covering injuries and emergencies.
For more information, Which has a very good guide to pet insurance, including a comparison table of the costs of common conditions, which is well worth a look.