Is your dog insured? It’s often the first question a vet will ask you, but even if you do have dog insurance it might not cover the cost of specialist treatment. Take advantage of the special offer with Pet Guard for Field readers.
It pays to have dog insurance. Five years ago, on a bright spring morning, I met up with friends to walk our spaniels on Dunwich beach. My seven-year-old springer, Fleur, was on fine form but just hours later she had lost her appetite and was looking unhappy. The vet confirmed she had a temperature and prescribed a course of antibiotics.
Her condition got steadily worse, despite daily visits to the vet. Numerous tests were undertaken, the most significant showing a high count of white cells in her blood. Pyrometra, a serious infection of the uterus, was ruled out through ultrasound. Her temperature rose and fell, peaking at 105°F (102°F is normal for a dog); six days after falling ill she was declining fast while our vet remained baffled.
It was the vet who suggested that emergency treatment at Dick White Referrals, East Anglia’s leading veterinary hospital, was her last chance. She was booked in and delivered by noon. Inspection by a specialist vet revealed no new diagnosis, so she stayed for further checks and tests. I filled in and signed the paperwork, and was asked whether she was insured. She wasn’t, and it was quite clear that this was going to be an expensive business. Top-class medical care costs just as much for animals as it does for humans and isn’t, of course, covered by the NHS.
Ironically, in nearly 30 years of dog ownership, this was the first time I had owned a dog that wasn’t insured. She had been covered until six months before, but the annual premium had risen to the sort of figure you would expect to pay for a Porsche, not an unregistered working springer. Fleur had always been a robust and healthy individual and, having known six generations of the same line,
I was confident she didn’t have any nasty hereditary diseases.
Pet insurance is a multi-million pound business, with the insurance companies confident that your premiums will exceed their payouts. When I did insure my dogs it was always notable how routine incidents such as the removal of a grass seed from an ear invariably cost a few pounds less than the excess, so couldn’t be claimed for. One of the biggest vet’s bills I had was for an emergency caesarean for Fleur’s grandmother. However, conditions arising from pregnancy were excluded from the insurance cover.
As with all insurances, check the small print carefully. Almost all standard pet insurances fail to cover working gundogs. Here it is worth asking the insurance company what this means. What happens if your pet labrador, which only goes shooting once a fortnight, gets injured while retrieving a pheasant? You might be able to get away with it but if you have a team of picking-up dogs working 10 days a fortnight you had better come clean.
I’ve twice had to carry injured dogs back to the car after they have staked themselves on fallen branches, and any experienced picker-up will horrify you with tales of canine injuries sustained in the shooting field. If any dog should be insured then it’s one that goes shooting, but I suspect that only a minority are because the premiums are so high.
Even if your dog is insured, will the maximum payout for a single condition meet the vet’s bills? The more affordable-looking premiums usually have a low maximum – £2,000 doesn’t go far when your dog requires specialist treatment. A figure of £5,000 is much more realistic, but still might not be enough, which brings me back to Fleur. Three days after being admitted, she was given emergency surgery for the removal of an abscess from the caecum and one of her mesenteric lymph nodes was excised – the canine equivalent of appendicitis.
We paid more than £6,000, the final bill minutely detailed, from the cost of the anaesthetist to that of the bandages. She made a complete recovery and is now a remarkably fit 12 year old. If she had died, I might have felt differently paying out such a sum. I could afford to settle the bill but it put into perspective the £25 picking-up fees she had earned over the years.
Pet Guard are offering several levels of cover with no upper age limit, and an introductory offer of 20% off the first year’s premium for readers of The Field.