Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

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Hoonercat
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Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Hoonercat » Mon Jun 05, 2017 7:09 pm

Having seen numerous posts on FB from people who've had nightmares with their pet insurance, I thought I'd share my experience as someone who's dog isn't covered. When I got Tia I made a conscientious decision not to get her insured, and I understand that some may see that as irresponsible but hey, for the most part I don't agree with pet insurance but won't judge you for having it, so please do the same :thanks.gif: I'm not posting this as a way of pushing anyone away from insurance, that's your choice, but would like to show that there is a alternative for anyone who may be in a pickle now or in the future where insurance is concerned.

Posts I've seen recently on FB include premiums going up to ridiculous levels because of a dog's age or because of a claim. Those who have claimed find themselves 'locked' to one insurer as no one else will cover their dog for an existing condition, meaning they have no choice but to pay higher premiums. This may not be true of all insurers, people only tend to post about the bad bits. Other haven't read the small print and find their insurer will only cover a portion of the treatment, or the excess for certain treatments is huge. As an example, I recently got a quote for Tia (still aged 10) to use as a comparison in which I didn't mention her ongoing condition. I wanted to see how much it would cost me to cover her for what is seen as a major (but quite common op) in the UK, so applied for cover up to £8,000. The best quote I received was £90 per month, this was a special offer but I would have to pay 20% should she need treatment (plus the usual excess). The other quotes were so high that they're not even worth mentioning. So that would be £90 per month plus 20% of £8,000 (the costs I had been quoted for an op) at £1,600 and that was by far the best quote. The £8,000 I mentioned was quoted by 2 clinics in the UK for carrying out an MRi/CT scan and spinal op for herniated discs. The initial consultation fee would be £200 (not sure if that was included in the 'package').

Back to why I decided not to insure Tia all those years ago. I was aware that treatment abroad was cheaper, though finding info wasn't easy. Plus she's a Staffie and they are a healthy breed in general, had she been another breed I might have thought differently

So back to the present and Tia's current condition (herniated discs in her spine and neck). Details can be found here viewtopic.php?f=38&t=2347&start=36
I was quite fortunate in having a friend in Belgium who could do some internet searching for me (Steve, Nessa's dad). He suggested a clinic in Ostend, Belgium which, using Eurotunnel, is about 2.5-3 hours travel. I did the usual Google reviews search for both the clinic and the surgeon and was pleased with the results, then contacted the clinic for costs. Now, I know what you're thinking, 'Yes but you don't get as good a service in Belgium', but you'd be wrong. Walking into the clinic the first thought was 'clinically clean'. Modern and very large clinic with a wall full of freezers containing raw food which inspires confidence immediately. They have 'normal' vets who carry out day-to-day work, along with the owner who is also the surgeon (and flies off once per month to carry out specialist operations on horses in the South of France).

The costs were as follows:
CT Scan myelography inc anesthesia and overnight stay: 525 euro (approx £460)
Had the operation gone ahead, the total cost inc scan: 1500- 1700 euros (approx £1,300 - £1,500) plus 23 euros per overnight stay (£20).
Compare that to the two quotes I had in the UK, both for £8,000. It's a 2 hour operation. One of these quotes included an MRi scan rather than a CT scan, the cost of which was £2,000. I also got quotes from places that only do scans (no diagnosis) and the costs were between £1,500 and £2,500. For Tia it would have been £2,500 as her entire back and neck would have to be scanned.

Though Tia was booked for an op, the surgeon said it couldn't go ahead as she has too many ruptures. The surgeon immediately picked up on her having arthritis when he watched her walking (something neither myself or any vet had noticed), so she had several full-body X-rays, 2 gel injections in her front legs, the CT scan, an overnight stay on a drip (as a precaution), 3 months worth of medication and a full consultation with the surgeon, for a tad over £700. When we returned for her check-up, the consultation fee was 20 euros (approx £17.50). I took Tia back for her check-up recently. Before I left the UK I had her wormed (for the return journey) which involved the vet popping a tablet in her mouth and stamping the pet passport - £45.
Of course you have to remember that there are additional costs. The pet passport cost me £82 and the first Eurotunnel cost was over £200 though it was peak times, Eurotunnel cost for the second visit was approx £90.

Why the huge difference in price? Pet insurance - you'd struggle to find an insurer who offers it in Belgium, it isn't needed because vet costs are low. And vet costs are low because there is no pet insurance. When Steve adopted Nessa one of the first things he did was phone his house insurance for a quote for medical pet insurance, the response was 'Why? In 20 years I've never been asked for that'. Steve replied 'because vet costs are high', to which the lady replied 'No, they're not'.

In the UK we're lead to believe that pet insurance is a must, almost to the point where we feel irresponsible for not having it. We're told that, should the worst happen, without pet insurance (or very deep pockets) our pets will suffer because clinic fees are so high, yet the reason those fees are so high is because of pet insurance. The insurance companies aren't losing out as they just pass the cost on to their customers, and the clinics certainly aren't losing out. Ultimately, it's the pet owners who lose out either through higher premiums or, in the case of those who can't afford insurance, euthanasia for their pets because they cannot afford to pay the huge sums that the clinics are asking for. I appreciate that many people would rather have the security of insurance and wouldn't want to travel abroad for treatment, but for the rest hopefully the above will be of some use and provide an alternative.
Last edited by Hoonercat on Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sweetpea
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by sweetpea » Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:29 pm

I think if you have off lead dogs an accident liability insurance is a must in case of dogs causing accidents. ..i used to be with Petplan for all 6 of my dogs ...having had a lurcher with a broken hock only 3 mths after taking insurance out ...then after adopting Tom finding he had an umbilical hernia which we were told should have been picked up on when he was neutered and he has luxating patellars on both legs ....petplan paid out for his hernia op even though it was a pre existing condition. ...with physio and hydrotherapy he didnt need an op on his legs ....he had an emergency op as he ate a foreign object that nearly killed him ... smiley-sad010.gif
Sid broke his leg after running into our bedroom door ....we were told it was such a bad break it needed surgery plating and external fixtures. ..this was to be done at Fitzpatrick's at the cost of approximately £6,000 upwards ...our insurance was £3,000....i went to the vets to look at the Xray ...(i was a nurse for 20 yrs and spent time in the xray dept ) .....Sids break turned out to be a hairline fracture. ..just like a crack in a glass ....i was so Angry ...this just needed to be stabilised and rest ...sid was only 10 mths old....i was going to take further action as Fitzpatrick's had said it needed a big op ...found out evety vet that makes a referral to them get a 10%kickback ..... Sid had his leg in a plaster for 3 weeks had an xray and his leg was fully healed......
I cancelled my petplan policies after they trebelled 2 of my dogs premium when they reached 7 ....
I know have accident only cover for all 6 of them. ...the vets bills in this coutry are astronomical. ...and its dogs that suffer as people cant afford the bills love4.gif
Amazing to see how much the vets charge in belguim .....xx Tia is lucky to have such a devoted owner xx

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Wander Woman
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Wander Woman » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:15 pm

I think liability insurance is important too. I have mine through my annual £25 Dogs Trust membership. Some people may even be covered under their home insurance. It's worth checking.

That said, I don't have pet insurance either. It has always proved very expensive when I looked for quotes, as I have had older dogs and also one with a bite history.

I was referred to Fitzpatrick too, for one of my past dogs, Luna. I won't go into the whole story here - suffice it to say that we decided upon a foreleg amputation for bone cancer, and then treatment afterwards. I can't prove it, but I did wonder whether they had more 'flexible payment plans' for uninsured pets. All the vets involved asked whether she was insured, of course. My other half and I were happy that our dog made it through the process in the end, but let's just say that all the visits and treatments didn't go as seamlessly as they are presented on the TV show.

That is a terrible story, sweetpea, and certainly does not inspire confidence. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Hoonercat. Very useful info.
"The question is not, 'Can they reason?' nor, 'Can they talk?' but rather, 'Can they suffer?'" - Jeremy Bentham

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nina
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by nina » Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:19 pm

Thanks for posting really interesting reading.....I have a young daughter who qualified as a vet 2 years ago and will enjoy discussing this with her. Xx

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Hoonercat
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Hoonercat » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:42 pm

I didn't really want this to turn into a 'vet-bashing' thread, but sweatpea's comment rang true with me in a similar situation (re the referral fee vets receive).
When it became apparent that Tia had issues with her back legs I discussed the possibility of it being Degenerative Myelopathy which presents the same symptons as ruptured discs. They said the only way to know was to refer her to a specialist an have an MRi scan done, at a cost of approx £2,000. I did a little Google research and found there are several labs in the UK which offer a genetic test for about £65 :o You can do the test at home via saliva swab or ask your vet to take a blood sample. I was pretty annoyed about this and phoned the vet to ask why they hadn't mentioned this test was available, to be told 'None of our labs do it so we don't offer it as a service'. Nice.
That's not to say all vets are bad - I still use the vets I mentioned above but will make an appointment with 3 particular vets - all of whom are young and foreign. In my experience it's always been the senior vets who have been a little too happy to suggest treatments that haven't been necessary, last year being a good example when Tia was constipated and obviously in discomfort. Long story short, she saw one of the younger vets who popped a finger up Tia's bum :o and said she's been ingesting grit, have some laxatives and come back in 48 hours if she hasn't pooped. 47 hours later I phoned back, still no luck so made an appointment, only this time the only vet was a partner. She completely dismissed what the younger vet had said and insisted that Tia needed tests (one done in-house, another sent to a lab) plus a heap of medication, cost £250. We left the vets, got home and Tia went in to the garden, pooped and ran round the garden like a pup trying to make me chase her. The younger vet had been correct, £250 down the drain and a load of useless meds in the bin.
But it didn't stop there. The vets also sent the in-house test off to the lab as they couldn't make head nor tail of the results. When both tests came back from the lab they were inconclusive, as the vet hadn't collected enough sample but they still expected me to pay for the extra test which they had done in-house but couldn't read and then sent off to the lab (I'd already paid for the in-house test and the other lab test). I refused to pay for the second lab test (which started life as the in-house test), if they aren't qualified to read the results of their own tests then they shouldn't be offering it as a service and they eventually backed down as I was making a fuss in front of waiting customers. And all because the senior vet dismissed the opinion of the younger vet. Grrrrr.
I know a vet who works for a charity. He's left twice for financial reasons and returned both times because he says the industry is too money-orientated and both times he has been put under pressure to offer treatment which he felt was unnecessary where insured pets were concerned. Tia's acupuncturist, also a fully qualified vet, stepped away from mainstream vet care for the same reason.
One issue with me insisting on seeing only certain vets at that practice is that they don't seem to stay there for long. The younger vets really do seem to know their stuff (even agreeing with raw feeding) but the staff turnaround is very quick.

sweetpea
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by sweetpea » Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:20 am

I wasnt intentionally vet bashing either ...but because so many people have insurance most up to £7,000 vets want to use every penny they can ...several times when Sid had his leg replastered they added extras totalling £98 crying1.gif] ...when i pointed this out they came out with several excuses and why was i worried as the insurance claim had been settled. .i said it was fraudulent and they reimbursed my account ...so they got the money anyway ... :smiley-rolleyes010.gif:
Also where i live a booster vaccine price can vary vet by vet by as much as £20 difference. ...

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Wander Woman
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Wander Woman » Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:39 am

I'm not a vet basher at all. I far prefer to support science and scientific training than to rely on anecdotes when it comes to medicine. I am not a big fan of insurance systems, however. I think that these systems cause several problems - we can see a few just in this thread so far. Routine vaccinations tend not to be covered by insurance but I wish there were something in place to make the prices more uniform. Prescriptions too are very expensive. I actually like my vet practice - they're well thought of, but they're not at the cheaper end of the spectrum.
"The question is not, 'Can they reason?' nor, 'Can they talk?' but rather, 'Can they suffer?'" - Jeremy Bentham

sweetpea
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by sweetpea » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:10 am

I only trust one of my vets as do most others as she is usually booked solid.....she has been with the practice 11 yrs and is not a partner ....so isnt always pushing for me to buy more treatments. ..due to rising costs of vet bills we will not have so many dogs in the future. ..we have always had 4 +a foster we will stick with 2 dogs and a foster. ...

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Hoonercat
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Hoonercat » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:04 am

Wander Woman wrote:I'm not a vet basher at all. I far prefer to support science and scientific training than to rely on anecdotes when it comes to medicine. I am not a big fan of insurance systems, however. I think that these systems cause several problems - we can see a few just in this thread so far. Routine vaccinations tend not to be covered by insurance but I wish there were something in place to make the prices more uniform. Prescriptions too are very expensive. I actually like my vet practice - they're well thought of, but they're not at the cheaper end of the spectrum.
There is an English vet assistant at the Belgium clinic who mentioned the big disparity in prices between UK and EU vets where medication is concerned. She also had an insurance nightmare story about one of her dogs while she had been living in the UK.

I've got no issues with UK vets being a bit more expensive than EU vets, after all the cost of property leasing/ownership is higher for both the business and the staff and you would assume that salaries of all staff are higher to reflect the higher cost of living. But when specialist clinics are charging £8,000 compared to approx £1,400 in the EU? Can't see how that is justifiable in any way.

Deborah
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Deborah » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:50 pm

You're right about the good vets moving around. I needed to see a reptile vet for my bearded dragon. They are specialist so harder to find. I did some research and heard of a good vet about 15 minute drive away. Had one appointment with him. He was really good, even did a free ultrasound and explained the overies to reassure us our lizard was not egg bound (another vet said she was). Sadly though he moved away and the only other reptile vet was on maternity leave.
Rescue animals are not damaged they have just experienced more in life. If they were human we would call them wise.

Vikki
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Vikki » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:30 pm

I think the issue of insurance depends on your situation and whether you are in a position to find lots of money very quickly if things go wrong. I am cross with myself for not checking things out more thoroughly as I thought a staffy and a mix breed are going to be healthy anyway so probably won't need the insurance but good for emergency back up, I should have asked vets for bit of advice as turns out my vets won't do direct claims with them as they are notorious for taking an eternity to pay. I had to find 2 grand a few days before Christmas and have spent a lot more since, even if I'd known about cheap European treatment Lu was far too poorly to travel. I was very lucky my mum lent me the money and I finally got it back from insurance about 6 weeks ago. Even with insurance there are many people I am sure, who would have not been able to afford treatment costs up front so then what would happen. Lu is stuck with those insurers now but I changed Rosa straight away so I know if she ever needs emergency treatment all I need to pay is excess and vets deal directly with insurers to settle the balance. I would say if someone isn't in a position to find alot of money very quickly then insurance has to be preferable to alternatives but choosing a company that vets are willing to deal with directly would always be my priority in future. I cannot fault our vets for Lu's treatment, I am very sure that Lu's welfare was only consideration of staff and they discussed every single test he had with me and did nothing without full explanation that I was able to check independently (admittedly afterwards as at the time I told them to do whatever they had to and not worry about cost as I was so distressed) but everything they did completely checks out and they have no issue with raw diet now his immune system is no longer suppressed, I don't know about high turnover of staff but if Lu's vet leaves I will probably follow her if possible as he adores her and he doesn't like anybody! Rosa would be happy to see someone new every time as would be exciting to make another new friend!
And even the hardiest breeds can have terrible accidents, a good friend of mine who works for a large national rescue was walking her dog responsibly on a lead and she was badly attacked by an off lead dog with no owner in sight. (Dog was attacked, not friend) and this could happen to anyone and again, a dog fighting for life like my friends couldn't be travelling abroad or shopping around and insurance for those of us who don't have $$$ is only way we can guarantee instantaneous treatment. Even though Lu's insurers were rubbish I would still rather be ripped off twice by them and vets rather than lose my companions unnecessarily :icon_barking_dog-116.gif:
If it wasn't for my dogs, my house would be clean, my purse would be full but my heart would be empty

Vikki
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Re: Do you have a choice with pet insurance?

Post by Vikki » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:41 pm

By the way, this doesn't mean I don't fully agree with op's reasoning that the very existence of insurance pushes vets costs up but while UK vets fees remain significantly higher than Europe if we aren't in a position to pay for them then for some of us insurance is our only option Heart fill with love.gif]
If it wasn't for my dogs, my house would be clean, my purse would be full but my heart would be empty

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