You pay car and home insurance - but is your pet insured?

There are many costs associated with owning a pet, and vet bills tend to be the most expensive of them all.

If your dog or cat gets injured or sick, pet insurance will protect you from unexpected bills that could set you back hundreds - or even thousands of euro.

Like other types of insurance, pet policies can vary widely.

We've been taking a look at what different policies cover, how much they cost, and whether they're really worth it.

What is covered?

In general, most policies will cover veterinary fees up to around €2,000 for an injury only plan and between €3,000 - €4,000 for an injury and illness plan.

The other benefits included will depend on the level of cover you choose.

Injury and illness treatments will usually include surgery, prescription drugs and tests.

Most policies will also cover some of the costs associated with the search for a missing or stolen pet, such as the cost of putting up posters or offering a reward.

Third party liability for dogs usually comes as standard and means that any damage or injury caused by your dog is covered up to €250,000.

If you are hospitalised and need to leave your animal in for minding, most insurers will cover emergency kennel and cattery fees.

Holiday cancellation cover is also fairly standard, and will cover the cost of cutting your holiday short if your pet gets sick.

If your pet dies by accident or illness, most insurers will usually pay up to €1,000.

These are some of the standard benefits – cheaper policies may not include all of these benefits and the more expensive plans will have some additions.

Is pet insurance expensive in Ireland?

The average cost of pet insurance in Ireland last year was €16 per month, according to Switcher.ie, a website which helps compare insurance prices.

Insurers will offer a range of plans, from basic to premium.

The type of plan you choose will determine the price you pay - so make sure to read through any quotes you receive carefully and watch out for exclusions.

The price of your policy will not only depend on the level of cover you choose, but also the age of your pet, the breed of your dog or cat, and the health of your pet.

How do I choose the right plan?

Typically, insurance companies will offer three types of plans.

An 'injury' or 'accident only’ plan will be the cheapest option, and will cover any treatment your pet may need after an accident, up to a certain amount.

A ‘time limited injury and illness’ policy will cover any injury or illness that occurs during a fixed period - usually 12 months. You could consider this if your cat or dog has a time-limited injury or illness.

A ‘lifetime’ policy will auto renew at the end of each year and will not limit the amount of time you can claim for a specific illness or injury.

It is worth noting that all plans will have an excess amount that you will have to pay before the policy kicks in.

Most plans in Ireland have an excess of around €125, anything above that could prove to be expensive in the long run.

Every policy will have a cap on the veterinary fees - so don’t forget to check this out before committing to a policy.

If the cap is below €2,000 euro for an injury only plan, you might want to keep shopping around.

Can you give us an idea of prices?

Pet insurance policies can be quite expensive – but not having your pet insured could end up costing you more in the long run.

To give you an idea, I’ve priced some policies for Sammy, a nine-month-old cocker spaniel.

An Post insurance

An Post is offering an injury only policy for €14.62 per month, which would work out at €175.47 for the year.

This includes a 5% Government levy and a €15 administration fee.

It is their cheapest option, and will pay up to €2,000 in veterinary fees for accidental injuries to your pet.

This policy will not pay for any illness your pet may develop during the cover period.

As with most policies, it will pay out up to €250,000 in third party liability, if your dog causes injury or damage to a third party.

It also has a standard excess amount of €125, which means you will have to pay any vet bills under that amount yourself.

The next option from An Post is the injury and illness time limited policy, which works out at €19.92 per month or €239.00 for the year.

Again, this includes the Government levy and the administration fee.

This option will cover vet bills up to €3,000, if your pet is injured or becomes ill.

The excess on this policy is also €125 and it also includes the third party liability for dogs up to €250,000.

It does include some extras that were not included in the less expensive policy, such as up to €250 towards ‘complementary treatments’ for your pet, such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy carried out by a vet or a certified therapist.

This policy will also cover emergency boarding fees for your pet up to €500 if you need to go to the hospital for emergency treatment.

If your pet is stolen or lost, the policy will reimburse you for advertising costs and for a ‘suitable’ reward to be offered.

The policy will also pay a certain amount, as stated in your policy, if your pet dies or needs to be put down.

The third and most expensive option for Sammy from An Post would cost €25.21 per month or €302.53 for the year, including the Government levy and the administration fee.

This injury and illness lifetime policy would cover vet fees up to €4,000 for injury or illness.

The excess is the same as their other plans at €125, with the third party liability for dogs up to €250,000 – the same as the middle plan.

This plan will cover emergency boarding fees up €1,000, while the advertising and reward costs if your pet is stolen or missing are higher than the middle plan.

This policy will also pay out more money if your animal dies or needs to be put down.

How do I get a good deal?

Shop around and give insurance providers a call if you are unsure about any elements of the policy.

Quite often you will get a discount for purchasing your insurance online or if you are purchasing policies for more than one pet.

Visit the websites of multiple providers, fill out their short questionnaires and choose the right plan for you and your pet.

Don’t just choose to cheapest plan, as this could have a higher excess and a lower pay out sum.

Here are some further prices examples for Sammy, the nine-month-old cocker spaniel.

Pet Insurance.ie

Pet Insurance.ie is quoting €11.60 per month for an injury only time limited plan, which would work out at €139.14 for the year including the Government levy and administration fee.

This policy will cover vet bills for injuries to your pet up to €1,500.

Their ‘Premier’ injury and illness time limited plan at €19.41 per month will cover vet bills up to €4,000, while the ‘Premier Plus’ injury and illness lifetime plan at €23.50 per month will also cover vet bills up to €4,000 but will pay out more for extras such as emergency boarding fees.

Allianz Insurance

Allianz Insurance is offering an annual plan for Sammy for €264.54, which covers veterinary fees for injury and illness up to €4,000.

This would work out at €24.05 per month, across 11 months.

It also covers third party liability and legal costs up to €250,000 and boarding kennel or cattery fees up to €1,000.

The excess on this plan is €150, but it can be lowered.

Will anything be excluded from the policies?

You should read the terms and conditions to see what exclusions may apply to your policy before committing.

It is worth noting that it may be more difficult to insure restricted breeds listed under the Control of Dogs Act, and most polices won’t insure pets under eight weeks old or dogs older than six years.

However, if you renew your policy on a continuous basis from an early age, you may be able to insure your pet into its later years with a lifetime cover plan.

Preventative and routine treatments such as vaccinations, worming and de-fleaing won’t be covered with pet insurance, while pregnancy and birth related costs are also excluded.

While you can insure a pet with a pre-existing condition, insurance providers won’t cover treatment for the pre-existing condition.

So, it is worth it?

Every pet owner will be hoping their four-legged friend will never need major surgery or treatment – but nobody knows what is around the corner.

It is worth asking if you would be able to cover a bill of up to €4,000 if your pet did need surgery.

If not, it may be worth considering paying for a policy to give you that piece of mind and keep the tails wagging.