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The reality of vet bills

Vet costs — can you afford not to insure your pet?

There’s no NHS for pets. So when you take your faithful friend to the vet and you don’t have pet insurance, the final bill can come as quite a shock.

The fact is, pet insurance isn’t mandatory, and there’s a perception that it’s pricey. So many people don’t take it out and hope for best. After all, how expensive can a vet bill really be?

Well, unfortunately, it could be much more than you think.

Cat being injected by a vet

Typical vet bill costs

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) figures show that the average pet insurance claim in 2015 was £720. An amount that most of us might struggle to find in a hurry. In 2015, the number and cost of pet insurance claims also reached a record high, with pet insurers paying out £657 million in claims — that’s £1.8 million every day.

When you look at typical vet’s bills, you can see how it all tots up. If your dog got into a traffic accident, you could be looking at paying around £1200 for treatment. Or if your cat accidentally broke its leg you could be handed a bill for £896.

Top 5 pet insurance claims paid out for cats and dogs

Dogs Average cost
1 Cruciate disease £857.59
2 Diabetes mellitus £213.59
3 Lymphoma (site unspecified) £597.98
4 Pancreatitis £558.07
5 Hypersensitivity (allergic) skin disorder £204.06
Cats Average cost
1 Hyperthyroidism £239.43
2 Vomiting £636.60
3 Urinary bladder, functional disorder £309.56
4 Diabetes mellitus £142.16
5 Mast cell tumour (site unspecified) £1595.75

These figures are based on 1000 claims from Ultimate Insurance Solutions own brand.

Despite increasingly expensive vet costs, the vast majority of pet owners don’t have pet insurance. According to the ABI, only 1 in 4 of Britain’s dog owners and 1 in 7 cat owners are thought to have their pets covered. Surprising, isn’t it?

The cost of pet insurance

With these hefty costs in mind, you might be wondering about the cost of pet insurance. How much is the average premium? And is it worth it?

To put it simply, the average pet insurance claim of £720 is almost 3 times the cost of the average pet insurance premium of £241 a year. Definitely food for thought.

Dog receiving vet treatment

What are your pet insurance options?

Pet insurance is there to protect you from unexpected vet bills. And the good news is, there are plenty of options to suit different budgets.

For just a few pounds each month, you could have accident-only pet insurance, which pays towards treatment needed as a result of an accident (this can often be the most expensive vet care). Or if your budget allows, there are more comprehensive options, from ‘per condition’ cover, through to lifetime policies, often with no limit on the number of times an illness or injury is covered.

Ultimately, it’s worth thinking about what you can afford. Even choosing accident-only cover could save you hundreds, or even thousands of pounds if you made a claim.

Dog with bandaged paw

What could affect pet insurance premiums?

  • Your pet’s age — an older, or very young pet tends to be more expensive
  • Breed — certain breeds of dogs and cats are pricier than others
  • Pedigree — cross breeds and moggies tend to be cheaper to cover than pedigree pets
  • Medical history — pre-existing medical conditions can nudge up prices
  • Location — vet prices vary across the country, which means premiums do too.

Cat receiving vet treatment

What could affect pet insurance premiums?

Even a basic visit to the vet can set you back hundreds of pounds. So, if you want to avoid any unexpected vet bills, pet insurance makes sense.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, equity release, pet insurance, car insurance, home insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Ltd which is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.