Compared with the arrival of a new puppy or kitten, thinking about insurance isn’t something that tends to excite new pet owners. Especially first-time owners, with no prior experience of the costs of different types of veterinary treatment. As a practice, it can be difficult to suggest that protecting owners and their pets from what might happen is so important.
So many owners are “getting around to sorting out pet insurance”, but then the moment’s gone and another day/week/month passes, all the while, the owner is 100 percent responsible for the cost of any treatment their pet might need. And of course, as soon as a pet has been treated without an insurance policy in place, it’s very likely that any future connected treatment will be excluded for the rest of the pet’s life as a pre-existing condition. But it can be hard to emphasise that point – especially to an excited new owner.
Not having cover in place is quite a gamble. A quarter of Agria Pet Insurance policyholders claim each year, and one in three of these claims is for pets aged two or under.
According to the Association of British Insurers, the average UK pet insurance claim is £750. For many pet owners, this isn’t an amount that’s readily available.
One of the significant barriers to owners taking out pet insurance is confusion around how it works, what it covers and what the differences are between policies. In the UK, we have well over one hundred providers offering products with so many names, described in many different ways.
Adding to confusion is the fact that we have been taught to shop around and look for the cheapest deal with everything we purchase. This is clearly not appropriate when it comes to pet insurance, but leads some owners to buying an “Accident-only” policy thinking that it will cover a chronic condition for life, or to switching providers to save a few pounds at renewal and suddenly finding a condition has become pre-existing and is now excluded from cover forever.
It’s vital that owners get the right policy, first time, that will live up to their expectations for life. So, anything that can be done in practice to support this really is valuable.
However, a recent barrier to practices talking about insurance is the concern that “we can no longer recommend”. Unless your practice is an appointed representative of an insurer, this is the case – you cannot recommend specific providers. But what you can, and should, do, is talk about insurance in general. For example, you can say that lifetime policies cover the most, that owners should look for policies with good levels of vet fees cover and to be careful of limits on specific treatments and exclusions.
The most powerful tools you have are real-life examples that demonstrate what pet owners could have to face. Cases where the pet was insured, so the owner was saved the money and stress involved with funding expensive treatment, and examples of where a pet wasn’t insured, and the repercussions of that.
Seeing a pet for the first time is a natural time to ask if they’re insured. If the answer’s no, you have an opportunity to find out more. Perhaps the owner just needs some guidance about the different types available, so simply cover the basics about what to look for, use examples, and leave the details about specific policies to the insurance providers that interest the owner.
Use your waiting room and reception area to highlight why insurance is important. Again, you can remain impartial and broad. From “patient of the month” displays to draw attention to a variety of illnesses, accidents and conditions, to more detail about what policies cover – which you can get from independent sources such as the Association of British Insurers – this is such a great opportunity to educate owners.
Finally, if your practice uses a website, email or social media to communicate with clients, why not let them know about insurance-related matters online? From linking to insurers’ claim forms to highlighting special offers and free puppy and kitten insurance available at your practice, it keeps the message loud and clear that, rather than being some complex dark art, insurance is a normal and incredibly valuable part of pet ownership.
To find out more about how your practice could benefit from working with Agria, including the ability to offer your clients 5 Weeks Free insurance, get in touch with the Agria Vet Team by calling 03330 30 83 90, or visit our website and complete our online enquiry form.
Agria Pet Insurance is currently offering a £50 pet healthcare voucher with all new policies, which owners can spend on anything in practice to support their pet’s health.