When it comes to protecting those you love, who's top dog?
- 05 May 2020
- 10 mins
Owning a pet is expensive, costing thousands over a pet’s life
Pet insurance is on the rise, yet income protection is falling
But protection policies can be a lifeline to those who lose jobs or become ill.
According to Twitter, April was pet month. As the UK hunkers down at home, it’s worth remembering the one group that’s almost certainly delighted with our new living conditions – the nation’s pets. Home working means that our furry friends (or live-in lizards, if that’s your bag) are right where they want to be – with us. Dogs like the family ‘pack’ to be together, while cats… well, they’re probably thinking of all the extra meals they can cadge.
It’s no secret we’re a nation of animal lovers with 50% of households having pets  (1). But caring for an animal can be an expensive business. The animal charity PDSA estimates that owning a large breed of dog could cost from £5,700 to £13,000 over its lifetime  (2), reaching up to £30,000 if it required ongoing care.
The prospect of such hefty bills is a big reason why many people take out pet insurance; to the tune of £1.2 billion a year  (3). No one wants to be in the situation where their pet is hit by a car, for example, and they don’t have the cash on hand to meet the bill.
The pet’s better insured than us
Our animals are well covered, but what about other areas of our lives? Not so much, it seems. According to comparison site Finder, just 50% of households paying a mortgage have life insurance in place . The payout rate for life term assurance claims was 97% in 2018 .
These protection policies have no cash-in value at any time. If you don't pay your premiums on time your cover will stop, your benefits will end, and you'll get nothing back. If the benefit amount has not been paid out by the end of the selected term, the policy will end and you'll get nothing back.
More broadly, sales of other types of protection insurance are falling. As well as life insurance, protection insurance includes income protection and critical illness cover. Income protection pays a percentage of your annual salary should you suffer an accident or fall ill, while a critical illness policy pays a lump sum on diagnosis of a serious illness. At times of illness and stress, these policies can provide a financial lifeline, and the payout rates are high. Some 92% , according to the ABI, rising to 96% for claims arising from cancer.
Despite the clear advantages of such policies – financial security and peace of mind – fewer people are buying them. Data aggregated by Finder shows that there were 23.7 million protection insurance policies in place in the UK last year – down 1.5 million from the year before . Meanwhile, UK consumers spent £5.3 billion on their pets in 2018 – an annual increase of 21% .
What does this tell us?
While having pet insurance is the mark of a responsible owner, it’s important to place it in the context of our other insurance priorities. Your pet might be your best friend, but if you lost your home and your job, you’d be at risk of losing your pet too.
By protecting ourselves, we can better protect them.
Any views expressed are our in-house views as at the time of publishing.
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In preparing this article we have used third party sources which we believe to be true and accurate as at the date of writing. However, we can give no assurances or warranty regarding the accuracy, currency or applicability of any of the content in relation to specific situations and particular circumstances.
 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-campaigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report/uk-pet-populations-of-dogs-cats-and-rabbits 2019
 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/the-cost-of-owning-a-dog 2019
 https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-6878919/Are-barking-mad-spend-1-2bn-year-pet-insurance.html 3 April 2019
 https://www.finder.com/uk/life-insurance-statistics 17 February 2020
 https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/mar/31/serious-illness-cover-the-one-insurance-policy-that-can-prove-absolutely-critical 3 March 2019
 https://www.finder.com/uk/pet-insurance-statistics 27 April 2020
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