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RSPCA urges owners to insure their pets

Pet insurance can help save thousands of pounds in vet fees
The RSPCA is raising awareness about the importance of pet insurance as owners reveal their own nightmare experiences.

The oldest and biggest animal welfare charity is raising awareness on the importance of insuring pets to help with the cost of those unexpected accidents and illnesses and avoid hefty vet bills, sometimes costing thousands of pounds.

With pets visiting the vets around twice a year on average, keeping an animal can become expensive and any ongoing and unexpected vet treatments can quickly add up.

Now the RSPCA is raising awareness about the difficulties owners can face without insurance.

Phil Sleight, from Surrey, was very worried when his cat Bella went missing for several days in August this year. She managed to drag herself back home but had most likely been hit by a car, or possibly fallen from a tree, and was suffering with a broken leg.

Phil said: “A few months after getting our cat Bella, we shopped around for pet insurance but with a combination of being busy working parents and forgetful, we just never got around to putting a policy in place.

“Bella is an active outdoor cat and is only two years old. She is in and out frequently but then one day she just didn't come home. A couple of days passed and we were really worried so I went out looking for her after work but didn't find her. We live next to a busy road and I did fear the worst but I couldn’t see or hear her on the side of the road.

“After being missing for three days, which felt like an eternity, I was sitting in the front room when I heard her meow. I raced to the front door and there she was staggering back. She looked awful, was covered in fleas and had a heavy limp. I took her straight to the local vet who examined her straight away. Whilst she was not bleeding externally, they said she was in need of a blood transfusion and had a broken leg. The x-ray revealed a number of breaks to her upper leg close to her hip which the local vet said was beyond his expertise to repair.”

Bella was referred to orthopaedic and neurology specialists Fitzpatrick Referrals clinic could help. Luckily, the veterinary practice were confident they could save her leg but as Bella was uninsured the family were faced with a big decision to make. Amputation would be a considerable amount of money itself but repairing the leg with metal rods would cost in the region of £5,000.

Phil added: “We were given a few nights to make a decision because the focus was finding a suitable blood donor. After a blood donor was found, I quickly made the decision to go ahead with the repair, which I funded by getting a bank loan. I just wanted to give her the best quality of life possible as she was still so young - even if it did break the bank! I thought I could earn that money back but she won't grow another leg if we went down the amputation route.”

Thankfully the operation was a success and Phil was able to take Bella home that night. Although she was on cage rest for the next six weeks, she is now back to her normal, energetic self again.

He added: “We just thought it would never happen to us. Needless to say, I have since taken out pet insurance and will encourage every other pet owner to do the same to avoid having to make that difficult decision.”

Caroline Allen, the RSPCA's Chief Veterinary Officer, was in a similar situation a few years ago when she decided to foster a dog in her previous job at a private vet practice. The dog Tilly had a severe skin disease so Caroline fostered her whilst she went through her treatment and ended up falling in love with her. Tilly developed lameness and didn’t respond to standard treatment. Caroline paid for a CT scan at a specialist who found that she had a joint condition called OCD.

She said: “Inevitably, I fell in love with her but because we initially thought she was a temporary foster we didn’t insure her. Then because the lameness had started when she was still being fostered and wasn’t insured it was classed as a pre-existing condition and wouldn't be covered. She needed arthroscopic surgery which set us back about £3,000. The procedure was worth every penny and we were unlucky that the signs showed up in the foster period, but as a vet I felt pretty stupid for not getting her insured as soon as she settled in and captured our hearts.

“The RSPCA would always advise people to take out pet insurance. I think many people assume they won’t need it but you never know what is round the corner and insurance can save you thousands in the long-run.

“It is upsetting when a beloved pet becomes ill so it is essential that people do thorough research, including the cost of pet insurance and vet bills, before taking on any animal.”

A new RSPCA Pet Insurance product has recently been launched which aims to help owners protect their pets. RSPCA Pet Insurance is underwritten and provided by Covea Insurance PLC and offers a range of insurance products to meet your pet’s needs as well as different budgets.

Insuring with RSPCA Pet Insurance also means 15% of the cost goes to help animals in need who have been rescued or cared for by the RSPCA charity. There is also a 10% multi-pet discount and no upper age limits, as well as overseas travel cover.

RSPCA Pet Insurance is also offered free for the first four weeks for those who adopt a rescue dog or cat from the RSPCA.

For more information visit: https://www.rspca.org.uk/shoponline/petinsurance

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