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Gundog Insurance — Necessary or not?

Here at Fur Feather & Fin we see our blog as a voice from the heart of country, bringing you news and opinion rooted in this nation's countryside.  Part of our role in providing that voice is giving expert opinion a platform to educate everyone, which is why we invite gundog and shooting expert Richard Reeve to share his depth of knowledge twice a month. This week he's been talking all about the pros and cons of gundog insurance.  image1Pet insurance is a lot like any insurance, you might never need it but if you ever do you’ll be glad you did — but should you be?! Maths… For the past 2.5 years I’ve been paying £40 per month for pet insurance for Bruce… which equates to £1200. My excess is £70, so in order to claim the amount must be well over £70 for it to be worthwhile — there is also the fact that if I continually claim the premium will be driven up. In total over the last 2.5 years I have only claimed £200 for a tooth to be removed and £600 when Bruce badly injured his leg on a glass bottle thrown into a river. Each time I paid an excess of £70, so in fact all I have had back from my £1200 insurance scheme is £660! Logic… With Bruce being a relative youngster I did obviously expect that I wouldn’t have to claim very often on his policy. The policy was set up with the logic that as Bruce grew older and became more susceptible to illnesses and old age he would have a policy to pay for his needs. As a working dog there is also a high likelihood that Bruce will sustain a shooting related injury or illness that will require veterinary care, such as:
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts and scratches (infections)
  • Eye injuries from going through scrub
  • Arthritis and other musculoskeletal issues
  • Mange, kennel cough, and other communicable canine diseases (from exposure to other dogs and animals)
With age Bruce’s health will deteriorate. He ought to have retired when he’s 8 or 9 years old, at which point it will be gentle walks and sleeping inside by the fire. If he is able to come out with me for the odd bit of shooting then he should be able to make it to 12 or 14yrs, if not then my experience is that working dogs quickly deteriorate when they don’t do anything and seldom last very long without extensive veterinary support. image2Ethics… I would hate to be unable to afford to give Bruce the care he needs. Insurance offers a certain amount of comfort that should something unexpected arise I can always pay for it. My personal belief is that there is a point in any dogs health where to keep it alive is simply prolonging its suffering for the benefit of the owner and not the dog. Again my own belief is that were I decapacitated to the point of misery and couldn’t do anything about it, someone who loves me would see me out with a little dignity. If Bruce were to lose the use of his legs for example, I think that keeping him alive and unable to participate in the working life he loves would be hideously cruel. No one can make that choice for anyone else; the decision is between the dog and its owner — based on the owners understanding of his or her individual dog. Conclusion... Bruce cost me just £400 from a friend, but as a trained gun dog his worth is well into the thousands now. There is also the emotional attachment I have to my dog, who is always by my side (in fact due to work I spend far more time with him than my partner!). So should I, or anyone else for that matter, continue to pay for pet insurance? Paying for insurance is a little bit like playing the lottery — the more you commit financially to it the more you feel bound to continue; as the law of sod depicts that shortly after you cancel your policy you will be struck with an enormous veterinary bill! It may be more prudent to simply put £40 per month into a savings account specifically for the vets, as unless extremely unlucky this ought to cover most eventualities. Having said this there is always the possibility of poor luck, resulting in the difficult choice of having the dog put to sleep or paying out an amount that will result in serious financial difficulty. Insurance companies on the whole rely on those who fear the unexpected monetary outlay of a large bill. We all pay out vast sums of money on various insurances and most of the time we never need it, however this is often better than the small chance of the alternative. For wealthier people there is simply no point as more dogs remain healthy than not, and provided prolonged suffering is not the aim then there is no need for prolonged veterinary care in the dogs twilight years. If you are unlucky and get a sick dog then c'est la vie! So… in short, yes — insurance is for the majority of people a waste of money. If the majority of people needed it and it were cost effective to do so then the insurance companies would be out of business! Insurance is a comfort that is paid for by those who cannot afford an unexpected outlay, as the chances are it will not work out to be as cost effective as simply putting £40 per month away solely for any unforeseen veterinary requirements. If you want to look after your dog another way to invest is by kitting it out in a dog coat or jumper to keep it warm, or by purchasing dog safety equipment.