Veterinary bills for your pets in France can be covered by an insurance policy, so what do you need to consider?
The cost of taking your pet to a vet in France may be relatively modest compared to those in some countries, but they can still make a substantial dent in your monthly budget.
Their prices vary across the country; as with the cost of many goods and services, you might expect to see higher prices in city centres than in the countryside.
As an example, for a dog average prices are:
- Standard consultation - €40;
- Skeletal investigations, such as broken bones and very basic treatment - €60;
- Single X-ray session - €40;
- Ultrasonic scans - €40-€75 per session;
- Blood tests - €50-€100.
Where your pet has a relatively minor medical condition you might still be facing a bill running into several hundred euros.
If the condition is more serious, requiring surgery or specialised drug treatments, hospitalisation, or a period of observation in the clinic, it could cost over €1,000.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
Peace of mind about medical bills for your family’s best friend does come at a price.
The cost of policies varies by the nature of the cover and by pet, their type and age.
According to one major comparison website we consulted, an entry-level cover for a cat or dog is currently available within a range of €5-€12 per month.
However, such policies are very limited in their scope and it is questionable whether they are good value for money.
Moving up to an intermediate policy, the cost was €28 per month for a dog and €23 for a cat.
For a comprehensive policy, the average cost for a cat was €39 per month, whilst for a dog €50 per month.
If you have more than one pet then you should be able to get a discount on your other pets.
What is a 'Pet'?
For insurance purposes ‘pets’ are defined as being cats and dogs, and those animals listed as a 'Nouvel Animal de Compagnie’.
There are two NAC categories:
- Domestic (animaux domestiques), which covers things such as ferrets, pigs, chinchillas, horses, birds and fish etc;
- Non domestic (animaux non domestiques), which includes tortoises, lizards, snakes and insects.
Pets that require special licences may be treated as a separate category by some insurers.
If you have a pet other than a dog or a cat you should contact an insurer to check whether they will cover them and under what conditions.
You may find that if you have several pet pigs, goats and other animals, the insurer might see them as 'livestock' and require you to take out a separate policy. That will be particularly the case if you are using them for income.
Pet Insurance Policies
You will typically pay a monthly premium, although in some cases you pay annually.
In return, they will agree to reimburse you for elements of the costs you might incur, should your pet need veterinary treatment.
Policies are written to offer cover for potential risks – in other words, things that might happen in future. They will generally exclude pre-existing conditions.
So if your pet is currently undergoing treatment you may be obliged to declare that when you apply for your policy.
In such circumstances cover may be declined, offered under special delayed protection provisions, or the existing condition might be totally excluded.
You will be required to declare any ailments on the insurance application form. There will also be questions about vaccinations etc.
You may also find that if your pet frequently needs veterinary care the insurance company may be unwilling to renew the policy; there is no obligation on them to offer a renewal, and the older the animal the tougher are their rules on offering a policy.
The initial covered age range is usually between 3 months and 7 years. So if your pet is elderly you may find it difficult to obtain a policy. However, provided you take out a policy at an early age many insurers continue to provide cover for the life of the animal.
Some policies also exclude ailments that could be prevented by a vaccination, or the insurance company may simply require that your pet is appropriately vaccinated before they take on the policy.
Costs and Packages
The propositions of pet insurance providers are often broken down into two or three categories, often described along the lines of 'économiques', 'intermédiaires', 'complètes', etc.
The level of cover you require will usually define one or more of the following:• Maximum Payable in a Year - That might be expressed as an absolute figure or possibly a specified percentage of reimbursable costs.
• Maximum Reimbursable per Claim - A maximum of 70%-80% is commonplace, meaning that if your vet’s bills total €1,000, your insurance will reimburse you €800.
• Excess - This is the amount you will be expected to contribute towards the costs of any claims, called the 'franchise'. You might expect it to pay in the region of €20-€30 per annum or it might be shown as an amount per claim. In the above example, the €800 would therefore be reduced by €20 or €30.
• Preventative Treatment - Higher levels of cover might again include things such as vaccinations and worming, whereas lower levels may not.
• Start Date - If your pet has recently had surgery your policy will not take effect until 45 days after that date. In addition, there is generally a delay before the policy starts ('délais de carence'), which may be from one week to three months.
• Inclusions/Exclusions - Thus, for example, higher levels of cover might include surgical treatment whereas lower levels may not.
With a few specific exceptions of a preventative nature, elective procedures will not be covered. Treatment such as grooming, teeth cleaning, behavioural modification and routine health checks, might be excluded.
Your pet may constitute a financial risk to you in ways other than vet bills.
Thus, if your dog injures someone by attacking them or indirectly by, say, running into the road and causing a car accident, under the law you may be held accountable.
If the case is proven there could be substantial fines levied against you, as occurred in a court case on which we reported, which you can read about at Dog Owner Responsible for Horse Riding Accident.
It is possible to protect your financial interests by taking out a third-party liability cover for pets and some pet insurance propositions might include it.
However, such cover is sometimes also included within home and contents insurance, so it is worth checking to make sure you are not effectively paying twice.
Checking Your Policy
As with any form of insurance, it is imperative that you read the policy and its accompanying documentation carefully; the small print of pet insurance policies is often very significant.
The documentation will outline not only what cover is provided but also its limitations and exclusions. It also highlights your obligations as the policyholder.
Some of the terms used in the policies are technical and often difficult to understand, so you need to consider how you are going to obtain a proper understanding of your rights and obligations before you sign it.
Some French insurance companies offer English and occasionally other language translations of their policies in ‘key points’ summary documents.
There are more insurers around than you can shake a stick at.
Major specialist pet health insurers are ALOA, ChienChatSante, ECA-CALINA, EURONIMO, Amimias, Animaux Santé, SantéVet, Assuropoil, and Belle Bleu.
Most of the general insurers and the banks also offer cover (in some cases with the above brands), and do not assume that their own policies are inferior or more expensive than the specialists.
It is beyond the scope of this article to compare their offers, but there are a number of comparison websites around for you to assess different policies.
Taking your Pet Abroad
Check to be sure your pet will be covered if you leave France. Some insurers might offer that, albeit with conditions attached, whilst others will exclude it.
You can read more in our article Pets Travel Scheme.