Pet health and insurance - Mumsnetters' questions answered

baby and dog

From how to brush your dog's teeth to fighting felines, caring for a pet is no easy job. Thankfully, Animal Friends Insurance have come to the rescue with some helpful answers to Mumsnetters' questions regarding all things pets.

Veterinarian and pet well-being expert Jade Statt and pet insurance expert Tara Hughes have the answers to all your questions. Looking after your family pet will soon be a walk in the park.

Is it better to keep cats indoors or let them wander outdoors?

Jade says: Cats, by their nature, are outdoor hunters and curious explorers, so encouraging them to explore a natural environment is usually best for their wellbeing. Having said that, some more exotic breeds such as the Sphynx or Oriental breeds aren’t always suited to an outside environment. It’s certainly best to research the breed first and make a decision based on their individual needs. If you are considering keeping an indoor cat you should take a moment to consider many environmental and behavioural factors to ensure that you are meeting their needs both mentally and physically.

We live in a flat with no garden or balcony, my daughters really want pets, but we don't want to commit to any pets that would be unhappy in a flat. Which pet would be best suited in a flat?

Cat sticks out tongue Jade says: This is a great question as we know that children benefit from having pets when growing up for many reasons. In this situation my recommendation would be a small mammal such as hamsters or gerbils or even some fish. It’s worth remembering that all pets, however large or small, require a significant time investment so I would advise that you encourage your daughters to do some research into this and seriously consider if they are going to be responsible for feeding, interacting, cleaning out their pets and ask them if they can provide (with your support) their five basic welfare needs. Small mammals make wonderful and rewarding pets but their care should not be underestimated! The Blue Cross’ website is a useful place for them to start their research.

Does getting your pet from an animal shelter make it more expensive to insure?

Tara says: First of all, thank you for considering adopting a rescue pet. As I am sure you know, there are rescue centres all over the UK full of gorgeous pets who would love a new home (we’ve just published a guide to adopting both young and older pets here.) Here at Animal Friends Insurance we look at several factors including breed and age when we consider offering a policy. However, you should be aware that if you are rescuing a pet they may come with pre-existing conditions that wouldn’t be covered under your insurance policy. This won’t affect the price but it does mean your pet would get less cover.

We are considering getting a puppy, and are doing our research into breeds that are suitable for our family. Are there any breeds that you would recommend as family-friendly and are there any breeds we should avoid?

Girl holds puppy Jade says: Thank you for asking this question. It’s great that you are giving this some consideration and taking your time before welcoming a new addition to your family. In deciding on a breed there are many things to consider, such as your lifestyle, your household, your experience with dogs and ultimately any financial restrictions. As you probably know, any breed has the potential to make a fantastic and much-loved family pet but it is about matching the requirements of that dog with your family. The Blue Dog website is an excellent resource for clients who are considering a four-legged addition to their family. Another valuable resource is The Kennel Club. Here you can answer a series of questions to help match a breed to you and your family’s lifestyle. The website is also able to match you with a reputable breeder. I would recommend doing this with your family first and then researching more deeply into the breeds it recommends before making your decision. Another possible option for your family could be adopting a rescue dog, if your children are older. Please do explore this avenue as there are many dogs in rescue centres up and down the country looking for their forever home.

Does insurance usually cover the cost of putting a pet to sleep and cremation, and would there be exclusions from that cover?

Tara says: We do look to cover euthanasia when a pet is sadly put to sleep, but this would be subject to review of the clinical notes received. I am afraid any costs from cremation would not be covered on any of our policies.

What is the main thing to look out for when choosing insurance?

Tara says: First of all, of course you need to choose a company and a level of cover that suits you and your pet’s needs. There are multiple ways that you can look in to this, but always do your research. Review all of the information issued to you by the insurer and read your policy documents thoroughly. We have highly experienced sales agents who are available to provide knowledge on our current policies and premiums, you can call them on 0344 55 70 300 and chat. Please bear in mind though that they can’t advise you on which policy suits you, only you can do that, but they will be happy to talk you through your options. You can also visit the Animal Friends website and compare policies to see which one suits you.

Are there insurance policies for small animals eg. guinea pigs?

Guinea pig Tara says: Ah small furries! Adorable but sometimes difficult to find insurance for. At the moment here at Animal Friends Insurance I am afraid we do not currently offer insurance for anything other than dogs, cats, horses and donkeys. Some insurance companies do offer policies for rabbits, but insurance for small, furry animals is not very common.

How often should we clean our dog’s teeth?

Jade says: This is a common question and I’m glad you have asked it! I recommend the ‘gold standard’ to my clients, which is to brush their dog’s teeth daily, this is because if we brush their teeth every second day it is only 60% effective. If you’re not sure where to start or would like some guidance to help your dog become comfortable with daily brushing, please do take a look at this fab video by veterinary dental specialist Norman Johnston below.

How much should we budget for a basic insurance policy?

Tara says: To be honest an insurance policy can depend on many factors, but we recently looked at the average cost for our policies in 2018 and it cost £13.40 per month for a dog and £7.20 for a cat. We aim to offer policies to suit every budget. To get your own quote quickly please visit the Animal Friends website and that might give you a more accurate idea of what is needed to suit you.

We are thinking about adopting a dog. What is the proven cost benefit of insurance vs real costs over the lifespan of an average dog?

Dog stares on Tara says: Thanks for considering adopting a dog – what a brilliant addition to your life he or she will make. When looking at costs this is an individual based risk and depends on how you feel you could cope with unexpected costs. The benefit of having pet insurance is it enables pet owners to prepare for the possibility of their pet being injured or ill and offsetting some or all of the costs. Do please bear in mind that your insurance may not automatically cover every conceivable situation and, depending on the chosen policy, there may still be costs to pay to a vet. On top of this there will normally be an excess, and sometimes a co-payment, you need to pay in the event of a claim.

I have two cats who don't get on. They have an uneasy truce, but one of them got a good swipe on the nose last month which was the first real flesh wound. At what point do I say enough is enough and separate them?

Jade says: Thank you for your question. I’m sorry to hear that there is some worry over their happiness in the current environment. This is a common theme so please don’t feel that it’s just your cats that aren’t quite living harmoniously! One of the things to do is to make sure that they don’t feel the need to ‘compete’ for resources such as food, water, toileting and sleeping facilities. As a general rule, there should be enough bowls, litter trays, beds etc for each cat PLUS one more so they always have an option to escape if they feel threatened by the other cat. Separate high escape/sleeping places are a must so do have a look into some cat scratching posts that have a high perch or bed and ensure that they both have access to cat fight


Give them time to adapt to their new resources and try Feliway Friends in each room that they tend to spend most time in. This website gives a fantastic guide on how to introduce two cats so you could always take a step backwards and re-introduce them slowly. If you have done all of this (providing separate bowls, sleeping areas, litter trays etc, use of Feliway Friends) it might be time to call in a cat behaviourist to see them interacting in their home environment.

If at the end of the process, and please do give them plenty of time and patience, there is still regular conflict then it may be time to accept that they don’t get on and would be more content apart. I wish you the best of luck and hope that with time, they will become more tolerant of each other and their spaces!

After major surgery, my dog has made an amazing recovery and you wouldn't know anything had happened. But when should I start giving joint supplements? Do I wait until he shows signs of stiffness in older age or give him a preventative now?

Jade Statt says: I am presuming that your dog has undergone some orthopaedic surgery? Firstly, I’m pleased to hear that he is recovering well! It’s difficult to comment on whether joint supplements would be beneficial to him in the longer term so I would recommend having a chat with the surgeon that carried out the procedure to ascertain their experiences with supplements and if they would recommend these for your dog. There are other ways in which you can help your dog when recovering from orthopaedic surgery and to reduce the likelihood of arthritis as he ages, and I find that a multi-modal approach to prevention is important. These steps can also help a dog if they are already suffering with arthritis to prevent deterioration of the condition:

  • Keeping your pet at his optimum weight is paramount.
  • Regular controlled exercise.
  • Judicial use of joint supplements under veterinary recommendation.
  • Complementary treatments such as hydrotherapy to maintain his muscle mass and/or regular physiotherapy sessions.

Can you get multiple pet policies as a package and are they cheaper?

Tara Hughes says: At present we do not currently offer a discount for multiple pet policies at Animal Friends Insurance. We can hold more than one pet on an account, but they would still be on an individual policy with their own direct debit. The more the merrier though! Our pets enrich our lives immeasurably. Please see here for just how many benefits having a pet can bring.

Please note that the information given by Animal Friends and any person acting for them is not binding but merely provides guidance. For more information on insurance options that best suit you and your pet please visit or call us on 0344 5570300. Additionally, if you have concerns about your pet’s health and wellbeing please bring them immediately to your vet.

Dog with tongue out


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