The cost of insuring your dog should be linked to the healthiness of the breed, says David Tomlinson, who advocates the ‘group’ system in use for vehicles
Dog insurance might be much simpler if healthy dog breeds attracted lower premiums, much as happens with the difference between insuring a Porsche and a Volkswagen Polo. Healthy dog breeds could be categorised as group one, whilst those attracting higher vet bills would be be, say, group 50.
This thought was prompted by reading that the average dog insurance claim paid out by the Insurance Emporium during 2018-2019 was £1,028, but for certain breeds the claim was much higher.
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Leading the table with an average figure of £1,547 was the dogue de Bordeaux. This is a huge and powerful French mastiff. It only takes a glance at a dogue to appreciate that it is bound to be an expensive dog, not only to buy but also to run.
In the runner-up spot is the bulldog, on £1,308. Bulldogs are walking disaster zones, so physically flawed have they become. However, I did raise an eyebrow at the third-placed dog, the miniature short-haired dachshund. Its average claim is £1,274, a mere £5 more than the French bulldog, another unhealthy breed.
I was relieved to see that not a single gundog was among the top 10 claimants. The other named breeds were (in descending order): Dobermann, ridgeback, boxer, bichon frise, pug and German shepherd. Significantly, four of the dogs in this group are brachycephalic, the technical term for flat-faced.
A dog has a muzzle for a reason, as it enables it to breathe properly. The fact that we choose to breed muzzleless dogs that struggle to draw breath should be a crime.
We all know that some dog breeds are far more prone to certain conditions than others, as the Insurance Emporium’s report makes clear. For example, almost half (48%) of all settled claims for cavalier King Charles spaniels were for heart disorders, a well-known problem with the breed. Growths, cysts and tumours were an issue for many dogs, and were responsible for more than a third of settled insurance claims with Hungarian viszlas, 28% of English springers and 27% of cockers.
Most of the gundog breeds had average claims close to £1,000, so under the average. Springer claims averaged £986, Labradors £984, golden retrievers £934 and cockers £914. Towards the bottom of the claims table was the Jack Russell (£842), but all these figures are a reminder of just how expensive veterinary treatment is.
Human treatment is even more expensive, a fact that most of us forget because we are shielded from the true costs by the NHS.
I would have thought it quite simple for the insurance companies to come up with similar numbered group ratings for the various breeds of dogs. If nothing else, it would give puppy buyers a general indication of the overall healthiness of a breed and an idea that some breeds of dog are more prone to certain illnesses than others.
Of course, like all statistics, the figures here are not as simple as they may seem at a glance, and are open to interpretation. A veterinary practice in, say, North Yorkshire will probably charge less for the same operation as one in London, while it could be that people who insure their dogs are more likely to take them to the vet and thus accumulate bigger bills.
Many insurers will decline to cover working gundogs. We all know that dogs working hard throughout the season are more likely to suffer injuries, but working dogs tend to be fitter than pets that do nothing more energetic than a stroll in the park.
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A proper working gundog would no doubt gain a different insurance rating to one that doesn’t work, just as a high-performance Golf GTI costs more to insure than a less powerful version of the same car. Breeds such as cockers and springers would probably need three ratings: one for show-bred dogs, one for working-bred pets and one for workers.