Foregoing a couple of glasses of wine, or telling hard-up friends not to send greetings cards, could save a pet's life this Christmas.
The RSPCA is expecting thousands of animal abandonments this winter - both newly-arrived and long-in-tooth - with many being down to owners unable to cover the cost of vet bills, despite pet insurance cover being available for just a few pounds a month.
"Prospective pet owners should do two things from the moment a decision is made to welcome a four-legged friend to the family this Christmas: get an idea of likely vet bills, and research the cost of pet insurance," said Mark Effenberg, chief executive of Healthy Pets Insurance, and "parent" to one-eyed retriever Deputy Dawg.
"There are some very good insurers providing great value policies. Insurance is vital; vet bills are bigger than ever because modern-day technology and treatment means with more certainty than ever that a pet can survive a serious illness or accident- but at a cost: that technology and treatment is expensive, and consequently insurance premiums are edging upwards.
"We think of Christmas as being about people and exchanging gifts and cards, but the price of a couple of bottles of wine, or four or five Christmas cards, will cover the price of an insurance premium which would, in turn, cover the cost of treatment for even a serious injury or illness. For instance, a broken leg suffered by a cat or dog could mean a bill of several thousand pounds.
"We're obviously a business, but we're also pet lovers: insurance costing just a few pounds a month- whether with us or another insurer - could mean avoiding abandonment which, frankly, can often mean that pet is ultimately put to sleep. A couple of bottles of wine, or abandoning your pet...? Surely we're talking no-brainer here.
"How do you explain to your child that his or her cat or dog has had to go because it was ill or injured, and you just couldn't afford to pay for treatment that could have been covered by a very low cost insurance policy?
"I have a friend who took on a rescue cat who was hit by a car and suffered a broken leg, broken jaw, and lost a tooth a few Christmases back. The previous owners left him at the vets, saying to put him to sleep, when they were told how much his treatment would cost: they said they would have had no money left for Christmas.
"Fortunately he is now in a very good and loving home - and insured - and a more contented cat you would not come across."
Healthy Pets Insurance, now part of the Ardonagh Insurance group of Companies, is a specialist pet insurance company. It consistently offers the most competitive prices, and has among the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the sector.
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