There’s been a huge boom in telemedicine over the last 18 months with many patients talking to their GP by phone or video due to Covid. It’s a format already familiar to pet owners, with vet helplines now part of many pet insurance plans as an added benefit.

Vet advice lines have made it onto the decision summary ticklist on PCWs Go Compare and Moneysupermarket, and are part of the majority of brands’ offerings including big players Petplan, Bought By Many, Direct Line and Tesco. Direct Line has even started offering free access to PawSquad to home insurance customers.  

The theory is not just to sweeten the deal, but to actually help reduce claims. Prevention is better than the cure – especially for insurers, but also for consumers. Veterinary consultations are expensive – and this is a way to talk to a professional for free, and outside of surgery hours. 

So is getting your dog talking to a video vet about a sore paw actually working? Can your cat get a shame-cone on the phone? In our latest Viewsbank survey we decided to find out… 

The pet market is still wide open  

A whopping 40% of pet owners don’t have pet insurance. While many will have smaller animals and consider it not ‘worth’ it, there are also plenty of cat and dog owners who haven’t got the pet insurance memo yet.  

What sort of pet insurance do you have?  

For those who do have insurance, a Lifetime plan is the most popular, with 1 in 4 people going for this option. 12% of people aren’t sure what kind of plan they have – and that lack of knowledge follows through into telemedicine… 

3 out of 10 don’t know if they’ve got a vet helpline 

A full 30% of people we asked didn’t know whether or not their pet insurance policy actually came with telephone or video support from a vet. A quarter knew their definitely didn’t, leaving 46% who said it WAS part of their plan – indicating just how many polices now include it as an extra benefit.  

Does your policy include a telephone or video vet helpline?  

Usage and satisfaction are high 

Our survey told us that 31% of customers with a Vetline have actually used it, a figure higher than we would expect to see making a claim on a policy.    

For those who had used the service, 94% rated it as good or excellent. That’s a pretty impressive impress rate.  

68% had used the service to talk about a worrying health issue, 40% had used it to get advice on future treatment, 36% had called after an injury, and 32% were looking for advice on medication.  

What sort of issues did you discuss with your tele-vet? 

More importantly, 62% said they’d followed the advice they were given. Just over a third (38%) visited a vet to discuss the same issue. Taken in conjunction with satisfaction, those numbers would seem to show the service offers both effective advice, and effective triage – sending pets to their face-to-face vet when needed for further investigation/treatment.  

Access to telephone or video support remains more nice-to-have than need-to-have for most pet insurance customers, although a not insignificant 10% said they actually wouldn’t have a policy without it.  

14% said if it lowered the cost of their insurance by reducing in-person vet appointments, they’d definitely look for it in the future.  

How important is a vet line to you when choosing an insurance policy?  

Communication is key 

Being able to talk to a vet about a beloved pet at any time of day or night - FOR FREE - is something that is clearly valued by customers – if they actually know about it, understand what they’re getting, and have an idea how and when to use it. There are heartstrings here for communications and marketing teams to pull on, conveying the wider value of policies to potential pet punters. That’s going to be especially important as the FCA continues its march to drive ‘fair value’ across the industry.  

Offering this service already looks like it is well on the way to becoming an industry standard, and that could end up benefitting consumers, cats, dogs, and ultimately insurers.  

Who you gonna call? Your insurance vet line.  


Understand the needs and motivations of your customers or target audience

Viewsbank is our in-house consumer research panel. It’s a large, responsive and community driven panel that conducts both quantitative and qualitative research.

Our Viewsbank panel helps our customers with a wide variety of projects ranging from detailed mystery shopping to demographically targeted research surveys. The research helps our clients make informed decisions based on true understanding of the consumer’s voice.

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