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Rising tide of pet owners claiming on insurance for their pets’ mental health

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According to the Mail Online, pet owners last year made £750,000 worth of claims in an attempt to treat their pets' neurological disorders. But, say experts, therapy is not the answer.

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 05/01/2020, 15:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:34

The number of claims received by insurers of pets from owners who consider their pet to have a mental health problem was up 50% from 2018. According to The Mail, “A rising number of dogs, cats and even rabbits are being treated for mental health problems.

Last year, pet insurance firms paid out a whopping £750,000 to pet therapists and psychiatrists. One owner had their dog treated for agoraphobia; other mental illnesses reported by pet owners include anxiety, depression and OCDs.

Dog owner Lesley Church-Burrows admitted her Great Dane for “two neurological sessions” each at a cost of £275. Ms Church-Burrows believed her dog to be suffering with agoraphobia: the fear of the outdoors.

Tempered argument

But vets and behavioural experts cast doubt on the efficacy of physchiatric therapy for dogs, and err against spending the money on insurance policies that include high premiums to cover such treatments.

Writing for RT last month Damian Wilson even goes as far as to suggest that a dog perceived to be mentally ill may simply be mirroring the behaviour of its owner.

A dog jumping up is trying to say hello,” he writes. “Cats scratching furniture is not aggression, it's the feline way of keeping trim those amazing retractable claws. And rabbits gnawing at their cages, well, that just means they would rather be outside, digging, burrowing and doing that other thing rabbits love to do – making other rabbits.

These are the common complaints from pet owners who feel these behaviours are a sign of something deep-seated in the animal's psyche.

The whole idea of ‘mental health’ in pets is just wrong. And that's according to the British Veterinary Association president, Daniella Dos Santos, who told a newspaper at the weekend that domestic animals simply respond to changes in their environment.”