Find pet insurance to cover veterinary bills and emergency treatment
Every dog or cat owner is well aware of just how expensive vet bills can be. As advances in human medical care and technology trickle down to the animal world, vets now have more options than ever before to treat illness and injury in our furry friends. But with no Medicare scheme or similar in place for pets, owners often find themselves unable to afford the cost of expensive treatment.
Pet insurance can cover the cost of vet fees for treating illness or injury to your cat or dog. Most vets recommend owners take out pet insurance as they’ve witnessed first-hand when treatable animals have to be put down because their owners can’t afford the vet bills.
Compare pet insurance policies from Australian insurance brands
Do I even need pet insurance?
Pet Insurance can offer crucial financial support for unexpected injuries/illness and ongoing veterinary treatment for your pet. Trying to decide if it is worth getting? Consider the following points:
- Most companies will not provide cover for pets over 8 years of age (except for accidental injury). If you purchase cover before this age, renewal can be guaranteed for the life of the pet.
- Pet insurance can still offer much-needed support for younger pets if they suffer unexpected illnesses or injuries.
- Treatment for injuries can quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars and can.
- Most policies will cover routine consultations up to $300.
- You may be eligible for discounted cover if you hold other insurance with that company.
What does pet insurance generally cover in Australia?
The type and level of insurance you take out will influence exactly what is covered under your pet insurance policy.
- Events covered under accidental injury cover. This type of policy is the most basic type of cover and it will protect you against vet expenses for treatment resulting from accidental injury. Injuries must be a direct consequence of motor vehicle incidents, burns or electrocution, snake bite or allergic reaction to an insect bite (not tick or flea bites). Cover is also provided if the injury results in a bone fracture, a traumatic ligament or tendon injury, or lacerations or abrasion of tissue, skin or mucous membrane due to external violence. Keep in mind that pre-existing conditions and some specific conditions (for example elbow dysplasia) are not covered.
- Events covered under illness cover. As the name suggests, this type of policy will provide cover for vet expenses for treatment as a result of your pet suffering an illness. However, be aware that there are a number of illnesses not covered under this policy. First of all, any illness that arises as a result of a pre-existing condition will not be covered. Illness caused by worms, ticks, fleas or mites are also typically not covered. If your dog is suffering from an illness for which there is a known vaccine—think conditions like parvovirus and canine distemper for dogs, viral rhinotracheitis and calicivirus for cats—you not be eligible to receive a benefit payment. Finally, if your pet has been known to eat things he or she shouldn’t, keep in mind that coverage is only available for one incident of swallowing a foreign object that causes a blockage or obstruction requiring surgical or endoscopic removal.
Typical expenses your pet insurance policy will cover
Additional cover to consider for your policy
A number of available added benefits can increase the level of cover provided for your pet:
- Emergency boarding. If you are hospitalised for five or more consecutive days during the policy period, your insurer will pay for the cost of boarding your pet at a licensed kennel or cattery.
- Essential euthanasia. Under this option, if euthanasia is deemed humane and essential course of action for your pet by your veterinarian, your insurance provider will cover the expenses involved in this process.
- Paralysis tick benefit. Under this benefit, your policy will cover the cost of veterinary treatment arising from paralysis tick bites.
- Pet overseas travel insurance. If your pet requires veterinary treatment while overseas in a destination where Australian quarantine regulations do not require the pet to be quarantined on its return, your insurance will cover treatment costs.
- Routine care. Will cover the cost of Routine Care your pet has received during the policy period up to the maximum amount stated on the policy.
When should I buy pet insurance?
There will be conditions applied to the minimum and maximum age that cover can be put in place for your pet. This may vary on the type of cover chosen. See the example of Bow Wow Meow in the table below:
|Company||Minimum age when applying||Maximum age when applying|
|Bow Wow Meow||8 weeks||9 years of age (no upper age limit for basic cover)|
|Woolworths||8 weeks||9 years of age (no upper age limit for basic cover)|
|Pet Insurance Australia||8 weeks||9 years of age (no upper age limit for basic plan|
It's worth noting that this does not mean that cover will not remain in place once the pet reaches this age. Renewal of cover is guaranteed for the life of the pet provided there are no lapses in cover.
How much cover do I need for my pet?
All policies will have a maximum amount that will be paid in the event of a claim. This amount generally ranges from $3,000 to $20,000. Within this maximum annual benefit, there are sub-limits applied for different conditions. When determining an appropriate level of cover for your pet, consider:
- The maximum benefit payable on the policy
- The breed of your pet and what it might cost to be treated (consult your insurance provider)
- Risks that your pet may face in your location
- What features the policy offers, are there some that you can do without?
What won't usually be covered?
- Pre-existing conditions such as any illnesses or injury before the policy was purchased. Pre-existing conditions can also include congenital and hereditary disorders.
- A malicious act, deliberate injury or gross negligence by you or even someone living with you.
- Treatment for diseases for which there is a known vaccine. This includes conditions like kennel cough and parvovirus.
- Some policies enforce a waiting period between 6 months to 1 year before covering cruciate ligament knee injuries.
- Vet costs for elective treatments. This can include things like orthodontic work or de-sexing.
- Routine vet care is also sometimes not covered, though you may be able to purchase specific additional cover for this.
- If you fail to take all the reasonable steps to care for your pet, including not following the instructions of your vet, you won’t be able to make a claim.
- Behavioural problems or any conditions caused by behavioural problems.
- Breeding or obstetrics, or any conditions resulting from these.
- Genetic testing.
- Grooming, including shampoos, baths, dips or any cosmetic surgeries.
- Transport or boarding expenses.
- Not all after hour vet care is covered.
- Training, socialisation and any alternative therapies.
- Any pet food or supplements, no matter whether they have been recommended by your vet or not.
- Ambulance fees and non-essential hospitalisation.
- Medication not approved or listed by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medication Authority.
- Organ transplant surgery, artificial limbs or prosthetics.
- Limitations on paralysis tick benefit.
It is important that you are aware of the exclusions of your pet insurance policy which can be found on your policy declarations page.Back to top
Should I purchase pet insurance or just put the money in a savings account?
According to the Australian Veterinary Association, pet owners spend an average of $450 per year on their furry best friends. This amount only covers standard treatments such as heartworm prevention and vaccinations and not the extra treatments and unexpected costs that your pet might incur throughout its life. With the ever rising (and fluctuating) cost of vet bills, pet owners are faced with the question of: Is pet insurance worth it or is it the smarter choice to set aside money to pay for veterinary expenses?
While self insuring has its benefits: you get to save more by not paying for monthly premiums, this method has its shortcomings as well. With the rising costs of vet care and the unpredictability of accidents, your pet might be in need of serious medical treatment before you have saved up enough money to cover for it. Should your pet develop an ongoing, chronic illness, looking for an affordable insurance policy at that point would be very difficult.
Tips to compare policies
- How much does it cost? Just like with any other type of cover, don’t select a pet insurance policy based purely on the price of the premiums. You’ll obviously need to take out cover you can afford on your budget, but remember to focus on the quality of the cover as well as how much you’re paying for it. Some policies will also offer you an additional excess in exchange for cheaper premiums.
- What excess will you be charged? Just like with your car insurance cover, an excess will apply to your pet insurance policy. Some policies will charge an excess for each claim that you make in a year. The excess is deducted from any rebate, so if your excess is $50 and your vet’s bill is $500, your policy will pay out $450.
- What is covered under each policy? Product disclosure statements might not make for thrilling reading, but wading through policy documents is a must to ensure you get the right cover. Check and compare policy limits and how claims are paid. Be wary of policy excesses and how often you’ll have to pay them, especially if you own an older pet who may require multiple claims. The features you’ll need will differ if you own a cat or a dog, so make sure you’re not paying for features you’ll never use.
- What is the age limit of the policy? Most insurers will require your pet to be under 8 years of age in order to be eligible for cover.
- Any discounts available? Some policies will offer discounts if you already have another type of cover in place or if you are getting cover for multiple pets.
- What is excluded? Similarly, take special note of each policy’s exclusions. What is each insurance provider’s approach to pre-existing conditions? Is anything you may need cover for not included in a policy and, if so, is it possible to arrange extra cover?
- How long does each policy cover chronic illnesses? Keep an eye out for time limits on coverage of chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart conditions.
- What are the additional options? Don’t simply skip past the additional options section when researching policies. Examine each extra-cost benefit and consider whether it could be a valuable inclusion for your pet’s coverage.
- Do you need to cover the bill upfront? In some cases you will need to cover the costs of the treatment upfront before claiming on the insurance.
- Veterinary bill reimbursement? Some companies cover 75%, most of them 80%. One even covers 100% of vets’ bills.
- Which policy matches my pet the best? Consider your pet’s personality and lifestyle and the conditions he or she may be more likely to face. In addition, some policies which are suitable for a puppy may not be as worthwhile as your pet ages, so make sure to find cover suitable for your pet’s life stage.
- How flexible is the coverage? Some pet insurance policies may limit you to visiting certain veterinarians or vet hospitals, so check to make sure what your policy does and does not allow you to do.
- Do I fully understand each policy? Don’t be shy to ask questions about each policy. If there’s any part of a policy you don’t understand, ask each provider for clarification or additional information.
- Where can I do more research? You can find a wealth of information about different pet insurance products from a variety of online sources. Visit forums and product review sites, or ask friends and fellow pet owners about their experiences with insurance providers. You can also ask your vet to see if he or she can offer any advice.
The good and not so good of pet insurance
- You can choose your level of cover, and emergency costs can be covered under some plans.
- You can save money by obtaining several quotes.
- Fatal pet diseases can be covered.
- You can get discounts if you insure more than one pet.
The not so good
- Pre-existing conditions are usually not covered, but each insurer can have a different interpretation of what is a pre-existing condition.
- Most policies will not cover pets over the age of 9 or if they do offer a very reduced level of cover.
- There can be limits or caps per accident or per year.
- Some specific breed conditions cannot be covered.
- Providers do not offer no-claims reimbursements, so what you spend on premium payments is gone.
Traps to avoid at all costs
Pet insurance policies generally provide good value, but you do need to pay attention to some details:
- Do not underestimate limits. Limits, combined with the excess, can considerably reduce the reimbursement percentage of pet insurance. For example, if you claim $2000, your compensation consists of 80% of the medical bills and you have an excess of $500, you will be reimbursed $1100.
- Paying premiums following pet's death. Premium payment payments should cease in the event of the pet's death. Some policies reportedly continued to charge premiums for a full year following the pet's death.
- Confusing policy information. Make sure you know exactly what you will/won't be covered for. Some provider websites and product documents tend to be overly confusing with no clear explanation of the terms and conditions. Make sure you know when a claim will/won't be paid before signing up for cover.
- Chronic care. You will need to check whether your pet’s chronic care is covered during subsequent years.
Some final questions you might have
Can I use my usual vet?
A. It depends on your company and plan. You need to check to see if your vet is included as a provider for the insurance company you are going to choose. Most policies will let you use any vet that is licensed to legally practice in Australia.
Do I have to provide a copy of my pets medical history?
Generally no but you will need to provide a brief history of any illnesses or injuries your pet has suffered prior to taking out the policy. This is part of your duty of disclosure in applying for cover for your pet.
What if my pet was adopted from a shelter?
You will need to provide a copy of the documentation provided from the shelter the pet was adopted from.
Can I get cover for multiple pets at once?
Yes. Most companies will let you take out cover for multiple pets at once with some offering multi-policies discounts for doing so.
I can't remember my pet's age....is that an issue?
Most companies will let you provide an estimate of your pet's age when applying for cover. If you can't provide an estimate, it is likely they will recommend you seek the advice of a veterinarian.
Can I cancel my policy at any time?
Yes, you can cancel the policy at any time. If you have already paid your policy in full for the entire year, you may be able to receive a refund for the period of cover that has not yet been used.
Can my pet insurance company pay my vet directly?
Yes. In most cases the insurance brand can arrange to pay most vets directly if there is a vet fees claim. You must verify with your vet if they are happy to do this and they will need to complete the necessary paperwork.
How do I renew my pet's policy?
Most pet insurance policies will require for your pet to be under eight years of age when starting the policy. The policy is then renewed automatically each year provided there are no gaps in cover.
Will my pet insurance premiums increase?
Your pet insurance premiums are likely to increase each year to keep pace with advances in diagnostic, medical and surgical procedures.
How do I make a claim for pet insurance?
You can make a pet insurance claim online or via post. Here is the step by step how to.
- Log into your account on your pet insurance provider’s website. If you are a new member, signup or register.
- Upload a copy of the invoice and consultation notes from your visit. If this is your first claim, attach your pet’s medical history as well.
- Your claim will then be processed and you will be reimbursed either via cheque or direct bank transfer.
Claims via Mail
- Download the relevant forms or have one sent to you by your pet insurance provider. Fill in the details. You may have to ask your vet to fill out applicable sections of the form.
- Include invoices and receipts and consultation notes.
- If this is your first claim, include your pet’s full medical history as well.
- Post the completed form and supporting documents to the address given.
- Your claim will then be processed and you will be reimbursed either via cheque or direct bank transfer.