Find pet insurance to cover up to 80% of your vet bills for injury, illnesses and routine care.
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
|Policy||Vets Billed Covered||Cover Eligibility age|
|Australia Post Gold Pet Plan||80% / $15,000 limit||8 weeks - 9 years old|
|Woolworths Comprehensive Pet Insurance||80% / $12,000 limit||8 weeks - 9 years old|
|Pet Insurance Australia Major Medical Cover||80% / $15,145 limit||8 weeks - 9 years old|
|Bow Wow Meow Comprehensive Plan||80% / $12,000 limit||8 weeks - 9 years old|
What does pet insurance generally cover?
- Illness. Helps pay veterinary, pharmaceutical and other costs related to illness.
- Accidental injury. Covers veterinary expenses related to accidental injuries, such as broken bones.
- Routine care. Cover for the cost of routine pet care expenses, such as deworming, desexing, teeth cleaning, dog training courses, prescription diets and more.
You can choose policies to combine these three types of cover as desired. Comprehensive pet insurance plans typically include all three.
How does illness and accidental injury cover work?
Whether your pet insurance covers a specific illness may depend on what kind of condition it is. Conditions are typically divided into the following categories:
- Skin conditions
- Infectious diseases
- Hereditary and congenital conditions
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Ear and eye conditions
- Joint and ligament conditions
The exact treatments, whether for injury or illness, listed in a policy are the ones you may claim. You will typically find the following treatments and ailments listed:
- Cancer treatment
- Consultations and visits
- After hours emergency visits
- Specialist care
- Diagnostic and laboratory tests
- Medication and drugs
- Tick paralysis benefits
How does routine care cover work?
Routine care refers to the ongoing costs of having a pet, and the policy benefits can vary widely. For example, some of the more comprehensive policies might even cover peripheral costs like council registration fees and cremation or burial.
In many cases, you will be able to choose specific routine care extras to go along with illness and accidental injury cover. You may be able to select the following covers:
- Prescription diets
- Preventative medication
- Teeth cleaning
- Council registration fees
- Required tests such as blood screening
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.
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.
Whether you get value for your money in the long run depends on the terms of your policy, so it’s important to know what to look for. You should pay special attention to the following:
You can calculate the total possible value of your cover by looking at your policy’s total benefit limits. These are the maximum amounts you can claim per year.
- Total benefit limits typically range from about $5,000 per year with basic cover to around $15,000 per year with comprehensive policies.
- Total limits are typically higher for dog insurance than cat insurance.
There are also limits for specific treatments or specific types of claim. For example, you may have a sub-limit of $1,500 per year for cruciate ligament surgery. This means you cannot claim more than $1,500 for cruciate ligament surgery in a 12-month period.
- You can typically expect to find sublimits in almost all pet insurance policies.
- Where applicable, sublimits will usually be higher with more comprehensive policies.
The excess is the amount that you must pay when you make a claim, and it has a big impact on the value of your cover.
Proportion of expenses covered
Just like health insurance extras for humans, pet insurance will often pay a set percentage of costs.
- Depending on the insurer and the policy, this will typically range from 70% to 100%.
- Most policies will not cover 100% of costs, and you’ll generally need to pay the remainder yourself.
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 should I know about pre-existing conditions with pet insurance?
Pre-existing conditions are those which were present in some form prior to taking out a policy or during the waiting period immediately afterwards. For example, if your dog already shows symptoms of a cruciate ligament condition before you take out a policy, then it’s pre-existing and the insurer might not cover it. This can apply even if the symptoms were in the right leg and the eventual condition was in the left or if you made the claim years after the symptoms first appeared. Typically, the following are considered pre-existing conditions:
- Any conditions previously diagnosed
- Any conditions that showed symptoms before you took out cover
- Any conditions previously treated or in remission
Getting pet insurance early means you’re more likely to be able to claim costs for conditions that develop early in the pet’s life. However, insurers are within their rights to adjust the cost or terms of your policy afterwards to reflect the increased cost. To ensure continuity of cover in these circumstances, you can look for a lifetime pet insurance policy, or one that comes with guaranteed future insurability.
What else won't usually be covered?
- 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.
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.
Steps to compare policies
To make sure your policy is worth it, consider how much it saves you each year in regular costs, how much it’s likely to save in serious vet bills, and how much it costs. You can maximise value by taking out cover early in your pet’s life before your pet has a chance to develop pre-existing conditions and by making sure the cover doesn’t lapse.
If you do this, it can be a good idea to look for a guaranteed future insurability option.
- This means that as long as you keep up with the premium payments, you can renew your cover. This way, even if your pet develops severe, and expensive, health issues later in life, you’ll have insurance.
You can also get more value by including and using routine care. You can find routine care cover for almost anything you need, including behaviour training, prescription diets, microchipping and many other unavoidable costs.
- Utilised fully, routine care cover often provides good value for your money. The catch is that some of the more useful options may only be available with comprehensive policies, and the exact type of cover can vary widely.
- Online discounts. Simply by signing up online instead of over the phone, you can get significantly lower prices.
- Multi-policy discounts. These may be available when you have other policies, such as car insurance, with a provider.
- Multi-pet discounts. You can get increasing discounts for every animal that needs cover.
- Loyalty rewards. By staying with the same insurer, you can grow loyalty discounts over time.
To make sure you aren’t spending more than you need, you should also check for existing cover before taking out a policy. Many home and contents insurance policies, for example, will come with optional pet insurance.
- The cover offered by these might not be a complete replacement, but it can let you cut costs. For instance, if a home insurance policy includes emergency kennelling cover then you might want to exclude this from your pet insurance to avoid paying for the same cover twice.
Like other insurance, pet cover policies will often let you choose your own extras. Some policies will let you pick and choose only the routine care cover you want and may offer other benefits. Consider each on its own merits, and look for the ones you want or are more likely to use. The following are options to consider:
- Emergency boarding. If you are hospitalised or in an emergency situation, pet insurance policies can cover the cost of boarding for your pet until you’re able to get home again.
- Overseas pet travel insurance. Extends your cover overseas. If you only travel with your pet occasionally, or always get separate travel insurance with pet cover when you do, then it might be worth specifically avoiding this option.
- Obedience training. If your pet is already well socialised, then you might not need this option.
- Council fees. These expenses will vary depending on where you live, and it can be worth comparing the cost of this extra against how much it’s actually worth in your circumstances.
Making sure your pet insurance is worth it largely comes down to picking out a policy that suits your needs and those of your friend. The trick is to find the right pet insurance policy for you. Sometimes this might be the cheapest policy with only essential cover, while at other times it might be a pricier and more comprehensive option.
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.
Avoid these traps 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?
Most policies will let you use any vet that is licensed to legally practice in Australia, but you should check that your vet is included as a provider for the insurance company you are considering.
Do I have to provide a copy of my pet’s medical history?
You generally won’t need to provide a full medical history, but will need to disclose any illnesses or injuries your pet has suffered prior to taking out the policy.
What if my pet was adopted from a shelter?
You will need to provide a copy of the documentation provided by the pet shelter.
Can I get cover for multiple pets at once?
Yes. Most companies will let you get cover for multiple pets, with some offering multi-policies discounts when you do.
What happens if I can’t remember how old my pet is?
Most companies will let you provide an estimate of your pet's age when applying for cover. Some insurers might ask you to consult a vet for a more precise estimate.
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 you did not use.
Can my pet insurance pay the vet directly?
Yes. When you make a vet fees claim, many insurance brands can pay them directly. You should check with your vet first as they will need to complete the necessary paperwork.
How do I renew my cover?
Most pet insurance policies will require 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?
Can I get pet insurance for horses?
Yes. Specialised equine insurance has cover more suited to horses.
Should I get specialised dog or cat insurance?
A specialised policy for dogs or cats is not inherently preferable to general pet insurance. Consider cat or dog insurance policies on their own merits, just as you would compare other policies.
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.