Your guide to getting accident and medical pet insurance
Compare accident and illness policies
What is covered?
Accident and medical (or accident and illness) policies cover harm from accidents such as injuries caused by cars, burns, allergic reactions to insect bites and broken bones. These policies will also cover illnesses diagnosed by a vet, ranging from minor infections to cancer.
Some insurance companies use different names for their policies, such as standard care or premium package, which means it’s not always easy to compare cover. An easy way to differentiate between policies is to look at the annual benefit limit, which is usually the first part of the package listed. Accident cover will generally be the cheapest* option, comprehensive will be the most expensive and accident and illness will be in the middle.
Additional options to consider
Some accident and medical policies offer the addition of routine care cover, which can include desexing. Even if you decide that your cat or dog will be an indoor pet and unlikely to come into unsupervised contact with other animals, it's important to consider the cost of a pregnancy.
For breeds such as the pug and English bulldog, pregnancy almost always results in a Caesarean, due to being bred to have wide heads and narrow pelvises. While neutering (also known as spaying or desexing) may not always be covered by accident and medical policies, it's worth looking into.
What exclusions should I be aware of?
Many accident and illness policies do not cover pre-existing or hereditary conditions, unless your pet was not presenting any clinical symptoms at the time of insuring. Preventable illnesses, which are illnesses that can be prevented with a vaccine or some other measure, are not covered either. If they occur, the insurer considers the owner to be at fault for not taking preventative measures. Accident and medical policies don’t typically cover dental work or elective treatments.
Benefits to look out for
When choosing the best* policy for your pet, it’s important to look beyond the basic cost and examine the benefits that most suit your pet. Pets in Australia are more at risk of snake bites and ticks, so it pays to see which policies will cover those treatments. There are also some policies that cover more uncommon events such as emergency boarding if you are hospitalised and unable to look after your pet.
How much excess will I be charged?
As accident and illness cover is essentially middle-ground cover. It has more benefits than basic accident cover but may offer less reimbursement on vet bills than comprehensive cover. The excess usually refers to your contribution before you make the claim. While the exact amount you’ll pay varies, the average rebate for accident and medical cover is 75-80% (you’ll generally pay the same whether insuring cats or dogs). Some policies will require you to pay an excess after the rebate, which may depend on the age of your pet, and some policies will allow you to set an excess level – though this will affect the premiums you pay.
What impacts what I pay?
Breed. A factor that often affects the cost of the policy is the breed of the pet. While this is unlikely to be a factor for insuring cats, it often is for dogs. Purebred or pedigree dogs are often more expensive to insure as they have more breed-related inherited conditions.
Adopted pets. If your pet is from a shelter, you may not know all the details about their age, breed or health. Before seeking insurance, make sure you take your pet to the vet for a full check-up and ask them about any health problems they may be likely to develop.
Age. Another factor to consider is age. Many pet insurance companies will charge an extra fee for insuring older animals as they are more likely to develop health issues. Some companies do not insure pets at all if they are beyond a certain age, usually eight to nine years, so you should insure your pet as early as possible to avoid this. Most policies allow you to insure pets as young as eight weeks old.
Policy breaks. Additionally, some insurance companies will charge you if you have a break in your policy. You may choose a policy with one company when your pet is young because they offer better coverage for age-specific concerns like vaccinations and neutering. If you choose to switch to a cheaper* company as your pet matures, but then choose to go back to the original policy, you may be charged an additional fee. You may not also be covered by the conpany's lifetime cover guarantee.
Similarly, staying with one company throughout the life of your pet can result in lower cost, as can having multiple pets covered by the same insurer.
What to look for when comparing policies
- Does the policy have restricted cover depending on age or breed?
- Within the yearly claim limit, are there sub-categories such as a cap on surgery claims or dental work?
- Is the cost likely to change as your pet ages?
- Can you claim multiple times for a recurring condition or illness?
- How soon does the cover come into effect?
- Do they offer a discount for insuring multiple pets?
- Do they have restrictions on which vets you can visit?
- Are the premiums payable annually or in instalments?
- Do they have cancellation restrictions or fees?
*Disclaimer: The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best', 'Top', 'Cheap' including variations, are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.