Looking for the best* cover for your pet but don't know to start? Compare your options here.
As the level of veterinary care available to our pets has continued to advance, the cost of vet bills has also increased. While this is wonderful for our four-legged friends, sometimes the bills for unexpected injuries and illnesses can be simply too much for owners to afford. Every vet in Australia will be able to relate stories of dog or cat owners who simply adore their pets, but had to have them put to sleep because they were unable to afford the cost of treatment.
This is an undoubtedly painful and heartbreaking situation, but it’s one you can avoid. Pet insurance is designed to provide cover for up to 80% of the vet bills for unexpected emergencies. You can take out accident only cover, accident and illness cover or a comprehensive insurance plan, and also tailor your policy to help cover the cost of routine care items like vaccinations and vet check-ups.
Receive quotes for pet insurance from these Australian brands
Compare some pet insurance policies for 2017
|Policy||Percentage of Bills Covered||Maximum Annual Limit|
|RSPCA Ultimate Cover||80%||$11,000|
|Woolworths Comprehensive Cover||80%||$12,000|
|Pet Insurance Australia Major Medical Cover||80%||$15,000|
|Bow Wow Meow Comprehensive Plan||80%||$12,000|
What cover should the best* policy provide?
For pet owners on a tight budget, a no-frills pet insurance policy can provide adequate protection for your pet and your finances. If you want to give your pet the highest protection money can buy, you may want to consider a comprehensive pet insurance policy. While the exact cover offered under such a policy differs between providers, a comprehensive plan will typically include cover for:
- Accidental injury. Your insurer will pay a percentage (usually around 80%) of the vet expenses you incur when treating an accidental injury to your pet. Injuries include those sustained in car accidents, from snake bites, allergic reactions to insect bites, injuries from falls, bone fractures, ligament and tendon injuries and more. You’ll be able to claim up to a certain amount each year, for example up to a limit of $10,000.
- Illness. If your pet suffers a specified illness, your policy will cover up to 80% of the veterinary costs you incur as a result. This can include cover for imaging services, cancer treatments, and treatment for a range of common illnesses. However, you will not be covered if your pet contracts an illness which it could have been vaccinated for, or if its illness is related to a pre-existing condition.
- Emergency boarding. If you are your pet’s sole carer and you are hospitalised for more than five consecutive days, a comprehensive policy usually provides cover for the cost of finding emergency boarding for your pet.
- Essential euthanasia. In cases where euthanasia is deemed as the most humane option and an essential course of action by your vet, the cost of having your pet euthanised is usually covered.
- Paralysis tick benefit. If your pet requires treatment for tick paralysis, this policy option will ensure that the cost of this treatment is covered up to a certain amount. However, keep in mind that things like tick preventative treatments are not covered.
- Overseas travel insurance. Your policy may offer cover if your pet requires veterinary treatment while travelling with you overseas, usually up to 60 days.
- Routine care. This optional benefit can be added on to comprehensive policies and provides benefits to help you pay for preventative health care procedures for your pet, such as vet check-ups and vaccinations.
How do brands compare on maximum cover?
The next two sections use four brands listed on finder.com.au to show how maximum cover can compare between brands.
The total benefit limits are important. These are the total amounts you can claim in a 12-month period. Vet bills can often exceed $1,000 in a year, and one-off costs for injury can quickly exceed this amount if something goes wrong. Pet insurance is designed to prevent the risk of being faced with unaffordable costs, and higher total limits do more to reduce this risk.
Which insurer has the highest limits?
|Woolworths||Pet Insurance Australia||Bow Wow Meow||Australia Post|
|Basic||$5,000 of accident and illness cover||$8,000 of accidental injury cover||$8,000 of accidental injury cover||$3,000 of accidental injury and illness cover, optional routine care|
|Mid-level||$10,000 of accident and illness cover||$15,000 of accidental injury and illness cover||Choice of $8,000 or $12,000 of accidental injury and illness cover, optional routine care||$10,000 of accidental injury and illness cover, optional routine care|
|Comprehensive||$12,000 of accident, illness and routine care cover||$15,145 of accidental injury, illness and routine care cover||Choice of $8,000 or $12,000 of accidental injury and illness cover, optional routine care||$15,000 of accidental injury and illness cover, optional routine care|
How does cover compare between these brands?
The real differences between insurers are revealed when you look at the benefits in detail. The table below lets you see them side by side.
- Boxes marked with a grey tick mean the insurer does not offer this type of cover with basic policies
- The sections with a green tick mean that this type of cover is included in all policies from the insurer
|Woolworths||Pet Insurance Australia (PIA)||Bow Wow Meow||Australia Post|
|Reimbursement||Choose your own level||80%||Choose your own level||65% with basic, 80% with mid and comprehensive|
|Excess||$0 or $200 with basic, $0 or $100 with mid and comprehensive||Choice of $0, $100 or $200. Only $200 with comprehensive||Choice of $0, $100, $200 and $500||Choice of $0, $100 or $200. Must choose $200 for pets over 6 years old with basic policies|
|Waiting periods||30 days for illness and tick paralysis, 6 months for cruciate ligament||30 days for illness and tick paralysis, 6 months for cruciate ligament||30 days for illness and tick paralysis, 6 months for cruciate ligament||30 days for illness and tick paralysis, 6 months for cruciate ligament|
|Lifetime cover availability||Guaranteed renewability||Guaranteed renewability. 9-year age limit for new illness cover||Guaranteed renewability. 9-year age limit for new illness cover||Guaranteed renewability|
|Tick paralysis benefit||$1,000 per year with basic and mid, $1,500 with comprehensive||No cover with basic, $1,000 with mid and comprehensive||Choose your own sublimit||$1,000 sublimit with basic and mid, $1,500 with comprehensive|
|Emergency boarding||$500, $1,000 and $1,200 sublimits respectively with basic, mid and comprehensive||$500, $1,000 and $1,200 sublimits respectively with basic, mid and comprehensive||Choose your own sublimit||$500, $1,000 and $1,200 sublimits respectively with basic, mid and comprehensive|
|Ear and eye conditions|
|Skin conditions and allergies|
|Consultation and visits||$300 sublimit. No cover with basic||$300 sublimit||$300 sublimit||$300 sublimit|
|After-hours emergency visits|
|Laboratory and diagnostic tests||No CT or MRI with basic cover|
|Cruciate ligament conditions||$1,500 sublimit with basic, $2,600 sublimit with mid and comprehensive||$2,600 sublimit||No sub-limits||$2,600 sub-limit|
|Hereditary and congenital conditions|
|Overseas pet travel insurance|
- Reimbursement. The percentage of expenses covered by pet insurance.
- Excess. You will need to pay this amount out of pocket for each separate claim.
- Waiting periods. You cannot make these kinds of claims within a certain period of time after taking out a policy, or after increasing the cover of an existing policy.
- Sublimits. The maximum amount you can get for a specific type of claim in a 12-month period. The total benefit limit applies to your entire policy, while sub-limits may apply to individual benefits.
- Lifetime cover availability. All these insurers offer lifetime cover if you keep up with your premiums. However, if your pet is currently over the age of nine you can only get illness cover with Woolworths or Australia Post out of the insurers on the finder panel.
As mentioned, you can choose from a variety of policy options that are designed to meet the needs and budgets of a range of pet owners. If you opt for a no-frills policy, you’ll obviously have to pay less than you will if you take out a comprehensive plan.
On top of this, there are other factors that will influence how much you have to pay for your premiums. These include:
- Your location. Your premium is based on the risk your pet poses to an insurer, something which can obviously be influenced by your location. For example, your pet may be more likely to be bitten by a snake or by certain insects in specific areas of the country.
- Your pet’s age. Just like with humans, older pets tend to pose more of a risk than their younger counterparts. Our pets experience more health issues as they age and also take longer to recover from injuries and illnesses.
- Your pet’s breed. Certain breeds are more likely to suffer from certain medical issues, as genetic predispositions may make them more likely to suffer certain injuries or illnesses. In addition, larger dog breeds generally cost more to treat and to look after than smaller dogs, so you can expect this to influence your premium costs.
- Your selected deductible/reimbursement levels. What proportion of your vet bills will your policy cover and up to what limit each year? The price of your premiums will also be affected by any optional extras you choose to add to your cover.
|Labrador||6||Comprehensive Accident & Illness||$1155|
|Labrador||6||Basic Accident Cover||$413|
|Labrador||8||Comprehensive Accident & Illness||$1352|
|Labrador||8||Basic Accident Cover||$413|
What levels of cover are available in Australia?
As a nation, Australia boasts one of the highest incidences of pet ownership in the world. It’s estimated that there are more than 25 million pets in Australia, so there are many different policy options available to suit the needs and budgets of different pet owners.
- Accident-only cover. As the name suggests, this provides cover for up to 80% of your vet bills if your pet is injured in an accident. This includes injuries from car accidents, snake bites, allergic reactions to insect bites, burns and falls. However, it’s important to remember that tick and flea bites are commonly not covered. This is a no-frills option and is designed to offer essential and affordable cover for most pet owners.
- Accident and illness policy. In addition to the accidents mentioned above, this type of policy will also provide cover for the vet bills you could be slugged with if your pet suffers one of a range of illnesses. This will typically include cancer, skin conditions, hereditary problems and other infectious diseases. However, remember that pre-existing conditions and illnesses that can be vaccinated against will be excluded from cover.
- Comprehensive cover. In addition to the accidents and illnesses already mentioned, you’ll be able to add cover for routine care. This may include vaccinations, vet check-ups, obedience training, heartworm prevention and other preventative treatments.
What should I look for when comparing policies?
When you’re doing a comparison of competing pet insurance policies, make sure to compare the following features:
- Cooling-off period. How long do you have from the policy commencement date to make sure that you are happy with the features of your policy? A longer cooling-off period gives you more time to change your mind about cover should you need to.
- The maximum age accepted for new applications. Some policies will not cover your pet once it reaches a certain age.
- Renewal of policy. Check whether your policy can be set up to be automatically renewed every year. This saves you the hassle of taking out a new policy every year, but remember that you’ll have to continue paying premiums to maintain cover.
- What is covered under the policy. You’ll need to read product disclosure statements closely to determine the exact level of coverage offered. Does one policy offer cover for a wider range of illness, injuries and treatments than another? Weigh up the pros and cons of each level of cover.
- What is excluded. Just like any other form of insurance, a pet insurance policy will contain a list of exclusions. These will include pre-existing conditions, illnesses which your pet can be vaccinated for, and circumstances where you have not acted reasonably to safeguard your pet’s health. Check out the list of exclusions on each policy to make sure you know exactly when cover will and will not apply.
- Excess. Excesses typically range from $0-500, so this can obviously have a big impact on the effectiveness and affordability of your policy. Knowing how much you will have to pay when you make a claim can save you from a nasty surprise in the future.
- The percentage of vet bills that will be covered. This generally ranges between 65% - 80%. It’s crucial to understand what you are liable to pay so you can assess if the veterinary treatment is affordable to you. Even if the policy appears to cover 100% of some costs, check the terms and conditions of your policy to check if the age or breed of your pet means that you are required to pay additional cover.
- Policy flexibility. Keep an eye out for a range of flexible options that can help you tailor a policy to your needs. Does a policy offer flexible premium repayment options, such as the ability to pay weekly or perhaps monthly? What about when you want to cancel your policy — do you have to pay a fee or jump through any other hoops to do so? How easy is it to lodge a claim and how quickly are claims processed?
- Other features. A range of other features you should look out for include the minimum and maximum age at which your pet can take out cover, the percentage of your vet bills that can be paid, as well as whether or not a tick paralysis benefit is provided. You can also check whether hereditary conditions are covered, how the reimbursement amount is determined, whether any limits or caps apply, and whether the policy limit is calculated on a per-claim or per-year basis.
How do I find the best* policies?
While there is no singular method to determine the "best*" pet insurance policy, a good way to find the right policy for your dog or cat is to shop around and do plenty of research. To help you on your shopping adventure, consider the following steps when looking for cover.
- Consider your cover requirements. How much cover do you want for your pet? Do you want basic cover, accident and illness cover or a comprehensive policy? Think about how you would manage to pay vet bills without an insurance policy in place, as well as what cover limit would be suitable for you.
- Read reviews online. One of the most sensible things to do when looking for pet insurance is to read reviews online. There are plenty of review sites that give you the opportunity to learn about other people’s experiences with insurers and individual policies. The internet is a great resource and easy to use, but remember to use common sense when assessing the veracity and accuracy of each review.
- Receive a range of different quotes. Don’t simply sign up for the first pet insurance policy you come across. Instead, obtain multiple quotes for a range of policies to get an idea of how much you will have to pay and the value of cover. It’s quick and simple to get all the quotes you want online.
- Read the policy conditions and watch out for the fine print. Reading product disclosure statements might not be much fun, but it is a necessary step in the insurance buying process. Doing this will help give you a more accurate assessment of just how much each quote you receive is truly worth. Look at the benefits, limits and exclusions offered by each policy, as this will ensure you know exactly when you are and are not covered.
- Compare the price to the cover provided. Look for a policy that offers a good balance between an affordable price and the level of cover available. This involves taking a number of factors into account to ensure you end up with the right policy.
- Choose a reputable company. It’s important that you choose an insurance provider with a solid and upstanding reputation. In order to do so, take into account the range of policies the company offers, any rewards it has received, who the policies are underwritten by and the company’s reputation within the industry. It’s also a good idea to compare the quality of the customer service offered by different providers — for example, whether the company can be reached 24 hours a day and how fast are claims processed — and a range of reviews from previous customers.
*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' and 'Top' 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.