Know what to look for in pet insurance so you can find the policy that matches your pets needs.
Pet insurance is a lot like health insurance for humans. By signing up for a plan, you can get the majority of your veterinary bills reimbursed as well as other expenses such as neutering, regular check-ups and even council registration fees with certain plans. More than half of Australian households have cats or dogs, but as of 2013 less than 5% of them were insured.
As developments in medical technology move into veterinary science, our animals are living longer but costing more. A pet insurance plan means you’re able to give your pet the medical care they need. It’s an important and largely affordable type of cover, and when things go wrong it easily delivers value for money.
Compare policies available from Australian brands
Is pet insurance worth it?
The cost of vet fees is largely down to luck. The same medical condition might have a straightforward solution or it might be exceptionally complicated as can be seen in the following statistics taken from Hollard Insurance in 2014:
- The average cost of a pet ear infection claim was $234, while the highest was $8,780
- The average diabetes claim was $1,626, but the highest was almost $17,000.
These costs are enough to give anyone pause. The good news is that there are plans available to suit almost anyone, and you can customise your policy to make sure it fits your budget, although they do tend to get more expensive with age, depending on the animal.
To get $10,000’s worth of cover for a typical three-year-old dog will cost the following:
- Accident-only cover costs an average of $360 per year
- Accident and illness cover costs about $600 per year
- Comprehensive cover for dogs, with cover for accidents, illnesses and routine care, costs approximately $700 a year.
Costs are lower for cats. A $10,000 accident-only plan for cats costs about $330, and a comprehensive one is around $470 per year.
When things go wrong, pet insurance easily delivers value for money. Almost all pets will have medical emergencies at some point, and pet insurance is often a life saver.
How to compare pet insurance plans
There are two different types of cover.
Accident-only pet insurance. This insurance covers medical costs resulting from accidents. Generally, this type of cover refers to specific causes as well as certain types of injury.
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Allergic reactions to insect bites other than fleas or ticks
- Bone fractures
- Snake bite toxicity
- Traumatic ligament or tendon injuries
- Bite or fight wounds
- Lacerations, cuts, scratches and abrasions caused by external physical forces
Illness cover. This cover can pay for the medical costs of illnesses and diseases. Generally, this will cover all diseases and illnesses except for those which the policy specifically excludes.
Comprehensive policies will always include both forms of cover. More affordable basic policies might be accident-only or might include both types of cover but with lower limits and certain other differences.
Some policies will automatically include routine care extras and additional benefits or will let you optionally select them.
- Routine care extras. This cover reimburses a certain amount per year for pet ownership expenses such as neutering, microchipping and other expenses.
- Additional benefits: Most policies include these and can help cover the costs of emergency boarding, essential euthanasia, certain paralysis tick expenses and overseas pet insurance for when your pet is outside of Australia.
How much can I get reimbursed per year?
Different plans will reimburse you for different amounts. All policies have an annual limit. This varies, but is generally around $5,000 for basic accident-only cover, $10,000 for standard accident and illness cover, and can be over $15,000 with comprehensive policies.
Sub-limits may apply to certain conditions. Cruciate ligament ailments, for example, are a common problem in dogs and policies will generally have a special cruciate ligament sub-limit of $2,000 to $3,000 per year.
What percentage of vet fees is covered?
In Australia, most plans will reimburse you for 80% of vet bills, but it is possible to find policies which fully cover 100% of vet bills, up to the annual limit of the policy.
What’s the excess?
Just like car insurance, an excess will often apply. Unlike car insurance, you have a lot of freedom to choose your own. You can opt for a $0 excess at the cost of higher premiums or a $100 or $200 excess for lower premiums.
Is my pet covered for life?
It’s important to check whether a policy gives you lifetime cover for your pet. Most medical costs increase with age, and the older your pet is the more you’ll be using your policy. As such, most insurers won’t let you take out a new policy on pets more than nine years old.
Instead, you can get lifetime cover, no matter how old the animal is, by picking a policy that comes with guaranteed renewability. This means that as long as you get it before the age of nine and maintain your policy, you’ll have pet insurance cover no matter how old your pet is.
Are there exclusions?
Exclusions are circumstances where an insurer will not pay a claim. You will find the following exclusions in almost all pet insurance policies, but it’s essential that you go through the insurance policy to look for any others.
- Pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing conditions are typically not covered, but you may be able to arrange special coverage with your insurer for an extra cost.
- Entry age. Most insurers will not cover pets younger than eight weeks, and you typically can’t take out a new policy on pets more than nine years old.
- Make sure you vaccinate. Vaccinations ward off many preventable diseases. Most insurers will not cover unvaccinated pets for conditions that are preventable.
- Take reasonable care. If you fail to take reasonable steps to look after your pet, your insurer has the right to reject your claim. For example, if you keep your dog in an unfenced yard right next to a busy road, you might not be covered if your pet gets hit by a car. You are also generally required to follow your vet’s advice and otherwise properly care for your pet.
- Breeding. Many policies exclude all conditions related to breeding and pregnancy.
Compare comprehensive pet insurance policies
Get a high level of cover for accidents, illnesses, routine care costs and additional benefits.
|Annual limit||Percent reimbursed||Excess||Lifetime cover||Extras|
|Woolworths||$12,000||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200||Renewal guarantee||Routine care and additional benefits included|
|Pet Insurance Australia||$15,145||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200||Renewal guarantee||Routine care and additional benefits included|
|Australia Post||$15,000||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200||Renewal guarantee||Additional benefits, optional routine care|
|Bow Wow Meow||Choice of $8,000 or $12,000||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200 or $500||Renewal guarantee||Additional benefits, optional routine care|
Compare basic pet insurance policies
An affordable basic policy can help you save while still giving you a range of options.
|Cover types||Annual limit||Percent reimbursed||Excess||Lifetime cover||Extras|
|Woolworths||Accident and illness||$5,000||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200||Renewal guarantee||Additional benefits|
|Pet Insurance Australia||Accident only||$8,000||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200||Renewal guarantee||Additional benefits|
|Australia Post||Accident and illness||$3,000||65%||$0, $100 or $200||No age limit for new policies||Additional benefits, optional routine care|
Bow Wow Meow
|Accident only||Choice of $8,000 or $12,000||Up to 80%||$0, $100 or $200 or $500||Renewal guarantee||Additional benefits|
Your initial quote is just the beginning, and there are other ways to change the cost of your policy.
- Change your excess: A lower excess isn’t always preferable because it translates into higher premiums. Similarly, a high excess can get you lower premiums.
- Use routine care: When utilised to its fullest extent, the routine care extra can help you save a bit more money every year and keep your vet bills down.
- Take good care of your friend: This means exercising, playing, grooming and making sure you have a happy dog or cat.
- Use discounts: Finding discounts is an easy and effective way of spending less on pet insurance.
It’s important to compare a wide range of different policies and to get quotes from a number of different insurers. All pet insurance policies in Australia are similar, but it’s their differences which determine the one that’s right for your pet.