Think of all the medical treatment you need throughout your life: check-ups, medications, X-rays, surgery. Our pets aren't much different. And since they're not eligible for Medicare, those costs can add up quickly. Comprehensive pet insurance covers accidents and illnesses and can also help out with the little stuff like vaccines, worming and teeth cleaning.
Want to protect your pet? Compare comprehensive policies
Featuring Guide Dogs Pet Insurance
Featuring Guide Dogs Pet Insurance
Protect your furry friend while supporting Guide Dogs Australia.
Get back up to 85% of eligible vet bills – as much as $20,000 per year
$3,200 cruciate ligament conditions benefit and up to $2,000 tick paralysis benefit
No maximum age limit for illness cover, unlike other insurers
Why are we highlighting this product? Guide Dogs Pet Insurance offers the highest reimbursement rate, annual benefit limit, cruciate ligament and tick paralysis benefit among the pet insurers on our site. They're also the only insurer that covers your pet for illness if it's over 9 years old. While we do get compensated by Guide Dogs Pet Insurance, this doesn't influence our recommendation.
Comprehensive policies will generally cover the following:
Accident cover. Helps cover vet fees relating to physical injuries, such as electrocution, broken bones, fractures and snake bites.
Illness cover. Reimburses you for all vet bills, up to the limits and chosen reimbursement percentage of your policy, except for certain conditions that are specifically excluded.
Routine care allowance. This is usually an optional add-on providing benefits to spend on routine care expenses, such as microchipping, neutering and teeth cleaning.
Additional benefits. Gives your pet emergency boarding cover, overseas pet cover, tick paralysis benefits and can cover the cost of essential, humane euthanasia.
What to look for in a comprehensive policy
One insurer’s comprehensive policy might be equivalent to a mid-level policy from a different insurer. You’ll need to look at a few specific factors when choosing the pet policy that’s right for you.
What does it cover? It’s usually clear whether a given plan has both accident and illness cover, but you will need to look for some of the less common additions, such as dental cover, and check the exclusions.
How much does it reimburse you? Pet insurance policies reimburse you a certain percentage of medical costs. The typical amount for comprehensive cover is 80%, but it’s possible to find policies that go all the way up to 100% reimbursement, at the cost of higher premiums.
What’s the annual limit? The annual limit is the total amount you can claim per year. Comprehensive plans typically provide around $15,000 of cover, but once again it’s possible to find higher limits with select policies of up to $20,000. Sub-limits will also typically apply to specific conditions, such as cruciate ligament claims.
General exclusions include the following:
Medical expenses relating to pre-existing conditions
Costs relating to breeding or obstetrics
Injuries or illnesses relating to the use of an animal for commercial purposes
Day to day costs, such as pet food, accessories and grooming, even if prescribed or recommended by your vet
Specific preventative procedures, such as flea, tick or worm control. However, the actual treatment of conditions arising from these may still be covered by certain policies.
Specific training, socialisation and alternative therapy costs as specified in the policy, even if recommended by your vet
Elective procedures that are not part of the prescribed treatment for a specific condition
Cell replacement therapies, except blood transfusions when medically necessary
Treatments other than those recommended by your vet
The exclusions are not necessarily set in stone. If you want cover for something in particular, such as a specific type of alternative therapy, then you may be able to adjust your policy in consultation with your insurer at an extra cost. Similarly, if you disagree with your vet’s recommendation at some point and want to pursue a different treatment path, you may be able to clear it with your insurer and get it covered. In both cases, you’ll need to get this clearly stated in writing.
Most insurers will set age limits for new policies, and you cannot typically take out a policy for animals older than nine years old. Generally, there are two different ways to get cover for pets older than this.
Guaranteed renewability. Look for insurers with “renewal guaranteed” or a similar lifetime cover option. This is available from most insurers and simply means that as long as you take out a policy before your pet is nine years old and maintain cover without letting it lapse, you are able to keep it in place regardless of your pet’s age.
No age limit. Certain policies do not carry any age limit, but often these will be basic accident-only cover policies.
In Australia, the ideal way to make sure your pet has comprehensive medical and accident cover after the age of nine is to take out a policy before your dog reaches this age and maintain your cover.
Even if you get the most comprehensive policy available from an insurer, it probably won’t include dental cover unless you’ve specifically asked for it. This may be worth doing so, as many cat and dog breeds are especially prone to certain dental conditions. Ask your vet if you think it's a good idea for your pet.
Most policies will, by default, exclude dental procedures such as periodontitis treatments and tooth extractions.
Choosing to include dental illness cover will usually cost extra.
Even with a dental plan, your pet will still not be covered for all possible oral procedures. Instead, you will only be covered for the procedures or eventualities specifically listed in your policy. Typically these include the following:
Dental diseases resulting from infection
Retained deciduous teeth
Between these, you're probably covered for many of the more common dental issues that cats and dogs will encounter.
How much will it cost?
A number of factors affect the cost of a pet insurance policy. The age of your pet makes a significant difference as older animals are more susceptible to a range of health issues, which translates to higher premiums with age. Certain breeds are also more at risk of specific health issues and will also grow up to be very different from each other. Larger breeds of dog, for example, will cost more to feed and house than others and usually also attract higher premiums.
Your policy options also affect premiums.
Your excess. As with other forms of insurance, pet plans typically require you to pay an excess when making a claim. You can generally choose your own excess. You can opt for a higher excess to reduce premiums or select a $0 excess to avoid it entirely. If you select a lower excess, you will have to pay more in premiums.
Your chosen reimbursement. Many policies give you a range of options, and let you select your own reimbursement amount up to a specific cap, such as 80%.
Multi-pet discounts. If you’re looking for cover for multiple animals, it can be a good idea to get them all from the same provider. Many providers will give discounts based on the number of animals insured with them.
Your payment plan. Some insurers will let you opt to pay premiums monthly, fortnightly or annually. It often costs less to opt for annual payments.
The example below provides an example quote from a known pet insurer:
Premium Accident and Illness Cover
Disclaimer: Please note that this example should only be viewed as a guide for what you may expect to pay for a comprehensive policy.
How to get cheaper* comprehensive pet insurance
You can use the above options to help tailor your policy’s costs to suit your needs, but it’s also a good idea to consider other ways of reducing costs.
Access discounts. Australia’s pet insurance market is relatively small and competitive. Many insurers extend discounts to new customers.
Utilise routine care. The total limits on your routine care allowance can often exceed your cost. You can save money by using its full limits each year on benefits such as teeth cleaning, which also helps your pet stay healthy and reduces the odds of it needing more expensive treatments later.
Keep your pet happy and healthy. Health and happiness can often go hand in hand.
Comprehensive policies available on finder.com.au
The complex nature of animal health needs and the differences between policies mean it’s often a good idea to consult your vet before deciding on any one option. Where possible, you should do this before your puppy or kitten is eight weeks old, so you’re ready to find cover as soon as you can.
It’s often worth getting quotes from multiple insurers and checking how to customise a policy in line with your vet’s recommendations. This will help you to find the highest level of cover available and make sure you and your pet enjoy your time together to the fullest.
*Disclaimer: The products compared on this page are chosen from a range of offers available to us and are not representative of all the products available in the market. There is no perfect order or perfect ranking system for the products we list on our Site, so we provide you with the functionality to self-select, re-order and compare products. The initial display order is influenced by a range of factors including conversion rates, product costs and commercial arrangements, so please don't interpret the listing order as an endorsement or recommendation from us. We're happy to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions, but we'd like you to make your own decisions and compare and assess products based on your own preferences, circumstances and needs.
Alexandra Koster is Finder's Publisher for car, home and pet insurance. Her hobbies include reading product disclosure statements and deciphering complicated insurance lingo to help people save on their insurance so that they can spend their money on better things – like dogs. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney.
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