Compare pet insurance options for your dog and cover up to 80% of veterinary bills.
Between speeding cars, illnesses, poisonous wildlife and everything else, most dogs will encounter life-threatening conditions at some point. It only takes one bad day to leave you with significant vet bills. Pet insurance can save you from needing to choose between your bank balance and your furry friend.
A lot of dogs are put down because their owners can’t afford medical treatment, but according to the Australian Veterinary Association, only a small fraction of dog owners bother with pet insurance.
This guide will explore the key benefits of having dog insurance in place and what to look out for when comparing policies. Ready to apply? Compare policies from Australian brands below.
Comprehensive policies available on finder.com.au
How does pet insurance work for dogs?
Pet insurance provides cover for a percentage of veterinary costs. This typically ranges from 65% to 80% depending on the policy.
- Excess charged. In most cases, an excess will apply. An excess is the sum you’ll need to pay when making a claim. Most Australian pet insurance companies let you choose your own excess. You can opt for a $0 excess, at the cost of higher premiums, or a $100 or $200 excess for lower premiums.
- Annual limits. The total annual limits are the maximum amount you can claim in a 12-month period. The cheaper* policies typically carry limits of around $5,000, while mid-level policies are usually about $10,000. High-level comprehensive policies will sometimes cover up to $15,000 per year. Sub-limits may also apply to certain conditions. Sub-limits cap the amount you can claim for certain types of treatment.
- Age limits. You generally can’t take out a policy on pets younger than eight weeks old or on dogs older than nine years, although some insurers have exceptions to this rule. One way to get effective lifelong cover for a puppy is to consult your vet before your puppy is eight weeks old to understand what kind of cover you might need, and then ensure that you maintain your policy without letting it lapse. Veterinary costs often get more expensive and frequent with age, so taking out a policy before your dog is nine years old, and maintaining it for life, is often the only way to have insurance for older dogs.
The value of having health insurance for your dog
According to data from the Hollard Insurance Company, one of Australia’s largest pet insurance underwriters, the average cost of a foreign object ingestion claim in 2014 was $1,272. The highest recorded claim was over $16,000.
What does pet insurance for dogs cover?
Pet insurance can:
- Pay for most of your dog’s medical and surgical costs
- Let you access a range of treatments that might otherwise be unaffordable, and help ensure that you can give your dog a high level of care
- Provide a way to protect your investment if you have a rare breed of dog or have plans to breed your dog in the future
- Stop you from having to choose between money and your dog’s life
Policies are designed to help cover some of the more common conditions that dogs will encounter over time. When picking out a policy, you can mix and match cover to include accidents, illnesses and routine care costs to find a level of cover that works for you.
- Accidental injury cover. This is the core component of pet insurance and is available with all basic policies. It covers physical injuries caused by specific events, such as a car hitting your dog, and typically covers the following incidents:
- Motor vehicle incidents
- Burns and electrocution
- Allergic reactions to insect bites other than fleas and ticks
- Bone fractures
- Snake bites
- Bite wounds or fight wound abscesses
- Lacerations, cuts, abrasions and other injuries caused by external, physical forces
- Illness cover. This is additional cover found with some basic policies and most comprehensive ones. It typically covers the following conditions:
- Cruciate ligament conditions
- Surgical or endoscopic removal of foreign objects
- Many other sicknesses or diseases not covered by accidental injury cover
It will generally not cover certain infectious diseases such as kennel cough, canine hepatitis, parvovirus, canine distemper, illnesses that may have been prevented with vaccination or certain illnesses caused by parasites.
- Routine care cover. This is a useful, but optional, extra that can help cover the cost of important preventative care. Depending on the insurer and the policy, it can help cover the cost of the following:
- Desexing, spaying or otherwise neutering
- Dental cleaning
- Council registration fees
- Obedience training
- Preventative heartworm treatments
- Cremation or burial
Is routine care worth having?
In many cases, the routine care extra, which generally starts at a few dollars a month, can be surprisingly good value. Most dog owners are easily able to use the full routine care limits every year, and it can often save you more than it costs. Check what’s covered by this option, ask your insurer how much it costs, and you can decide exactly how much it’s worth for your situation.
The relatively low routine care limits mean that it generally won’t save a lot per year, but it could help. Unusually, many insurers are willing to pay out more on routine care than they’re making from it. Other good things to know:
- Proper routine care means you’re less likely to make a claim later. This is good for the insurer and good for you.
- Routine care is often only available with the more expensive comprehensive policies.
Are there any additional benefits?
Many policies will also cover the cost of emergency boarding if you’re hospitalised and essential euthanasia if it’s the most humane course of action. You can also find policies that offer tick paralysis benefits to help you out if a paralysis tick bites your dog. It can also offer overseas pet health cover to cover your pet outside of Australia. These are separate additional benefits and should not be confused with routine care cover.
What level of cover should I get?
The right insurance policy for you is one that’s affordable for you and delivers an appropriate level of cover. Unsurprisingly, the more cover you get, the more a policy will typically cost. The most comprehensive policies will naturally provide the highest level of cover, but may not always be an option. These are generally the levels of pet insurance available:
- Accident cover. If you can’t afford a high level of cover, you can choose a basic accident-only policy to help cover the unexpected injuries your dog may suffer as a result of an accident. These policies will not cover illnesses or diseases.
- Mid-level cover. This option balances cost and cover, providing cover for both accidents and illnesses and often lets you include routine care as well. A mid-level policy typically has a total annual limit that falls between basic and comprehensive policies amounts. Mid-level cover limits are typically about $10,000.
- Comprehensive cover. If price is not an object, a comprehensive policy offers highest level of cover available. The conditions covered by these policies are often the same as those offered by mid-level cover, but with higher annual limits. With some insurers, routine care cover will only be available at this level.
What won't your dog be covered for?
Like all insurance policies, you’ll encounter some exclusions. It’s essential that you check the exclusions before picking a policy as they have a major impact on your level of cover and are usually the main difference between policies.
Some of the following exclusions, such as pre-existing conditions or lack of care will be found in all policies, while others such as dental problems are only sometimes present. Make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully so you know which exclusions apply to your policy.
- Pre-existing conditions. Any medical condition or hereditary or congenital defect which was present, or for which there were symptoms, prior to taking out a policy.
- Negligent or deliberate acts. Injuries resulting from your own deliberate acts or negligence, or those of someone living with you.
- Lack of care. Failing to take all reasonable steps and precautions to care for your pet, including failing to follow your vet’s recommendations.
- Claims within waiting periods. Cruciate ligament claims, for example, will typically have a six-month waiting period. This means you can’t make a related claim within six months of taking out a policy, although many insurers will waive this if a vet has examined your dog and certified it free of symptoms.
- Preventable diseases. Any disease that could have been prevented through vaccination.
- Commercial purposes. Treatment for dogs being used for commercial purposes, such as greyhounds and guard dogs (guide dogs are exempt).
- Breeding or obstetrics
- Dental problems or oral disease
- Pet grooming or bathing
- Ambulance fees and non-essential hospitalisation
- Behavioural problems
- Training, socialisation, therapy and alternative therapies
- Pet food, vitamins and dietary supplements
- Elective treatments such as desexing
- Unapproved medications
- Organ transplant surgery
- Prosthetics or artificial limbs
- Cell replacement therapies
How much does dog insurance cost?
The cost of your insurance is largely dependent on what your dog is like.
- How old is it? You can expect to pay more for older dogs.
- What breed do you have? Purebred dogs tend to suffer more health problems than crossbreeds and are often more expensive to insure.
- Your dog’s gender. Gender can play a large part in determining health risks. Females of some breeds, and males of others, can be more or less susceptible to certain risks.
- Big dog or small dog? The larger the dog, the more it costs to feed, house and medicate, and the more you will usually pay for dog insurance.
- Whether it has been desexed. Neutering can significantly reduce your dog’s health risks, and many insurers will offer lower premiums for neutered dogs.
While there’s a lot of variation, the cost of insuring an average dog for a year is around $400. You can spend less than this with a cheaper* policy or more with comprehensive high-level cover. Consider the level of cover that’s right for you, and shop around by getting quotes from a number of different insurers. Before deciding on a policy, you might also want to check for discounts and factor these into the total cost. Where available, you can use the savings to either spend less overall or to get a higher level of cover for a similar price.
The table below provides example prices for a Labrador from an Australian insurance brand. Please note that prices are only to be used as a guide and are subject to change,
|Breed||Age||Level of Cover||Annual Premium|
|Labrador||5||Comprehensive Accident and Illness Cover||$952|
|Labrador||5||Accident and Illness Cover||$852|
|Labrador||5||Accident Only Cover||$420|
|Labrador||2||Comprehensive Accident and Illness Cover||$883|
|Labrador||2||Accident and Illness Cover||$812|
|Labrador||2||Accident Only Cover||$420|
Similarly, you can use coupon codes to get sizeable discounts on pet essentials or bonuses like free shipping.
*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.