Compare Dog Insurance Policies
Our pets are as vulnerable to mishaps as we are, probably more so, and yet many Australians fail to protect them with pet insurance.
Pet insurance is available for all kinds of pets from dogs and cats to horses and small animals and like human insurance, the cost is influenced by the perceived risk to the insurer. Consequently, dog insurance tends to be more expensive than cat insurance, as most dogs lead rough and tumble outdoor lives where they are more likely to injure themselves, while many cats spend much of their lives indoors. Pet insurance not only ensures that your pet gets the treatment it needs if it is ill or injured, but it also means you aren’t left with a huge vet bill to pay. Medical treatment for animals is on a par with human medicine these days and unfortunately, that comes with a high price tag. Having pet insurance means you won’t be faced with the decision to deny your pet crucial treatment simply because you can’t afford it.
This guide looks at dog insurance in particular and examines why it’s worth having, what a typical policy will and won’t cover, how much it generally costs and which providers are the main dog insurers in Australia.
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Why is Dog Insurance Worth Considering?
From broken bones, cataracts and tick paralysis to the ever present threat of being hit by a car, most dogs will be lucky to make it through life without encountering some form of life-threatening incident along the way.
And all it takes is one incident to bring home the reality of not having pet insurance. Emergency treatment for a dog hit by a car can be up to $5,000, depending on the extent of the injuries, while ongoing treatment for a pure-breed dog with a congenital disorder can go far beyond that over time.
Dog insurance can provide a range of benefits, both to the pet and to their owner. These include:
- savings if your dog requires major surgery or an extended stay in hospital
- access to a range of treatments that were previously unaffordable due to high cost
- ability to give your furry friend the best possible care
- the means to protect your investment if your dog is an expensive breed
- the knowledge that you will never be faced with a choice between money and your dog’s life.
Pet insurance is affordable and easy to obtain and yet only roughly 2% of Australians insure their pets. Add to this the fact that nearly 10% of ill or injured pets who are euthanised are put down due to lack of money for treatment and you can see why insurance is something many more pet owners ought to be considering.Back to top
What Does Dog Insurance Usually Cover?
Dog insurance is generally available at three different levels. These are:
- Accident only. This provides basic cover for a range of major incidents such as motor vehicle incidents, burns, electrocution, allergic reactions and snakebite.
- Accident and illness. Provides accident cover plus additional cover for illnesses such as cancer, arthritis and diabetes and skin and eye conditions.
- Comprehensive. As well as accident and illness, provides cover for a range of additional extras such as dental care, vaccinations and preventative care for fleas, ticks and worms.
When comparing dog insurance policies at any of these three levels, what is and is not included will depend largely on the insurer. Things to look out for and to compare include:
- The benefit limits. How much the policy will pay for each area of cover.
- The excess. How much you must pay towards each claim you make.
- The exclusions. What the policy does not cover (e.g. dogs more than 9 years old, elective procedures, pre-existing conditions, day-to-day care).
- The extras. The additional inclusions (e.g. emergency boarding, overseas travel insurance, paralysis tick benefit, essential euthanasia).
- The premiums. Whether the cost of the policy reflects the extent and quality of cover provided.
Dog Insurance General Exclusions
Like all insurance, dog insurance policies contain exclusions. These are the circumstances in which the insurer does not provide cover and they should be read and understood carefully, as they usually represent the main differences between policies.
Typical exclusions in a dog insurance policy can include:
- Pre-existing conditions. Unless otherwise agreed, any medical condition or hereditary or congenital defect, the signs or symptoms of which were apparent prior to taking out the policy
- Malicious acts. Illness or injury resulting from a deliberate act or gross negligence on your part
- Lack of care. Failing to take all reasonable steps and precautions to care for your pet, including failing to follow your vet’s recommendations
- Cruciate ligament conditions. Any cruciate ligament conditions which occur in the first six months of cover
- Preventable diseases. Any disease that could have been prevented through vaccination
- Breeding or obstetrics
- Dental problems or oral disease
- Pet grooming or bathing
- Ambulance fees and non-essential hospitalisation
- Treatment for dogs being used for commercial purposes, such as greyhounds and guard dogs (guide dogs are exempt)
- 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
These are just some of the exclusions you could find in a dog insurance policy, so it’s important to read the Product Disclosure Statement very carefully and decide whether the policy still represents good value in your particular circumstances or whether the exclusions reduce the cover to an unacceptable degree.Back to top
How Much Does Dog Insurance Cost?
The cost of dog insurance is affected by the cost of animal healthcare in general. As mentioned previously, vets and animal carers now have access to human-grade medical equipment and procedures, but unlike human healthcare, there are no government subsidies for animal healthcare.
As well as the use of state-of-the-art equipment and procedures, other factors that contribute to the high cost of vet bills include:
- the cost of drugs and medications
- the cost of staffing and equipping veterinary practices and animal hospitals
- the growth in litigation and the need for liability insurance.
How much you pay for your dog insurance will also depend on your dog itself, including:
- How old it is. As older animals are more likely to suffer illness, many insurers do not offer illness cover for dogs over 9 years old.
- What breed it is. Purebred dogs tend to suffer more health problems than crossbred dogs and are more expensive to insure as a result.
- What gender it is. In certain breeds of dog, gender plays a part in what medical conditions they are prone to.
- What size it is. The larger the dog, the more it costs to feed, house and medicate, so the more you will pay for dog insurance.
- Whether it has been desexed. It will be cheaper to insure if it has been desexed, as dogs that haven’t been are more prone to suffer from certain medical conditions.
Bearing in mind all these factors, the cost of insuring an average dog for a year is around $400, but there are policies that are much cheaper than this and some that are more expensive. That’s why you always need to shop around to find the policy that offers you the right level of cover at the right price.Back to top
Dog Insurance Providers in Australia
- HCF Insurance. Offers cover for accident treatment only and also injury and illness treatment, with the option to visit your preferred vet and with up to 80% of treatment costs reimbursed.
- Medibank Pet Insurance. Offers three main policy levels including Bronze Paw (accidental injury only), Silver Paw (accident and illness) and Gold Paw (includes routine care).
- RACQ pet insurance. Covers up to two pets and up to $500 off the vet’s bill per claim.
- Insuranceline Pet Health Insurance. Allows claims of up to 80% or $10,000 a year of vet bills for treatment of illness or injury.
- RSPCA. Offers Basic cover (accidental injury only), Economy Accident and Illness and Ultimate Accident and Illness (includes routine vet care).
- Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance. Offers three main plans – Accident, Comprehensive and Major Medical.
- Pet Insurance Australia. Three plans from basic to comprehensive, providing the ability to claim back up to 80% of vet costs.
- 1300Insurance. Choose from Comprehensive coverage, offering up to 75% of vet costs and coverage for additional veterinary services or Accident Protect insurance, which covers veterinary fees, specialist care, prescription medicines and hospital admissions.
- Pet Plan. Offers a 100% rebate on vet bills minus the excess and non-claimable items, 100% life cover for life-long illnesses or chronic diseases and third party liability insurance for injury or property damage caused by your dog.
- Real Insurance. Up to 80% cover on eligible vet bills, including for illnesses or injuries developed during the period of cover.