Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t help with primary healthcare for fur babies, which is where routine cover for pets comes in.
Most people living with pets agree that our animal companions are genuine members of the family. If you already have a comprehensive pet insurance policy for your furball, you can add on routine cover as an extra, usually for a flat-rate premium.
The key difference between this category of cover and accident or comprehensive options, is that routine pet insurance policies are intended to help you prevent your furry friend from getting seriously sick in the first place.
Routine cover can be a smart option for insurers and pet owners alike. Keeping your pets fully up to date with regular checkups and vaccinations helps prevent major health problems developing further down the track. You avoid having to pay for expensive treatments, and the insurer avoids a large payout. The same is true for early detection; since it makes sense to take advantage of your policy, you’re more likely to visit the vet at the first sign of trouble.
Compare policies that offer routine care options
Why should I consider routine care cover?
The most immediate benefit of choosing routine care pet insurance is that unlike accident cover, which you may never need to use, you’re guaranteed to receive a return on your investment every year. For example, most options allow you to claim for vaccinations on an annual basis.
You’ll also have to budget for parasite management, annual blood tests and similar expenses anyway, so choosing cost-effective pet insurance will enable you to save on these expenses.
What do routine pet care plans cover?
If you purchase wellness care, you will receive an annual benefit ranging from $50 to $120 for one item per year from a list of routine treatments. The staple options provided by most insurers include:
- Having your pet desexed
- Registering your pet with the local council
- Controlling heartworm
- Teeth cleaning
- Organising a prescription diet
- Sourcing alternative therapies
- Removing your dog’s dewclaws
- Cremation or burial
Additional one-per-year benefits are available depending on the insurer, with various reimbursement amounts.
You will also receive an annual benefit to help pay for feline leukaemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus (FeLV, FIV) and heartworm tests. In addition, most insurers offer recurring benefits for vaccinations, as well as parasite control for fleas, ticks and worms.
What additional options should I consider?
Some insurers cover a larger number of routine treatments in the one-per-year category, but provide less value in the list of additional wellness care items you can claim every year.
Be wary of doubling up by purchasing cover for extras that are already included in your comprehensive policy. If your policy includes optional dental treatment anyway, then it might not be cost-effective to choose a routine care plan if the main recurring benefit you’re expecting to gain from it is dental care. Make sure you read your certificate of insurance carefully; the cooling-off period gives you the opportunity to rectify anything you might have overlooked when putting your policy together.
What is not covered under routine care?
The predictable structure of routine health care means that exclusions do not have as much relevance for this category of pet insurance as they do with policies that may hinge on pre-existing or bilateral conditions. However, there are some restrictions you do need to take into account.
Most importantly, your pet will only be covered for one routine treatment each year from a list of options that includes desexing, heartworm control and prescription diets. While it’s quite possible that your four-legged friend’s teeth will require cleaning on a yearly basis, for example, it will only need to be desexed once. Similarly, a young pet will probably need to be microchipped and registered at around the same time, but you won’t receive a benefit for both expenses in the same year.
What other benefits should I look for?
The key to getting your money’s worth is to choose the routine care pet insurance you will be able to utilise most effectively. While the core annual benefits (such as a choice between desexing, microchipping or council registration) are consistent across most insurers, the additional options vary greatly. For example, most routine pet care plans cover prescription diets, but not all offer behavioural therapy. Some even offer benefits for massage and acupuncture!
As a case study, if you already paid for desexing, chipping and registration as part of the cost of adopting a young dog, before you chose an insurance policy, you will not be able to claim these benefits. However, if your routine cover plan includes an allowance for puppy training, you can still obtain a benefit for this valuable service in the first year.
What excess will I be charged?
Unlike comprehensive pet insurance, excess is normally not charged for wellness care. This means you get back 100% of the annual benefit for each of the routine treatments you claim.
NOTE: That’s not 100% of the cost of treatment, but 100% of the benefit. In other words, if registering a desexed pet costs $53, and you have a $50 benefit to apply, then you will only need to pay $3 to register your pet. However, you will not be able to claim for microchipping in the same year.
What affects how much I pay?
Routine care is typically a flat-rate premium added on to an existing comprehensive policy. The cost of the main policy depends on many factors: your pet’s breed, age and medical history are all taken into account when your premium is being calculated. However, various deals and discounts are available, and applying them strategically can make your total insurance package much better value for money than if you simply pay the default cost.
What should I look for when comparing policies?
No two pet care plans are the same, so it’s crucial to compare policies on the basis of exactly what they offer, and what is going to be best for your dog or cat. Your vet will be able to provide you with professional advice on what routine care expenses you’re most likely to be liable for. To ensure optimal value, add up what the premiums will cost you, then check whether the options for the annual benefits correspond with the recurring healthcare your furry friend is predictably going to need each year.