Pets are an important part of many families. We sometimes form stronger bonds with our furry companions than we do with people. But being members of our family, pets can incur a lot of costs, including feeding, bathing, grooming and vet bills.
And not everyone adopts a kitten or a puppy. There’s a growing trend of adopting older rescued animals and giving them a high quality of life in their twilight years. Pet insurance can help offset these costs and give you the peace of mind that your old mate can have a comfortable retirement.
This guide outlines the funds that cover senior pets, what to look for in a policy and how you can help Larry the Labrador feel comfortable in his older years.
Our pick: Guide Dogs Pet Insurance
Looking to cover your furry friend against illnesses? Guide Dogs Pet Insurance is the only policy on our panel that offers illness cover for pets over the age of 9. All other policies exclude illnesses and will only cover your pet in the event of an accident.
With a maximum yearly benefit of $15,000, a tick paralysis benefit of $1,500, and $3,200 cover for cruciate ligament conditions, Guide Dogs is the king of the hill.
Protect your best mate - compare pet insurance 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.
Updated October 18th, 2019
What types of insurance are available for older dogs and cats?
Pet insurance for younger dogs and cats is easy enough to find. And while it may initially seem impossible, finding a fund that covers your older pet isn’t as hard as it seems.
Due to the high likelihood of illness, you’ll find that most funds won’t cover older pets in their comprehensive plans. However, many funds cover senior pets under their more “basic” levels of cover.
Policies that cover accidents only are generally the cheapest and the most basic and often the annual claim limits are comparable to the more premium policies on offer.
What providers cover for senior pets?
Here’s a quick look at some of the some of the providers on finder.com.au that cover senior pets:
It’s highly unlikely that you can get comprehensive insurance for a pet over the age of nine. Pets at this age are far more likely to have pre-existing conditions and be more susceptible to illness, so insuring them for these things is unfortunately almost impossible.
If you have the luxury of being able to do so, get your pet insured before their 9th birthday. This will ensure that your pet is covered well into their senior years, provided their cover doesn’t lapse.
What additional extras are available?
Many pet owners want more than just basic cover for the furriest member of their family. Consider these additional extras for your insurance policy:
Illness. This covers issues such as infections, coughs and colds.
Cancer treatment. This covers surgery and treatment for your pet in association with cancer.
Pre-existing and hereditary conditions. This is not covered by the basic policies, but if you insure your pet later in life, it’s essential.
3 things to look out for when insuring your senior pet
What factors should you be considering when insuring your dog or cat?
If your pet is over 8 years old you probably won't be able to get cover for illnesses. Most insurers won't cover your pet for illnesses once they're over the age of 9. However, if you're able to, take out cover before your pet turns 8. Your insurer will usually cover you past the age of 9, provided your cover with them doesn't lapse.
Pre-existing conditions won't be covered. If you are able to take out illness cover, note that you won't be able to get cover for any pre-existing conditions. This sometimes means that you won't be covered for all conditions related to those illnesses and injuries. So if your pet shows any signs of a skin condition, all skin conditions will be excluded.
My pet can’t get covered. What other options do I have?
If you’ve searched everywhere and discovered that your older pet can’t get insured or the cost of the premium is far outside of your means, what can you do for the older furry gentleman or lady in your life?
Keep them active
Don’t let your pets lay about in front of the fire, get them up and active. Slow walks are better than no walks at all and swimming can be easy on the old joints as well. Take them along to the park and just get them moving.
Don’t let them get fat
Just like people, overweight pets can face some serious health issues, especially later in life. Strain on the heart, breathing difficulties and being too heavy to get up and exercise are just some of the conditions that can affect an overweight animal. Feed your pet good food in measured portions. Don’t be tempted by Missy’s big brown eyes, don’t give her another treat!
The diet of an older pet is different to a young or juvenile one. Being slower means that food will take longer to be digested, so it has a higher chance of being stored as fat. Plus, older animals need more nutrition from their diet. Ask your vet what the best food is for your aging furry friend.
Monitor their environment
In the human world we have ramps for those who have trouble walking up stairs. Older pets have similar issues and arthritis or lack of energy can impact an old dog’s quality of life. Install ramps or even change the social environment of your home to include your pet.
More vet visits
With age comes more visits to the vet and this is inevitable as age-related health issues arise. Use these visits as an opportunity to ask questions and get advice to make your pet’s twilight years just as fulfilling as their younger days.
Science has shown that owning a pet has some incredible health benefits and the unconditional love of a dog or a cat can make your life so much happier. Although it is easier to insure a younger animal, if you do happy to visit a shelter and there is an older cat or dog that pulls at your heart strings, understand that the love you provide may come at a higher-than-normal cost. But who can put a price tag on puppy love?
Other questions you might have about seniors pet insurance
With more older adoptions from pet shelters occurring, sometimes it’s difficult to know just how old your pet is. Insurance companies would like a vet to give their opinion on age, but in general they will accept an honest estimation of age from you.
The short answer is no. Insurance companies will not cover treatment for pre-existing conditions or ailments relating to a pre-existing condition.
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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