Types of pet insurance

What are the different types of pet insurance available, and how do you know which one is right for you?

For many Australians, their pet is one of the most important members of the family. If you’re an animal lover who would do anything for your pet, you may be considering taking out pet insurance to help cover the cost of unexpected vet bills for your furry friend.

However, with all the different types of pet insurance available, it can be a little confusing to work out which policy offers the right cover for your needs.

There are 3 main types of pet insurance available in Australia:

  1. Accident only
  2. Accident and illness
  3. Comprehensive

Let’s take a closer look at each of these, and the benefits they provide, as well as what to look out for when seeing if it's right for you.

Accident only cover

Accident-only pet insurance offers the most basic type of cover available. It’s designed to cover a percentage of your vet bills when your pet suffers an accidental injury, such as a bone fracture after a car accident, snake bite toxicity, a bite wound from fighting with another animal or a traumatic ligament injury. An annual benefit limit applies to this kind of cover. It’s usually around $7,000 or $8,000 but can be higher on some policies.

Benefits of accident cover

There are several reasons why you might consider accident-only cover for your pet, including:

  • No upper age limit. Many insurers do not impose an upper age limit on cover, which means you can take out accident-only insurance for your furry friend at any age.
  • Suitable for younger pets. If your dog or cat is young and relatively healthy, choosing an accident-only policy can provide all the cover you’re likely to need.
  • Affordable. Accident-only pet insurance is more affordable than comprehensive or accident and illness cover.

What to be aware of with accident cover

The most common risk to be aware of is that accident cover excludes claims that arise due to pre-existing conditions, as well as illness. Also, some types of accidents, for example tick bites, might not be covered by your policy, nor will routine procedures such as vaccinations or desexing.

Accident and illness cover

Accident and illness insurance covers all the same injuries as an accident-only policy, but it also includes cover for any vet bills that may arise when your dog or cat is diagnosed with an illness or disease. The illnesses covered can differ between policies but they usually include conditions such as cancer, skin conditions, infectious diseases and ear infections. Most policies will also include some cover for tick paralysis.

Because these policies cover a wider range of expenses than accident-only insurance, annual benefit limits are higher and typically range from $10,000 to $15,000.

Benefits of accident and illness cover

Why should you consider accident and illness cover for your pet? There are several reasons, including:

  • Suitable for “high-risk” breeds. Some breeds of dogs are at a higher risk of suffering from health problems and can benefit from this higher level of cover. For example, German Shepherds can be prone to hip dysplasia.
  • Extra peace of mind. Accident and illness cover provides a higher level of cover than accident-only insurance, helping you cover the cost of unexpected vet bills for a wide range of health conditions.
  • Cover for tick paralysis. If you live in an area where there’s a risk of paralysis ticks, this additional benefit can help you avoid expensive vet bills.

What to be aware of with accident and illness cover

Once again, make sure you’re aware of any exclusions that may apply to your policy. Pre-existing conditions are excluded from accident and illness cover and you won’t be covered if your pet suffers from a condition for which there is a known vaccine or a condition that can be easily prevented (such as fleas or worms). Waiting periods also apply to some benefits.

It’s worth pointing out that you can only take out accident and illness cover for pets up to a certain age, and you usually won’t be able to apply for a new policy if your pet is nine years or older. However, once covered, your policy is usually renewable for the rest of your pet’s life.

Finally, check with your insurer to make sure that your pet will be covered for any chronic or recurring conditions they may suffer from.

Comprehensive cover

Comprehensive pet insurance covers all the same injuries and illnesses that an accident and illness policy does, but it will also usually include a higher annual benefit limit to help you cover more vet bills.

This type of policy will also usually include a benefit for routine care procedures such as desexing, microchipping, heartworm prevention, vaccinations and council registration fees.

Benefits of comprehensive cover

  • Highest level of cover available. If you want the highest level of protection possible for your pet, comprehensive pet insurance is the policy for you.
  • Suited to older pets and high-risk breeds. Comprehensive cover is usually well-suited to older pets who are more likely to need regular vet treatment and specific breeds that have a higher likelihood of suffering from health problems. Keep in mind though that most insurers won't offer cover for pets that are older than nine years.
  • Covers routine care. With cover for a wide range of routine veterinary costs, this type of policy can help reduce your regular vet bills as well as those unexpected expenses that may arise.

What to be aware of with comprehensive cover

As always, make sure to check the list of exclusions to find out exactly what your policy does and does not cover. As with the other two levels of cover, pre-existing conditions are normally excluded, as are pets that are over nine years old. It’s also worth being aware that not all policies include routine care as standard. Sometimes, it’s only available as an optional extra when you pay an additional premium.

As you’d expect, comprehensive cover is also the most expensive type of pet insurance available.

What type of pet insurance is right for me?

The right type of pet insurance for your dog or cat will vary depending on a number of different factors. There is no one policy available that is guaranteed to suit all pet owners, so you’ll need to consider the following factors when choosing your cover:

  • How old is your pet? While younger pets may only require accident cover, pets that are getting a bit long in the tooth may benefit from a broader range of benefits. You should also be aware that while accident-only cover usually doesn’t have an upper age limit, other types of pet insurance do.
  • How healthy is your pet? If you take out cover when your pet is young and healthy, this removes the risk of any previous health issues they’ve had being excluded from cover as a pre-existing condition. In addition, pets that are aged nine years or older are typically not eligible for a new accident and illness policy.
  • How much do you spend on pet care? Some breeds of dogs and cats are predisposed to suffer from certain health conditions, while some pets just seem to be more accident-prone than others. Consider the amount you spend on veterinary care for your pet each year when deciding what level of cover is right for you.

Whichever type of pet insurance you choose, make sure to compare a wide range of policies before deciding on the right cover for your pet.

Compare pet insurance quotes from Aussie brands


Tim Falk

A freelance writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians find the right home loans and savings accounts. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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