Pet insurance is popular in Australia, as the benefits of covering pets against illnesses and accidents are increasingly recognised.
Pet insurance offers you peace of mind. If your pet is involved in an accident or suffers a sudden illness, the medical costs can range from several hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, many pets are euthanased each year as owners are unable to meet these unexpected costs. There are no government subsidies or Medicare payments to help pay for treatment of animals, like there are for us when we get sick or need to go to hospital. Pet insurance is your safeguard against this outcome.
What does pet insurance cover?
Individual schemes vary in the type of procedures covered. For example, exclusions often exist for pregnancy, elective procedures, behavioural therapy, and diets, but accidents and illnesses are covered. Therefore, if your dog breaks a leg, or your cat develops kidney failure, a large percentage of costs will be reimbursed.
Some policies have an excess and an annual limit you can claim. You cannot always claim for pre-existing illnesses, and most have an age limit for the pet for new policies. This means your pet cannot be older than about 8-12 years to start a policy, depending on the company.
How much does it cost?
Costs vary depending on the type of cover you choose, just like for our own medical insurance. Many schemes will offer discounts for insuring multiple pets.
Some breeds may attract higher premiums due to their known predisposition to inherited and other problems, such as the Bullmastiff, Shar-Pei and French Bulldog.
Some policies offer a rebate if you spend a certain amount per year on preventative health, including worming and flea control, and some will pay a small amount to cover these routine costs.
How does it work?
Your pet is treated by your chosen veterinarian or specialist. In most cases you will need to pay the full amount to your veterinarian. After treatment you will need to submit a claim to the insurance company, who will confirm the details with your vet and reimburse you for the agreed percentage of the total amount. There will be exclusions and sub-limits depending on the individual policy.
Certain policies and vets allow you to claim at the time of payment. Your policy and veterinarian will let you know if this service is available.
How do I decide if I need insurance and which company to use?
Taking out insurance is a personal decision. It is recommended since there are always unforeseen costs inherent in owning pets, and it means that you can choose the best care for your pet if a problem does arise.
As veterinary science advances, the options available for treatment become wider. Therapies once only available for humans are now used for pets; for example, kidney transplants, chemotherapy, and advanced surgical techniques.
However, just as with all other forms of insurance, you may never or rarely need to use it, and you may decide that the cost of owning a policy cannot be justified in your own case. You will need to compare some different policies to find the one that is most appropriate to your own personal objectives, financial position and needs.
Your veterinarian can provide you with a choice of reputable policies that may suit you and your pet. The independent website Top 10 Pet Insurance also contains reviews and price comparisons of policies on the market, along with the costs you might expect to insure your pet’s breed.
Disclaimer: Any advice provided is general only and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Consequently, before acting on this information, you should consider the appropriateness of this information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.