Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance

Pets are an important part of our lives, and the positive effect they have on us cannot be underestimated. It can be extremely stressful for owners when their pet is sick or injured – sometimes making a diagnosis can be challenging, other times urgent treatment may be required and sometimes difficult decisions need to be made. The reality is that pet medical costs are not subsidised – unfortunately there is no Pet Medicare! Taking out pet insurance can help reduce the financial burden owners can face if their pet is ill or injured – unlike many other types of insurance, pet insurance provides both emotional and financial protection.

The reason our hospitals encourage pet insurance is that we have seen first hand how reducing the financial stress of treating a pet benefits owners. One of the worse scenarios for veterinary staff and owners is compromising on care for a sick or injured pet, based on fiscal reasons. And as pet owners ourselves, our staff can tell you first hand their own experiences of dealing with their pets’ major illnesses and injuries.

We always wish for a long, safe and healthy life for our patients, but sometimes this just doesn’t happen. Certain breeds of cats and dogs are genetically predisposed to developing a variety of health issues. Animals can escape, get injured or do silly things!

Pet insurance has many similarities to human health insurance, but some differences too.

You pay a premium – usually monthly, but many companies now offer discounts for annual payment, or fortnightly payments to assist with budgeting. The first time you claim for a particular condition there will be a proportion of the bill that is NOT refunded to you – this is the ‘excess’, and the excess will vary depending on the type of policy you take out. Once you have made your first claim for a specific condition, you generally do not have to worry about the excess again. But if you claim for a different condition or disease, there will be another excess. Some companies do not charge an excess but instead refund a set percentage of treatment costs.

The most significant and important difference between human and pet health insurance is pre-existing conditions. If a person taking out a new insurance policy has a pre-existing condition or disease they will often have to wait 6 or 12 months before they will be able to claim for this disease through their insurance. If a pet has a pre-existing condition before their owner takes out pet insurance it is likely that the insurance company will not ever cover the animal for that disease. The policy will have an exclusion for that disease or condition, and some policies may even have an exclusion for that entire ‘body part’. For example – if your dog injures his right knee and requires surgery, and you decide to take out pet insurance you will not be covered for any issues arising in the right leg such as arthritis, AND you will most likely not be covered for any issues arising in the (normal) LEFT knee in the future.

There are certain infectious diseases that insurance companies will not cover, particularly diseases we can vaccinate pets against. You must read the fine print to discover what is and isn’t covered by a policy. Some will contribute an amount towards routine preventative health care such as vaccinations and parasite control whilst others will not. The level of cover also varies amongst the different policies – the amount you can claim for different conditions and traumatic injuries can be capped at different levels, depending on which policy you choose. Some policies offer accident and emergency cover only.

We are not legally allowed to recommend a specific policy for you, but there are many policies out there – which is great for owners as more options = more competition and better products!

We recommend you look for a policy that has a good level of cover for both accident and illness protection – at least $5000 per condition per year is a good starting point.

So, if your pet has pre-existing conditions should you still insure them? Absolutely!

Just because you can’t claim for one condition doesn’t mean other illnesses and injuries won’t develop in the future. 

We hope you never need to make a claim on your pet insurance, but if you do, that will be one less thing to worry about in a time of stress and anxiety.