Owning a pet is expensive and can be even more so if your pet is
sick or injured and needs veterinary care. Pet insurance can help
to cover these costs, but always check what is and isn't covered
before you get insurance.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance usually only covers cats and dogs, but some pet
insurers cover other animals as well. Most policies have limits of
what they will pay out each year and for each condition and if your
vet bills are more than the policy limit you'll have to pay the
difference. This type of insurance needs to be renewed each year
and the policy terms and conditions can change and the premiums can
increase from year to year.
What it covers
Pet insurance policies typically cover:
- Accident only - This covers vet costs where
your pet is involved in an accident (premiums are usually about $20
- Accident and illness - This covers vet costs
for accidents as well as illnesses (premiums are usually between
$35-55 per month)
- Accident and illness plus routine and preventative
care - This covers routine vaccinations and worming
treatments as well as vet costs for accidents and illnesses
(premiums are usually $60 plus per month).
Pet age limits
New policies are generally not available for older pets (between
7 and 9 years of age and above, depending on the policy terms).
Once your pet reaches a certain age, even if you already have pet
insurance, you will probably not be able to switch to another
insurer or brand.
Breeds make a difference
Insurance is sometimes not available for certain breeds or the
premium may be higher to cover the potential health risks of that
Many policies require you to pay an excess when you make a
claim. You may also have some out of pocket vet expenses if the
policy doesn't cover 100% of the costs. Check your policy to
understand the excess or co-payment.
Even if the policy appears to cover 100% of some costs, check
the fine print as the age of your pet may reduce the amount you are
ASIC's media release on curbing misleading pet
insurance advertising highlights the importance of reading the
fine print on your policy and explains the changes pet
insurers have made to their promotions and advertising.
Cost of a pet
Did you know the average dog costs more than $1000 per year? The
cost of a
pet infographic explores the average cost of pet ownership and
pet insurance in Australia.
What it doesn't cover
Pet insurance policies have a number of exclusions. These are
the things you are not covered for. The exclusions usually
- Illness or injury from pre-existing conditions (including
conditions before the policy was purchased)
- Bilateral conditions (pre-existing conditions affecting a body
part where the pet has more than one, such as an eye or ear)
- Vet costs for elective treatments (like orthodontics or
de-sexing) or routine care (unless specific additional cover is
purchased for this)
- Treatment of illnesses during the waiting period
- Treatment for diseases for which there is a known vaccine (such
as kennel cough). (Some policies may pay if your pet has had the
vaccine, but others may not.)
You can find out what the exclusions of a policy are by reading
See ASIC's media release about pet
insurance and disclosure.
Lucas and Amelia get pet insurance
Lucas took out pet insurance for his 3-year old dog Buddy. Buddy
got a bad eye infection and needed an operation costing $1000.
Lucas' pet insurance covered $750 of this bill so Lucas ended up
paying $250 excess for the operation.
Lucas' sister Amelia also got pet insurance. Her 6-year old dog Boo
also got a bad eye infection but her pet insurance did not cover
the bill because Boo saw a vet for eye problems when he was a
puppy. This meant that Boo's condition was considered a
pre-existing condition and was not covered.
Making a claim
Make your claim quite soon after you pay the vet bill. You may
be charged a penalty fee if you don't claim within a certain
You will probably need to pay your vet bill upfront and then
claim for reimbursement from your pet insurer.
Although some vets may agree to get a deferred payment from your
pet insurer and only ask you to pay the difference up front.
You will need to provide evidence of the vet expenses you are
claiming and will usually also need to include a full veterinary
history with your claim.
If your pet dies and you have already made a claim during the
policy period, most policies require you to keep paying premiums
for the remainder of your policy period.
The cost of cats and dogs... and snakes?
Try MoneySmart Teaching's
interactive resource that helps kids research the
costs and benefits of buying a pet and tackle issues
around saving, spending, planning, budgeting and making consumer
Teachers can also use our Year 6 Mathematics unit of work
It's raining cats and dogs...and chickens where students
investigate the costs of becoming a pet owner and explore ethical
considerations and other factors that influence pet choice.
Insurance is a great way to make sure your
pet is covered in the event of illness or accident, but make sure
you know what is involved and all the costs before you take out
Last updated: 12 Oct 2016