Cover for your furry friends
Owning a pet is expensive, and can be even more so if your pet
gets 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
insurers cover other animals as well. Most policies have limits on
what they will pay out each year and for each condition. If your
vet bills are more than the policy limit, you'll have to pay the
This type of insurance needs to be renewed each year, so check
the policy terms and conditions before you renew, as these can
change. Also, keep in mind that premiums can increase from year to
What does pet insurance
Pet insurance policies typically cover:
- Accident only - covers vet costs where your
pet is involved in an accident
- Accident and illness - covers vet costs for
accidents as well as illnesses
- Accident and illness plus routine and preventative
care - covers routine vaccinations and worming treatments
as well as vet costs for accidents and illnesses.
Pet age limits
Some new policies are 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 may not be able to switch to another insurer or
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
Some insurers offer additional cover for things like emergency
boarding for your pet if you have to go to hospital, or the cost of
a reward if your pet goes missing. Other specialty products may
include puppy cover (which locks in a fixed premium for a certain
amount of time), illness-only cover for indoor cats, and more
comprehensive seniors policies for older pets. Ask your provider
what specialty products they offer but remember that these may cost
Excess and additional costs
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 only covers costs up to a specified limit. For example, if
the vet fee is $1,300 and the policy only covers 80% of this (that
is, $1,040), then you may need to pay the difference of $260. Check
your policy to understand the excess and how much the insurer will
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 $1,000 per year?
The cost of
a pet infographic explores the average cost of pet ownership
and pet insurance in Australia.
What pet insurance doesn't
Pet insurance policies have a number of exclusions. These are
the things you are not covered for. Some typical exclusions
- Illness or injury from pre-existing conditions (including
conditions before the policy was purchased)
- Bilateral conditions (pre-existing conditions that affect a
body part that has a 'left' and 'right' version, such as eyes,
ears, hips and legs)
- Vet costs for elective treatments (like orthodontics or
de-sexing) or routine care (unless specific additional cover is
purchased for this)
- Treatment for any illnesses that occur during the policy's
- Treatment for diseases for which there is a known vaccine (such
as kennel cough). (Some policies may pay if your pet has been
vaccinated, but others may not.)
You can find out what the exclusions of a policy are by reading
the product disclosure
See ASIC's media release about pet
insurance and disclosure.
Case study: 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
$1,000. Lucas' pet insurance covered $750 of this bill, so Lucas
ended up paying $250 for the operation.
Lucas' sister Amelia also got pet insurance for her 6-year-old dog,
Boo. When Boo also got a bad eye infection, the insurer did not
cover the bill because Boo had seen a vet for the same condition
when he was a puppy. This meant that Boo's condition was considered
to be 'pre-existing' and was not covered.
Making a claim on your pet
You will probably need to pay your vet bill up-front 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.
Make your claim quite soon after you pay the vet bill. Your
insurer may charge a penalty fee if you don't claim within a
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. You may be able to submit your claim
electronically at the vet, along with your pet's medical
If your pet dies and you have already made a claim during the
policy period, some policies may require you to keep paying
premiums for the remainder of your policy period. Be sure to check
the policy's PDS before you sign up.
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 choices.
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 can be a good way to make sure your
pet is covered if they get sick or hurt, but make sure you know
what is involved and all the costs before you take out cover.
Last updated: 26 Mar 2018