Pet insurance

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 difference.

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 year.

What does pet insurance cover?

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 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 breed.

Specialty products

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 you more. 

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 cover.

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 covered for.

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.

Pet infographic thumbnail small

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 cover

Pet insurance policies have a number of exclusions. These are the things you are not covered for. Some typical exclusions are:

  • 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 waiting period
  • 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 statement (PDS).

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 insurance

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. 

Smart tip

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 certain time.

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 history.

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?

PupTry 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.

Related links

Last updated: 02 Aug 2019