Pet insurance

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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 per month)
  • 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 breed.

Excess

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 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 $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 include:

  • 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 the product disclosure statement.

See ASIC's media release about pet insurance and disclosure.

two-dogsCase 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 $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

Smart tip

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 time.

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?

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 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 cover. 


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Last updated: 12 Oct 2016