Not that many years ago, it was pretty hard to find pet insurance in Australia. These days, you can go online and compare reviews of over 80 Aussie insurers who provide cover for your dog, cat or even your horse.
It’s clear that insuring pets is now becoming more common, helped by the fact that it’s one of the cheapest forms of insurance you can buy.
But how can you tell if you’re getting good value for money when you buy pet insurance? We’ve come up with some practical tips to help you make an informed choice:
How to choose the right type of pet insurance cover
Pet insurance comes in three basic types: accident only, accident and illness, and comprehensive. ‘Accident only’ policies cover accidents like burns, snakebite, fractures, getting hit by a car, bites from other animals, etc.
‘Accident and illness’ covers injuries and accidents but also covers veterinarian-diagnosed illnesses and disease. Each policy varies, but in general you can expect things like skin conditions, bee stings, ear infections, infectious diseases, cancer, hereditary conditions and more to be covered.
Pre-existing conditions and diseases where there’s a known vaccine are typically excluded from accident and illness cover.
Comprehensive pet insurance covers just about everything you’ll find in an accident and illness policy, but also includes a number of ‘routine care’ treatments such as dental care, vaccinations, worming treatments, de-sexing, behaviour training and more.
Most policies have age restrictions. While you can usually insure a pet once they turn 8 weeks, you’ll find it much harder to find insurance for an animal that’s more than nine years old.
A pet’s needs change as it ages, which in turn dictates the most appropriate type of insurance cover. For example, the priorities for a young pet will be things like health checks, preventative vaccinations, microchipping and de-sexing, which are only covered through a comprehensive policy.
A ‘mid-life’ pet may be okay with an accident and illness policy for awhile, but an older pet may require extra cover for ‘senior citizen’ conditions such as cancer, eye conditions or arthritis, which means you may be switching back to a comprehensive policy again.
It pays to aggressively shop around for pet insurance and keep your eye on what’s being offered, so you get the best value for money and cover that matches up with your pet’s age and health.
How much does pet insurance cost?
While most pet insurance is reasonably affordable, there are still ways to reduce the cost. One way is to choose an accident only or accident and illness policy instead of comprehensive cover.
You could also opt to pay a higher excess in exchange for a lower premium, although in this case you’d want to make sure you could afford to pay that excess if your pet suddenly needed emergency treatment.
Another way to save money is to switch to a different insurer, if you can find one that provides a similar level of care at a lower price. As is the case with all forms of insurance, it pays to be aware of ‘too good to be true’ policies that seem suspiciously cheaper than their competitors.
Always read the Product Disclosure Statement – that oh-so-boring but oh-so-important ‘fine print’ that explains all the policy details, including any waiting periods that may apply.
Be aware of all the exclusions
Exclusions are all those things that your pet policy specifically does NOT cover. For example, many policies may exclude certain breeds or cross-breeds that are deemed dangerous.
Failure to vaccinate a pet for a vaccine-preventable condition can also void a policy. Other policies exclude any cover relating to breeding (e.g. pregnancy or birth), and most policies seriously restrict or omit cover for pre-existing conditions.
It’s always a good idea to take your pet for a full health check-up before jumping onto a pet insurance policy, so you know where your furry friend stands in regard to pre-existing conditions.
Another common exclusion involves your duty of care as a pet owner. If you fail to exercise reasonable care for your pet which results in accident or illness, your insurance could be voided.
‘Reasonable care’ is subject to interpretation, of course, but actions like delaying a vet visit for a sick animal, leaving a car-chasing dog in an unfenced yard or forgetting to leave food or water for your cat while you go away over Easter could possibly qualify.
Know the benefit limits
All insurance policies come with benefit limits: the maximum payouts possible for different types of cover. It’s important to look at both the range of benefits offered and their total monetary value when comparing pet insurers.
Getting a policy with a lower benefit amount may appear to cost you less, but that’s only if your actual costs don’t go beyond that. If they do, you’ll have to pay that extra out of your own pocket – which rather defeats the purpose of having the insurance in the first place.
Be aware that many policies will also have annual limits for specific conditions, too.
- Pet insurance comes in three basic types: accident only, accident and illness, and comprehensive
- Pet policies normally come with age restrictions (a minimum of 8 weeks and maximum of 9 years is typical)
- Premium costs will depend on the type of cover, monetary level of benefits and amount of excess you choose
- If your policy includes ‘routine care’, make sure you understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t
- Pet insurance is becoming increasingly competitive in Australia, so it pays to shop around