Pet Insurance: Why you should consider coverage for your dog

Pet Insurance: Peace of Mind for Pet Owners

It’s a pet owner’s worst nightmare. Your dog or cat suddenly falls ill, gets bitten by a snake or is involved in an awful accident and you need to rush them to the vet. You know that veterinary care is expensive, but helping your beloved pet is your first priority, no matter what it costs. The last thing you need when you are making decisions about your sick or injured animal companion is to have to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to afford the bill.

Rest Easy Knowing Your Dog Will Get the Care They Need

Pet insurance cover is a way to strategically take care of the costs of unexpected vet bills. Your peace of mind and providing your pet with the best care possible go hand in hand and lie at the heart of pet insurance policies. Another benefit is that you may be less likely to hesitate about taking your dog to the vet when they’re sick if you know you have illness cover. Sometimes, a minor complaint will resolve itself, but there are times when a dog who doesn’t necessarily appear to be on death’s door is actually sicker than you may think and waiting for treatment can make the difference between a good outcome and a disaster.

Where to get dog insurance

In principle, the idea of dog (or cat) insurance is a great one and I for one wouldn’t consider not having pet insurance coverage for my dogs.

In Australia, Hollard Insurance was the first company to offer specialised pet insurance and currently partners with PetSure.

When you are shopping around, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First, there are different types and levels of insurance ie. accident only cover, so ask lots of questions and know exactly what you will (or won’t) be covered for.

Different policies also vary in terms of the percentage amount covered on different types of vet visit.

At Rawmate we use (and highly recommend) Pet Plan.

Check them out if you are considering a good quality Australian pet insurance plan.

Dr Ben The House Call Vet with Strax post surgery 2018

Dr Ben The House Call Vet with Commander Strax Post Surgery 2018

What are the Main Kinds of Pet Insurance Coverage?

In general, there are three main kinds of coverage: accident only (for accidental injuries), illness coverage and comprehensive coverage that addresses both injuries and illness. Other than the type of care required, policies will often vary based on the age of your pet (it makes sense that an older pet will be more expensive), the type of animal (dogs are more expensive than cats), and breed (certain breeds may be more likely to develop certain types of health conditions).

What Questions Should I Ask About Dog Insurance?

Don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions when you are choosing the company that will provide you with pet insurance. Here’s a list to get you started:

  1. How much are the monthly premiums?
  2. Is there a maximum payout each year? Or, a lifetime payout?
  3. How much is the excess?
  4. Do you pay first and get reimbursed later? If so, what’s the average waiting period after a claim has been filed?
  5. Are there any exceptions to coverage (many policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions or regular checkups and routine care like vaccinations or dental cleaning)
  6. Does the policy call for an excess for each visit or procedure or is there a single, annual excess amount beyond which everything is covered?
  7. Is there a discount if you pay your entire premium annually rather than monthly?
  8. Is there a discount if your dog is de-sexed?
  9. Are there breed-specific conditions that are excluded?

Ask for a list of treatments that are included under the plan you are considering. For example, snakebite may or may not be included under accident cover. It’s not a bad idea to get a sense of the cost of surgery or sample treatment so you can consider how difficult it would be for you to find the money in case of a catastrophic incident.

Most insurance plans ask you to settle the bill at the time of treatment and then submit a claim afterward, in most cases you can take your dog to any licensed veterinarian for treatment, but confirm this prior to signing up with the insurance provider.

Karma German Shepherd having her hips and elbows xrayed in Brisbane 2018

Karma having her hips and elbows x-rayed 2018

Be Aware that Certain Dog Breeds Cost More to Insure

If you have not yet settled on a breed of dog, be aware that certain breeds are more prone to certain types of illnesses. Where there is a very obvious pattern or breed connection, some policies specifically exclude those conditions from coverage. In some cases, it’s possible to top up the coverage and have specific illnesses (e.g. cancer) or conditions (e.g. hip dysplasia) included even if they aren’t covered under the base policy.

Is General Care Covered by Pet Insurance?

There are also some companies that offer additional coverage that does include general care services like dental cleaning, vaccinations, and de-sexing. Yes, there is an extra cost when it comes to your premium, but you need to be making sure your dog or cat receives basic, ongoing care anyway. Regardless of your financial situation, by spreading the costs out with monthly payments, it makes it a little easier to balance your budget. With some sensible planning, at least money won’t be the reason you decide to postpone (or not bother with) parasite prevention or dental cleaning. No, you won’t necessarily be saving any money but comprehensive coverage is like having a savings plan so you aren’t caught by surprise when these recurring expenses come up.

Can You Get Pet Insurance for an Old Dog?

If you’ve never had pet insurance before and your dog is already getting old, you may find it hard to find coverage and, if you do, expect that you will need to pay extra and/or find yourself with a list of excluded or pre-existing conditions. Perhaps the most logical time to purchase insurance is when you first get your puppy. This is when the rates are likely to be the lowest and some companies will guarantee coverage for the dog’s lifetime as long as you keep your coverage current. Though you aren’t likely to experience any major illness when the dog is young, puppies can get themselves into all sort of trouble and it’s not unusual for young, exuberant dogs to find themselves needing treatment after an accident.

Karma recovering from spey post surgery 2018 with Dr Ben The House Call Vet

Karma recovering post spey 2018

Is it Worth Buying Pet Health Insurance?

If you are on the fence about whether or not you should purchase pet health insurance, consider that veterinary medicine has become much more sophisticated over the past number of years. With the addition of specialists, new treatments for diseases previously thought of as incurable, new diagnostic tools and so on, the costs of veterinary care have also increased. This trend is showing no signs of changing, which is great news for our pets as it means we are able to consider treatments unheard of a generation ago. But paying for an expensive surgery or a course of chemotherapy for a dog with cancer can definitely impact your savings account.

Consider, too, that even if you have good intentions and plan to establish a ‘what if?’ savings account specifically for your dog’s future health care needs, your dog might not wait until the kitty is full before dashing out into traffic and breaking their leg.

A good pet health insurance plan allows you to take full advantage of the amazing medical advances available to us as pet owners while relieving the stress relating to payment.

Do you have dog health insurance? What has your experience been? Would you recommend it to other pet owners? We’d love to hear your opinion, so please drop us a note in the comments and let us know what you think.


**Please note - This blog post is just that. A blog post. Musings and observations regarding Pet Insurance or Dog Insurance that are general only in nature and do not constitute advice and are not tailored to your objectives or financial situation.


Matt Joseph

Staff writer

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