While we like to think we never take risks with our pets’ health and safety, new research indicates otherwise. A survey commissioned by leading online comparison site comparethemarket.com.au found that 59 per cent of Aussie pet owners admit to exposing their pets to potential health risks and injuries.
The survey asked an independent, nationally representative panel of 1003 Australian pet owners which potential risks, out of seven, they had made with their pets – from leaving them in cars, to giving them poisonous foods, to leaving medicines within their reach. Comparethemarket.com.au has drawn on the expertise of veterinarian Dr Joanne Sillince, Managing Director of Pets Australia, to clarify what is and isn’t a real risk for our pets.
1 in 4 pet owners give their pets unsuitable foods
One in four pet owners (23 per cent) confessed to giving their pets food that could make them sick. Dr Sillince says: “This can include garlic, onion, grapes and even vegan diets. Feeding the wrong bones could put your furry pal at risk of developing blocked intestines or even puncturing the stomach.” Dr Sillince stresses the importance of consulting your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet.
1 in 5 pet owners have ditched the leash
A further fifth (21 per cent) said they had taken their pet off the leash for a walk. While pets need regular exercise and leashes can be removed at Council approved off-leash areas on beaches and parks, going off-leash around roads is a recipe for disaster, says Dr Sillince. “If your pet gets a fright or sees something it wants and runs, it could get hit by a car, the cost for which can be huge, and your pet might not fully recover.”
16 per cent of pet owners accidentally left chocolate within reach of their pets
Even though most pet owners know that chocolate is poisonous for their pets, 16 per cent have left chocolate within reach of their pet. Dr Sillince says: “Dark chocolate is the worst type for pets, and is more likely to make small pets really sick. Keeping chocolate out of reach and view of your pets is the safest idea.”
1 in 5 pet owners have had their pet escape through an unlocked gate or open door
Nineteen per cent of pet owners have accidentally left a door open or a gate unlocked which has led to their pet escaping. Dr Sillince says pet owners should always insure their pets correctly as an outdoor or indoor pet. “It’s also important to microchip pets in case they do escape.”
More than 1 in 10 have left their pets alone for more than 24 hours
Pets can be left alone for short periods of time; however, they can get anxious or sick if left alone for long stretches of time. Despite this, 13 per cent of pet owners admit to leaving their pets alone for more than 24 hours. “The longer a pet is alone, the greater the risk of accident or death,” Dr Sillince says. “Anxious, lonely pets can get destructive, and cushions or furniture that get torn apart can end up blocking stomachs – resulting in major surgery.”
Nearly 1 in 10 pet owners have left their pets unattended in the car
Eight per cent of pet owners have left pets unattended in the car. Each year, the RSPCA receives 1000 distress calls about animals being left in cars in the heat. Leaving your pet in an unattended car with the windows down isn’t a solution and it is illegal to do so too. Dr Sillince says: “Vets across Australia are horrified that this is still happening. Heatstroke can kill a pet in 10 minutes and could cost thousands of dollars in care to save their lives. If you get out of your car, you must take your pets with you.”
7 per cent have left medicine within reach of pets
Seven per cent of pet owners have accidentally left medicine in a place that their pets can reach. Dr Sillince suggests keeping all medication out of reach of children and pets. “Pet poisoning from human prescription medicines is quite common and can make pets very unwell. Various medications used for blood pressure, heart, diabetes and cholesterol management are poisonous to all pets.”
Spokesperson for comparethemarket.com.au Rod Attrill says: “It’s vital to insure our pets to avoid any financial stress in the event of unexpected illnesses or injuries. Pet insurance usually covers expenses incurred from accidental injury through to illness.”
“Despite pets being a big part of the family and a beloved companion, many of us still aren’t protecting ourselves and our pets against major vet bills or injuries that can leave us severely out of pocket. Whether or not we accidently expose them to everyday dangers such as leaving the gate unlocked or food lying around, pets are prone to accident and injury. Having pet insurance provides that extra peace of mind and allows owners to focus on taking care of their furry friends instead of worrying about how to pay for their vet bills.”
“With some policy premiums starting at around $17 a fortnight, pet insurance can be inexpensive and still provide the level of care you need for your dog or cat. Comprehensive cover could protect you for up to $11,000-20,000 annually, with some higher level policies including de-sexing, microchipping, after-hours services and emergency boarding fees if you were hospitalised and unable to take care of your pet.”
|Types of risks people have taken with their pets||% of respondents that have taken these risks|
|Given them food they shouldn’t eat (i.e. grapes, bones, raw meat)||23%|
|Taken them for a walk without a leash||21%|
|Left a gate unlocked or door opened, and they’ve escaped||19%|
|Accidentally left chocolate in a place they can reach||16%|
|Left them alone for longer than 24 hours||13%|
|Left them unattended in the car||8%|
|Accidentally left medicine in a place they can reach||7%|
|None of the above||41%|
Comparethemarket.com.au is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We make it Simples for Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy insurance, energy, travel and personal finance products from a wide range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool enables consumers to find products that best suit their needs and back pocket.
 Survey conducted by Pureprofile November 2018 of Australians who own a dog or a cat
 RSPCA QLD, ‘Dogs die in hot cars’: https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/what-we-do/welfare-awareness/companion-animals/dogs-die-in-hot-cars
 Based on a comparison of six pet insurers for a five-year-old, male Golden Retriever cover (RSPCA Pet Insurance, Prime Pet Insurance, Guide Dogs Pet Insurance, Real Insurance, Australian Seniors Insurance Agency and Guardian Insurance) on comparethemarket.com.au