When we decide to get a pet, some big questions need to be answered; what will we name them, what breed should we get, and how much will it cost to care for them? The last question is the trickiest to answer; after all, costs vary when it comes to dogs and cats. However, healthcare costs are rarely cheap in the event of an accident or illness.

This is a chief reason why many of us take out pet insurance. You must be thinking about it as well, but perhaps you’re unsure how to pick a policy. We’ve got your back, and are happy to explain.

1. Take out cover early in your pet’s life

You can cover most pets with an insurance policy once they’re eight weeks or older. Taking out cover early on means you won’t have to sit through waiting periods later and can claim on crucial treatment as needed.

Another reason to get covered early is that some insurers won’t cover your pet with an illness policy if they’re nine years or older*. That being said, you can typically take out accident cover no matter how old your pet is.

Here’s one last reason; by taking out cover early, you will be less likely to be excluded from claims due to a pre-existing condition.

N.B. Your cover is assessed every year at. As your pet gets older, they may become more expensive to insure. This would be reflected in your premium.

* This age limit will vary, depending on your insurer.

2. Watch out for common exclusions and restrictions

There are several reasons why you might be denied a pet insurance claim at a crucial time. In some cases, it’s entirely avoidable.

  • Limits on cover: Your policy has a general limit on the value of claims you can lodge per year and once you have hit this limit you cannot claim any further that year. You also may have sub-limits on certain types of claims. For example, you may be limited for cruciate ligament claims to a fixed dollar value over the life of the policy.
  • Exclusions: An exclusion is a treatment you’re unable to claim for. For example, your policy may not cover dental treatment or elective treatments, but a more comprehensive (and expensive) policy might. All policies will generally exclude pre-existing conditions.

3. Make sure you know how much is paid per claim

There’s a good reason for you to watch out for any excess or out of pocket expenses. Let us explain:

  • Excess: the sum you must pay each time you claim on your pet insurance policy. Pet insurance policies with higher excesses may have cheaper premiums. On the other hand, cheap (or $0) excesses may mean more expensive premiums. Some policies, such as those we compare, do not have an excess payable.
  • Out of pocket expenses: the cash difference between what your pet insurance policy will cover, and what the treatment costs. For example, your vet may charge $120 for treatment, and your policy may cover 80% of this – leaving you to pay $24. Sub-limits may also affect the amount of out of pocket expenses you need to pay.

Generally, your claim limits will be “between $8,000 and $12,000 per year or per condition”, according to ASIC^.

4. Annually reviewing policies only works until a certain age

Our usual advice to Australians to ensure they continue to enjoy the best value insurance possible is to shop around for a different provider on a regular basis. However, this presents a problem when it comes to pet insurance, as you cannot insure older pets with an illness policy. You may be able to switch to a new accident & illness policy but only if:

  • there hasn’t been a break in cover, or
  • the level of cover hasn’t changed during the switch.

If you change cover, your new insurer will treat any of your pet’s previous healthcare conditions as being a pre-existing condition. Your new insurer will generally not recognise any period of cover you held previously with other policies.

As for accident cover, age doesn’t affect your ability to insure your pet – shop around as much as you like. In fact, our service is a great avenue for you to explore your options, so try it today!

Now’s the time to get covered. Learn more about pet insurance today.

^ Source: ASIC (2013, September 5th). ASIC welcomes improved pet insurance disclosure. asic.gov.au/about-asic/media-centre/find-a-media-release/2013-releases/13-249mr-asic-welcomes-improved-pet-insurance-disclosure/