Explore Pet Insurance

Eliza BuglarWritten by Eliza Buglar
Reviewed by Adrian Taylor
Last updated 30/01/2024

Key takeaways

This guide covers what you need to know when choosing pet insurance and how to select the right level of coverage for your pet’s needs (and your budget).

  • Most pet insurance policies include cover for accidents and illnesses. There are also optional extras for routine care and dental care available.
  • Pet insurance can cover 70-90% of your eligible vet bills – up to an annual limit. Some policies may have higher or lower reimbursement rates, while select policies may cover the total cost of the vet’s bill.
  • You can save money on your policy by opting to pay a higher excess at claims time.
  • All pet insurance policies have exclusions and waiting periods.
  • Certain dog breeds are more expensive to insure due to their hereditary conditions.

Why take out pet insurance?

Pet insurance can help cover some of your eligible vet bills when your pet requires medical attention. Other benefits include:

  • Most policies allow you to add optional cover for routine care to get partial reimbursements for periodic consultations, vaccinations, de-sexing, microchipping, worming, behavioural training and more.
  • You can cover your cat or dog for life if they’ve been insured before age nine with no breaks in cover.
  • Most insurance providers let you choose your own vet or clinic for treatment.


Choosing cover for your pet

If you’re looking to buy or switch to a new pet insurance policy, consider the following:

  • Check that your pet insurance covers both accidents and illness, especially if your pet’s breed is prone to health issues. While most vet costs typically relate to common illnesses, it’s best to have cover for a wider range of ailments.
  • Most policies have flexible benefit limits and excess options to tailor your cover to your pet’s needs and your budget.
  • Routine care cover comes at an additional cost but may provide unbeatable value.
  • The cost of pet insurance will depend on the type of cover you choose, among other factors like your pet’s age, breed and potential healthcare needs.

Expert tips for choosing the right pet insurance

Our resident pet insurance expert, Adrian Taylor, has helpful tips for pet owners shopping for a new policy or switching cover.

Don’t settle for the cheapest policy

The cheapest cover may save you money, but it may not give you value. Cheaper pet insurance typically has more exclusions and can be limited in coverage which means you may find yourself out of pocket for some treatments, surgeries or emergency boarding. Don’t leave your furry friend underinsured to save a few bucks.

Review your policy terms and inclusions

The best insurance is assurance, so take the time to check your policy terms and conditions to know exactly what you’re covered for, your benefit and annual limits and how your claims will be paid. Read your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for that information.

Increase your excess to save money on pet insurance

You can reduce your monthly pet insurance premiums by opting to pay a higher policy excess. This means you’ll pay more at claims time, so this option’s not suitable for all pet owners, especially those with older pets or at-risk breeds who may require multiple vet visits.

How does pet insurance work?

Cat snuggling up to dog
Pet insurance plans commonly cover both accidental injuries and illnesses and may offer optional benefits for routine care, dental care or alternative therapies. Some basic pet insurance policies provide cover for accidents only, which is more suitable for senior animals who don’t qualify for comprehensive policies.

Benefit percentage

Your level of coverage will determine how much of your vet bills will be reimbursed. This is your benefit percentage, and it can range between 70% and 90%. Some policies may cover more or even the total cost of the vet’s bill, while others will cover less.

For example, if your policy doesn’t include an excess, the vet charges you $400 for treatment and your benefit percentage is 75%, your insurer will reimburse you $300 – leaving you $100 out of pocket. If your policy includes an excess, your out-of-pocket expense will be higher.

Benefit limits and sub-limits

All pet insurance products have a general limit (or benefit limit) on the value of claims you can lodge per policy period. Once you’ve hit this limit, you can’t claim any further for that year. You may also have sub-limits on certain types of claims. For example, you may have an annual benefit limit of $10,000, but a $500 sub-limit for cruciate ligament conditions and another $500 sub-limit for tick paralysis treatment.

Policy excess

You may have to pay an excess if you claim, so consider this when choosing a policy. Your excess may be payable per claim, per condition or annually, depending on your insurer. Some insurance providers apply the policy excess before the benefit percentage, while others apply it after.

You’ll usually choose a policy excess when you take out or renew your policy. You can pay a lower excess or no excess, which typically results in higher premiums (and vice versa). Most insurers require you to pay the vet bill upfront and submit a claim after treatment.

Which pet insurance policy should I choose?

You may like to have comprehensive accident and illness cover with an optional add-on for routine care during the first year of your pet’s life when preventive care expenses can quickly add up.

Otherwise, ensure you have adequate cover for accidental injuries and common illnesses like skin conditions, heart and kidney disease, joint dysplasia and cancer. If you have an older pet, you may only be eligible for an accident-only cover.

Important to know

Corgi and cat running through field

Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Pet insurance generally doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions or any related or bilateral conditions to a pre-existing condition. Some insurers may cover pre-existing conditions that have been fully cured for at least 12 months if you can provide clinical notes.

Any newly diagnosed ailment will be treated as a pre-existing condition and therefore excluded from cover if you decide to switch policies. You may also face higher premiums and more cover restrictions with each renewal.

Other exclusions

There are other common exclusions to pet insurance, including (but not limited to):

  • Dental care (unless included as an optional cover)
  • Elective or specialised therapies (unless included as an optional cover)
  • Vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Pregnancy and obstetrics
  • Transplants, prosthetics and other complex treatments.

Always read your PDS for policy exclusions and the insurer’s Target Market Determination (TMD) to be sure you’re buying a policy that suits your needs.

Waiting periods

Dog insurance and cat insurance have a standard 30-day waiting period for illnesses, but some exclusion periods may be shorter depending on the insurer. Cruciate ligament conditions for both dogs and cats typically have waiting periods of up to six months. Some accidental injuries have no waiting periods. Check the policy PDS for specific waiting periods for different types of treatments.

Age limits and eligibility requirements

You can cover most pets with an insurance policy when they turn six weeks old. Here are the reasons why getting your pet covered at an early age is good practice:

  • You may not have to sit through waiting periods later, and you can claim on crucial treatment as needed.
  • Most insurers won’t cover your pet for illnesses if you take out a new policy when they’re nine years old or older. Age limits will depend on the insurer, but most will continue to insure your pet after that age as long as your cover is continuous.
  • Insuring older pets with pre-existing medical conditions can be difficult (and expensive), so take out cover earlier rather than later.

Your cover is assessed every year. As your pet gets older, they may become more expensive to insure – this will be reflected in how your premiums are calculated.

Should I review my pet insurance policy annually?

Dog owner choosing pet insurance
You should review your pet insurance around your policy renewal time to ensure you’re still getting the best value possible (though this may not be suitable if you’ve got an older pet or a pet with an illness). You may be able to switch to a new accident and illness policy, but only if:

  • There hasn’t been a break in cover
  • The level of cover hasn’t changed.

As mentioned, most new insurers will treat any of your pet’s ailments as pre-existing conditions and generally won’t recognise any period of cover you held previously with other policies. That’s why finding a good policy early in your pet’s life is essential.

Adrian Taylor, General Manager

Meet our pet insurance expert, Adrian Taylor

As General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor knows that dogs and cats get themselves into all sorts of mischief. One part of Adrian’s work is to help empower consumers to understand how pet insurance can help save them from exorbitant vet bills when their pet gets injured or falls ill.

Adrian has over 13 years’ experience in the financial services industry. He helps review general insurance content on Compare the Market to ensure it accurately breaks down complex insurance topics.

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