Explore Pet Insurance

Seeing your pet injured or struck by a sudden illness is distressing enough without worrying about mounting veterinary bills. Pet insurance can help you cover these expenses for cats and dogs, but different pets may need different policies depending on their individual needs. So, which one is best for your furry friend?

This guide will cover everything you need to know about:

  • How pet insurance works
  • All different types of pet insurance available
  • Age limits, waiting periods and exclusions

The ABCs of pet insurance

Pet insurance is a financial safety net for your pet. It can help pay a portion of your eligible vet bills so that you’ll be less likely to face a difficult choice if your fur baby gets sick or needs emergency care. Pet insurance can help cover vet costs for accidental injuries and some illnesses up to an agreed amount, and your level of coverage will depend on the type of policy you choose, your benefit percentage and your premium. Pet health insurance is available for both cats and dogs.

A family of three sitting on the floor of their new home with a dog

How pet insurance works

Pet insurance requires you to pay a premium (usually monthly) to receive coverage for specific injuries and illnesses your pet may experience and get reimbursed for part of your eligible vet bills. Keep in mind you’ll need to serve your pet insurance provider’s prescribed waiting period before making a claim, apart from accidents which are covered from the moment you take out cover.

Your benefit percentage and annual limits will dictate how much of your vet expenses your pet insurer will pay and how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket after your excess is deducted (the amount you need to contribute to each claim). Terms and conditions should be outlined clearly in your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), so make sure you read this carefully.

What type of pet insurance policy should you get?

Accident-only cover

An accident-only policy is the most basic level of cover you can get for your pet. If your beloved furry companion swallows a foreign object or gets hit by a car, this type of pet insurance can help cover a portion of the treatment costs. It’s worth noting that standalone accident-only cover is not widely available because most pet insurance products cover specified accidents and illnesses.

What does it cover?

Specified accidental injuries, such as:

· Car accidents

· Burns or electrocution

· Bone fractures

· Bite wounds or fight wound abscesses

· Snake bite toxicity

· Allergic reactions to insect or arachnid bites

Subject to cover level/policy terms & exclusions. Read your PDS for more information.

Is it suitable for your pet? Accident-only cover might be ideal for pets that have been de-sexed, vaccinated and wormed and have no foreseeable veterinary visits for any genetic predispositions, such as dysplasia or heart disease. Mischievous breeds and older pets that can’t be insured for illnesses may benefit from this policy as well.

Accident and illness cover

Pet insurance products that include cover for accidents and illnesses can reimburse you for a portion of the treatment costs if your pet is injured in an accident or suffers from an illness, as specified in the PDS. Illnesses typically covered under this type of pet insurance policy include treatment for cancer, skin conditions and infectious diseases (unless declared as pre-existing conditions).

What does it cover?
Specified accidental injuries and illnesses, such as:

· Car accidents

· Ingestion of a foreign object

· Bite and open wounds

· Arthritis

· Skin conditions

· Eye/ear conditions

· Gastrointestinal problems

· Cancer treatments

Subject to cover level/policy terms & exclusions. Read your PDS for more information.

Is it suitable for your pet? This level of cover is recommended for all pets that have been de-sexed, vaccinated and wormed and that may have genetic predispositions to certain illnesses. You can benefit the most from this policy by getting covered before your pet starts experiencing symptoms of illness or disease.

If your pet has already started experiencing symptoms or has a chronic condition before you purchase cover or before the waiting period is over, the diagnosis may be classified as a pre-existing condition, and you may not be covered.

This type of pet insurance is popular as it covers most unexpected costs of being a pet owner without the extras and add-ons.

Optional cover

Some insurers will allow you to add one or more optional covers to your comprehensive pet insurance to cover a portion of your pet’s routine care expenses, such as check-ups, dental care or even behavioural training. These optional covers will increase the premium you pay for your pet insurance.

What does it cover?
Specified routine or preventative care procedures, such as:

· Vaccinations

· De-sexing

· Microchipping

· Dental care

· Worming

· Flea/tick control

Subject to cover level/policy terms & exclusions. Read your PDS for more information.

Is it suitable for your pet? Routine care cover is suitable for all pets, particularly puppies and kittens requiring initial and booster vaccines, de-sexing, microchipping and more. It may also be ideal for older pets who need regular check-ups and breeds susceptible to parasitic infestations.

A couple petting a yorkshire terrier dog.

How much of the vet bill is covered by pet insurance?

Most policies will cover 70-90% of the veterinary bill − this is known as the benefit percentage − leaving you to pay the difference, which is your gap payment. Your coverage and benefit percentage may change depending on which policy you choose for your pet.

Generally, a basic accident and illness policy may only cover up to 70% of your vet fees after the policy excess is deducted, whereas a more comprehensive cover may cover up to 90% and some may even cover the total cost (100%) of the vet bill. These policies with a higher benefit percentage will usually cost more; however, you’ll dramatically reduce your out-of-pocket expenses should you need to claim. Keep in mind, though, that you also may have sub-limits on certain pet treatments.

Some insurers may reimburse you after you pay your local vet upfront and submit a claim to them for the cost, while others will pay your vet directly. Some insurers will apply the policy excess before the benefit percentage is applied, while other insurers will apply the policy excess after.

Frequently asked questions

When should you get pet insurance?

Most insurers have an age limit on when you can get pet insurance for your companion. Though this may vary from insurer to insurer, generally, if your pet is younger than six weeks or older than nine years, you won’t be able to take out a new policy for your companion.

Accident-only cover is the only exception – you can usually get this policy for your pet up until 16 years of age with some insurers.

Ideally, you should get pet insurance as soon as possible because the younger your pet, the less likely they will have pre-existing conditions that your insurer won’t cover. As your pet gets older, they’ll gradually have access to fewer policy options and less coverage.

Once your pet reaches the maximum age limit on a certain policy (with most providers), you’ll be able to keep the same policy for your pet for as long as you’d like, provided there’s no break in cover. If you decide to discontinue the policy, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get your pet covered again.

How are pet insurance premiums calculated?

Pet insurance premiums are calculated based on the risk profile of your pet and the likelihood of claiming on a policy. Your pet’s age, breed, health status and other factors are considered when you take out a new cover. That’s why it’s important to insure your pet early in their life before they develop any health problems. The type of cover you choose will also impact the cost of pet insurance; for example, basic pet insurance policies will be cheaper than more comprehensive policies with add-ons.

Are there any limits or caps for these types of pet insurance?

Different insurers will place their own annual limits on the services and treatments you can claim on your policy. Although many pet owners never reach their annual limit, checking what benefit limits apply to your policy before making a purchase is important.

Some policies may also have sub-limits for specific conditions (e.g. an annual limit on medicine); these limits may become an issue if your pet ends up needing intensive ongoing treatment. Though it’s impossible to foresee issues, it’s important to read through your policy’s PDS to know exactly what you’ll be covered for.

How long are the waiting periods?

Most insurers begin covering accidents immediately after you purchase your policy. However, there is usually a waiting period for illnesses, health conditions and routine treatments. Most waiting periods are 30 days, but this can vary, depending on your specific pet insurance cover, insurer and the service or treatment you want to claim.

Are there any pet insurance exclusions?

Exclusions vary between insurers, but most policies won’t cover:

  • Dental care (unless under a suitable routine care cover)
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Preventative care (e.g. worming, flea/tick control)
  • Pregnancy and obstetrics
  • Transplants
  • Prosthetics
  • Elective treatments (non-essential medical treatments)
  • Treatments for diseases with a known vaccine.

Depending on your insurer, vaccinations, de-sexing, hereditary conditions and preventative treatments may not be included. Be sure always to check the exclusions in your policy’s PDS.

Do I need to pay a policy excess each time I claim?

Yes, you’ll need to pay an excess each time you claim on your pet insurance policy, although this can vary between insurers (for example, some policies may only require one excess payment per condition). Excess is the fixed amount you pay towards a claim, with your insurer covering the rest of the vet bill up to your benefit percentage. You’ll need to cover this gap between the benefit and the total bill in addition to your policy excess. The general rule of thumb is the higher your excess payment, the lower your monthly premium and vice versa.

Some insurers will apply the policy excess before the benefit percentage is applied, while other insurers will apply the policy excess after.

Can I choose my own vet?

Pet insurance doesn’t dictate which vet you should use, so the choice is yours no matter the type of policy you have. You can take your insured cat or dog to any veterinary practitioner, specialist, animal clinic or pet hospital that’s licensed and registered in Australia.

Ready to protect your fur baby?

If you decide that a pet insurance policy is the best way to manage vet bills, try our online comparison service to find a great-value policy. Our handy tool makes it quick and easy to compare pet insurance quotes with a convenient side-by-side view.

It takes just minutes to compare policy features, costs, limits and exclusions from a range of pet insurance brands in Australia. Best of all, purchasing a policy through us costs the same as going direct.

So, what are you waiting for? Compare pet insurance today.

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