Should I get Pet insurance?

By Dr Eloise Bright 11 Min Read

Is pet insurance worthwhile? Will it cover you when you need it, or end up being an expensive waste of time. We look at what pet insurance covers and whether it is going to save you money.

Pet insurance aims to cover you should something happen to your pet and you don’t necessarily have the ready cash to help them. For the most part pet insurance covers your pet for medical emergencies, accidental injury and those unexpected diseases. Some policies cover preventative care such as routine vaccination and parasites prevention, but for the most part you will need to budget for these separately.

Things you need to know:

  • Most companies will cover 80% of the total claim.
  • Many will have an excess, this can vary from $0 up to $500.
  • Excesses may be per claim for a condition or per calendar year.
  • Most vets will require you to pay up front for your pets treatment, then claim on the insurance, so you will still need to be able to initially cover the costs (unless you can make an arrangement with your vet).
  • Many policies will have breed exclusions such as for hip problems in breeds prone to hip dysplasia or heart disease in certain breeds. Check the fine print.
  • If your pet has previously been treated for a condition, even if it wasn’t claimed for on your insurance, it may be considered a pre-existing condition.
  • Many pets over 8 years of age may be uninsurable or incredibly expensive to insure.
  • There are usually discounts if you have other insurance policies with the insurer.
  • It is usually cheaper for your additional pets.
  • Some polices help with legal costs should your pet injure a 3rd party (such as a human or animal via road trauma or bite injury).
  • If your pet is lost or stolen some insurance policies can offer a reward to the finder
  • If you are hospitalised pet insurance may cover the boarding costs.


Pet insurance is an additional cost and something you will need to organise while your pet is still young. The older your pet, the more pre-existing conditions they may develop and most companies will not ensure pets over 8 years of age. You may end up spending $200-$500 per year for a policy you never claim on, particularly with a young and healthy animal. However, young healthy animals are just as likely to get diseases such as a stomach upset from eating something nasty off the ground (yes, Labradors of the world, we are looking at you!), or break a toe chasing that ball. These are the things that you as a pet owner can’t prevent and can’t necessarily predict.


One option is just to put $200 away per year for your pet into a savings account so you can accrue the interest, but also know you have the money should something happen. The only problem is if your young puppy goes and gets hit by a car 7 days after you buy  him, then you may be $5000 out of pocket, with no savings. On the other hand, if you have a line of credit, there is little difference between paying up front for this, compared to paying an insurance company. We just hope it only happens once!


Some of the additional benefits of Bow Wow Meow include:

  • Genuine life-long cover for chronic conditions
  • Emergency boarding fees & overseas travel insurance
  • Tick paralysis benefit of up to $1,000 per year
  • 10% discount for second and subsequent pets
  • Free ID tag with every new policy

Most of all, having pet insurance will provide you with the security that you will never have to choose between money and the life of your beloved pet!


There are different types of policies by many different companies. Check with the company that does your home insurance, as many insurers will include a discounted policy if you are already insured with them. Most in Australia offer lifetime cover, which means so long as you keep paying for the cover, you are covered for chronic illnesses or lengthy treatments.  For example if your pet has chronic allergies and requires a visit to your vet every couple of months, the policy will keep paying that condition for life. At $70-$300 per vet visit, plus $3000 for allergy testing and immunotherapy, insurance would definitely be a bonus.

Maximum benefit policies only cover for a condition once, to a certain value, so once your limit is reached, you can’t claim again for that condition. For this type of policy, it is worthwhile doing research on what it would actually cost for a particular condition and whether you could claim the entire value.

Time limited policies are often for 12 months and once you have claimed for a condition in that policy, you can’t claim again.

You also have the option of covering for routine healthcare such as vaccination in addition to accident and or illness cover. Accident cover usually just covers injuries and accidents such as being hit by a car, or traumatic injuries like fractures. Illness cover would cover anything from a bout of gastro to an ear infection. Realistically you could easily spend a few thousand dollars on a severe gastro, so although illnesses don’t sound particularly expensive, the ideal diagnostics and treatment procedures can be costly. The benefit with having insurance is that you can always provide the best cover for your pet, no matter the cost of that procedure.

Some policies do not cover:

  • Dental care – this can cost $500 for a dental clean, so check your policy.
  • After hour care (some policies only cover true emergencies for afterhours care, so perhaps visiting the vet for that nail trim at 2am isn’t a great idea)
  • Genetic testing
  • Many have a waiting period or exclusion on conditions such as knee injuries (particularly cruciate ligament injuries).
  • Elective procedures (just watch this one if you have a pet with retained testicles!)
  • Diseases preventable by vaccination (if your pet is not vaccinated) or parasites
  • A disease caused by a pandemic (a widespread illness, a bit like the natural disaster clauses in many home insurance policies).
  • Prescription diets (for example if your pet gets diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatitis and renal disease)
  • Cruciate ligament knee injuries – particularly for large breed dogs.
  • Congenital defects – including heart problems, but this depends on the policy and whether the condition was detectable prior to diagnosis.
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, physiotherapy and behavioural consults.
  • Breeding, so if your pet needs to have a $2000 caesarian, you may not be covered.
  • Tick paralysis- check this closely as some have a limit on coverage. If your policy only covers $1000, this may not get close to what you would spend should you pet need to be hospitalised on a ventilator for a week!

If you would like to compare some insurance companies, Choosi has a few pet insurance options and will give you an immediate quote for 4 insurers. Just bear in mind that for most policies if you select the option of an excess (of say, $200), the monthly premium is usually lower. When you are looking for a policy that will cover bills in the thousands of dollars, an excess doesn’t seem that bad. Just bear in mind that if you claim for a $3000 knee surgery and your insurance covers 80% of the cost and you have a $200 excess, you will still be $800 out of pocket.

Using the above selector tool to insure a cat with accident and illness cover was $15.89 per fortnight with no excess and up to $11,000 cover with RSPCA pet insurance, most other companies were similar costs.

To insure a young Labrador for accident and illness the premium was $26.47 per fortnight for RSPCA, while Prime Pet Insurance was $32.95 for similar cover. Both had no excess.

Whatever you decide to do, financially for your family, pet insurance does give you the peace of mind of knowing that you can offer the best healthcare available for your pet. Vet bills can often run into the thousands, now that it is possible to do diagnostic such as CT, MRI, ultrasounds or genetic testing. Back in the days when pets were simply put to sleep if they had a chronic disease, vets were not able to offer the high standards of care they now have access to. There are specialist hospitals, after hours hospitals and the diagnostic and treatment options are getting closer to what humans expect for themselves. Unfortunately this all costs money. As a vet there is no tougher situation than when you know you can help an animal, but the family can’t afford it. Pet insurance at least goes some way towards helping cover for the unexpected.


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Dr Eloise is a Clinical Lead at Love That Pet and one of our resident pet care experts. She also curates the select range of vet recommended and approved products which feature on our site.
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