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.
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.