Pet insurance is a growing industry in Australia and is something all responsible pet owners should seriously consider. It not only helps with payment of unexpected vet bills, but some insurance policies also include extras such as third party insurance for dogs, contribution to advertising if your pet goes missing and holiday cancellation if your pet gets lost or is critically ill. Remember, there is no Medicare for Pets!
Of course, whether you choose to take out an insurance policy is completely up to you, however with pets - the key is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Before you take on a new pet, you need to have thought about how you are going to cover the ongoing costs of responsible pet ownership. Health checks, vaccinations, worming, heartworm prevention, flea/tick treatments, desexing, dental health care, premium diets, training and boarding fees are just the beginning. Unfortunately, animals, (like humans) can unexpectedly fall ill or get injured. As your pet ages, age-related diseases must also be expected. Maintaining your pet's health and well being is your responsibility, and so is the cost.
Here is some general advice on what to look for in a pet insurance policy:
There are many different policies available. What they cover and what you get back from them can vary greatly, so it is important to read the small print closely.
The key with insurance is to take it out when your pet is as young as possible - before any illness occurs - as once your pet has a condition no new insurance policy will cover it, as it is a 'pre-existing condition'. We recommend taking out a policy before your pet turns 7, at the very latest.
We recommend a policy that covers illness as well as accident. Some policies will also contribute to routine care of your pet such as vaccination and parasite control. Most of our claims at Northern Districts Veterinary Hospital are for illness, so we recommend that you get a policy that covers illness well. If it also covers routine care, then consider it a bonus, we feel it should not be your main deciding factor in selecting an insurance policy.
The cover provided for one condition can vary between policies. Once diagnosed some policies will put a time or dollar limit on claims for that condition. We recommend a lifetime policy which means that the policy will pay out for that condition for the rest of the animals life (if policy continued). It is also important to confirm whether the total paid out for your pet is per annum, so resets every year (provided you renew your policy), or if it is the total you will receive spread over your pet's entire life. This is very important to clarify.
Check the tick paralysis cover as this can vary greatly between policies. Ideally you want a policy that will provide unlimited tick cover within the level of cover for the overall policy. Some policies will not cover tick paralysis at all and others will only cover it up to a set amount such as $500. With us being in such a high tick risk area this is a really important area of the small print to read as the cost of even basic tick treatment can quickly exceed $1000!
Check the dental cover as this can vary greatly between policies too. In general, in an older animal, preventative dental procedures, such as basic veterinary scaling and polishing of your pet's teeth are unlikely to be covered, however some policies will cover specific conditions such as broken tooth extraction, feline resorptive lesions (in cats), and orthodontics due to malaligned teeth etc.
The key with any policy is to read it thoroughly and be prepared to stick with it long-term.
For puppies and kittens that are less than 1 year of age, and are under our care at Northern District Vets, we provide a one off "4 weeks free" insurance cover with Petplan. The day your new puppy or kitten is vet-checked, the policy provides immediate cover for accidents, as well as illness, after 3 days, (compared to a 2 week waiting period with other policies). There is definitely no obligation to stay with Petplan after the 4 weeks period!
Northern District Vets offers free new puppy and kitten health checks! This in combination with 4 weeks free Petplan insurance can give you complete peace of mind. Then with all the boring, worrying stuff out of the way, you can focus on having a ball with your new family member, carefree!