At Pittwater Animal Hospital we strongly recommend having pet insurance for all new puppies and kittens. These young animals commonly eat unusual things, fall and break bones and are more susceptible to infectious disease.
Once an uninsured animal is seen with a problem, that problem becomes a pre-existing condition. An insurance company may then not cover your pet for anything in that class of problem such as ear complaints or skin complaints.
Long term problems and chronic disorders often start out in your pet’s first year so our advice is to insure early then reassess when your pet is a few years old.
At Pittwater Animal Hospital we can claim most insurance claims on-line so it is a very easy process for you.
PAH Insurance Advice
If your pet has an accident or serious illness, you might need to find some funds in a hurry for medical costs. The Australian Veterinary Association states that “Owning a pet is a privilege and providing health care is just one of the expenses you need to be prepared for, just like providing food”.
Here at PAH we strongly recommend pet insurance because we’ve seen many times how invaluable pet insurance cover can be in helping with unexpected vet fees. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, we recommend taking out pet insurance whilst your animal is still young and healthy. Young animals frequently suffer from illness and injury, not just our older patients, and the older your pet is when you take out insurance the more likely they are to have ‘pre-existing conditions’. Insurance companies routine exclude pre-existing conditions (any illness, injury or condition your pet has suffered from prior to taking out the policy) from being covered by your policy.
Legally we are not allowed to recommend any individual company, but below are some general guidelines for choosing the most appropriate policy for you and your pet.
Choosing the right policy
Choosing suitable pet insurance can be daunting as there are so many companies to choose from. In fact, most of the policies are underwritten by the same company (Petsure), therefore the cover offered is often similar. There are a few stand-alone companies (eg Petplan).
The cover provided by different policies varies considerably, even those offered within the same company. Cover can vary from accident-only policies, to lifetime cover for illness and injury. We recommend lifetime policies that cover both illness and injury. Policies that offer lifetime cover, should cover your pet for any chronic or recurrent condition for it’s lifetime, but you always read the fine print on each policy to ensure this is the case. If in doubt, ring and check with one of the companies insurance advisers and get them to send the answer in writing.
Pet insurance mainly provides cover for veterinary fees if your pet is injured or becomes ill. Other benefits may include:
- Paying the costs of looking after your pet if you have to go into hospital for emergency medical treatment
- Third party accident or damage cover
- Financial assistance in finding your pet if they become lost
All pet insurance policies have exclusions. It is important to investigate what these are as exclusions vary between companies. Some examples include:
- Pre existing conditions
- Routine teeth cleaning (some companies cover the extraction of teeth but not teeth cleaning)
- Routine, preventative treatments (e.g. pet desexing, routine vaccination, flea/tick prevention)
- Diseases caused by ticks and fleas eg Tick paralysis- very important on the Northern Beaches
- Diseases for which there is a vaccine, even if the pet is vaccinated
- Anything related to pregnancy or birth
Excesses, Percentage cover & your pet’s age
The payable percentage of a claim varies between policies and between pet insurance companies. Some companies cover 100% of the claim minus any fixed excess, while others only pay a percentage of the claim (usually 70-80%) with or without a fixed excess.
Most companies will not insure older pets for the first time for illness cover. The cut off age varies but is usually 8-9 years of age (or younger for certain breeds).
Often the level of cover changes once your pet reaches a certain age (often around 8-9 years of age) and you may have to pay an increasing percentage of the cost of treatment as well as a fixed excess.
Most policies have a waiting period of 14-30 days, though accident cover may commence sooner. Many policies will have an extended 6 month waiting period for cruciate disease, though this may be shortened if you provide a cruciate waiver form (issued by the insurance company for your vet to complete).
Useful questions to ask about each policy
- Does the policy cover tick paralysis, and if so what is the maximum amount claimable. As of 2018 the average cost of an uncomplicated tick paralysis case is $450 for a cat and up to $1200 for a dog
- How much does the plan cost (monthly or per year)?
- What excesses are involved and what percentage of the claim will be paid?
- How are claims made – online or by post
- What are the exclusions and what isn’t covered by the policy?
- Is there a maximum coverage per condition/incident or per year?
- Are there any limits on the claims that I make?
- How long does it take for a claim to be processed?
- Can I insure my pet as it gets older?
- Are both accident and illness covered once my pet gets older?