Ultimate guide to getting the best pet insurance in 2020

By Rhianna Dews ·

From the cost of pet food, toys and other pet supplies to astronomical vet bills, owning a pet can cost a small fortune. But if we insure our cars, homes and other expensive possessions, why wouldn’t we insure the lives of our furry friends?

Not only are our pets affectionate living beings, but they’re often our most dependent family members, too. And they should never have to miss out on getting proper medical attention when they need it due to financial circumstances.

Which is why more and more Australians are taking out pet insurance - to ensure their financial situation doesn’t determine whether or not their pet receives treatment when they’re ill or injured.

So, if you’re considering taking out a policy for your four-legged friend, here’s a guide on what you need to know about pet insurance.

What is pet insurance?

You’d never want to be in a position where you have to make drastic decisions around the life of your pet, based soley on finances. Pet insurance can help cover the cost of vet bills to make sure your sick pet can receive the medical treatment they deserve.

How does pet insurance work?

It can vary depending on the insurance policy and the provider the policy is with. So, for the most accurate understanding of how pet insurance policy works, it’s important that you carefully read the product disclosure statement (PDS).

That being said, the way pet insurance generally works in Australia is you’d first take out a policy with your chosen insurer which you’d pay either a monthly or annual premium on. Then if your pet gets injured or ill (not from a pre-existing condition), you’d seek medical treatment from a licensed vet.

Depending on your policy and insurer, you would then be required to pay the full amount to the vet directly and make a claim with your insurer for reimbursement. This can potentially be as much as 85% of the total cost (or up to $20,000 per year), based on current numbers from several popular providers.

What types of pet insurance are there?

There are different types of pet insurance available, some even tailored to your cat or dog’s specific needs. It’s important to carefully consider both your pet’s needs and your own financial situation when choosing. Here are some of the different types available:

Accident-only insurance:

Accident-only insurance covers vet costs incurred when your four-legged friend’s involved in an accident. Injuries from car accidents, fights with other animals, burns or snake bites are typically covered under this policy type. However, be sure to read the PDS as an accident-only policy doesn’t cover all accidents.

Accident & illness insurance:

This type of insurance covers your cat or dog for various kinds of accidents and illnesses. Covered illnesses usually include cancer, infectious diseases, hereditary illnesses and skin conditions; however, this will depend on your policy and insurer.

Be aware that most insurers won’t provide cover for pre-existing medical conditions (conditions that your pet already had before being insured), so remember to double-check the PDS just to be sure.

Comprehensive insurance:

A comprehensive pet insurance policy covers your furry-friend for accidents, illness, preventative care, as well as some routine check-ups such as vaccinations and worming, for example.

Optional extra with home & contents insurance:

If you have a home and contents insurance policy, then your provider might offer pet insurance as an optional extra. Just remember to check the PDS first before opting in, just in case you’re better off with a more comprehensive stand-alone pet insurance policy.

What animals are covered under pet insurance?

You’ll find that most pet insurance policies usually only provide cover for cats and dogs. So if you have a pet rabbit, hamster, or another type of animal then you’ll need to first check whether your potential insurer offers coverage for them.

Some insurers will offer special pet insurance policies for other animals - for example, you might be able to insure your pet rabbit under an ‘exotic pet’ policy. Although be aware that not all insurance providers will offer one.

What does pet insurance cover?

This depends on which insurance provider you go with and which policy/cover type you choose. Think about car insurance: you can go for third-party cover, which only covers the other car if you’re involved in an accident, or comprehensive car insurance, which covers both vehicles involved.

Well, pet insurance is similar in that there are different levels of cover available. So, you’ll usually find that a basic policy will offer less coverage than what a more comprehensive policy might provide. As always, remember to check the PDS to determine what is and isn’t covered as it can vary between policy types and providers.

What doesn’t pet insurance cover?

  • It varies between policies and provider, but here are some of the more common pet insurance exclusions:
  • Pre-existing conditions: So, conditions that your pet showed symptoms of or was diagnosed with prior to you getting insurance.
  • Bilateral conditions: This refers to pre-existing conditions that impact a body part which has two sides, for example, the eyes (left eye and right eye) or ears (left ear and right ear).
  • Elective treatments: Such as de-sexing or orthodonticsTreatment for a disease with a known vaccine
  • Treatment for an illness that has occurred during the mandatory waiting period
  • Vaccinations & preventative treatments: Unless your policy includes routine cover, then things like vaccinations or flea and tick treatments may not be covered
  • Conditions that stem from a behavioural issue
  • Conditions that stem from breeding or pregnancy
  • Grooming and cosmetic surgery
  • Pet training
  • Pet food or supplements
  • Dental diseases: Most pet insurers won’t cover any dental procedures, however, some may offer additional dental cover.
  • Organ transplants or artificial limb or prosthetics surgery

Keep in mind that some exclusions might only be temporary while others a flat-out no-go, so always read the fine print just to be sure.

How much does pet insurance cost?

There are a lot of factors that can determine the cost of pet insurance. For example, the type of pet you own. Cats are generally cheaper to insure than dogs. Other factors include the size and breed of your pet, the type of cover you choose and whether you add any optional extras to your policy. 

The age of your pet also plays a part in the price of your insurance premium. For example, most insurers won’t insure pets over the age of eight. And be aware that as your dog or cat gets older, your provider will likely increase the price of your pet insurance premium as your pet becomes more of a health risk.

Graphic from: Dogs vs cats: the cost of pet insurance in Australia

How to find the best pet insurance?

If you’re on the hunt for the best pet insurance policy, then what better place to start your search than with a 2020 Mozo Experts Choice Award-winning pet insurer?

To pick the winners of the 2020 Mozo Experts Choice Pet Insurance Awards our Mozo Expert judges conducted an in-depth price and policy comparison of 28 different insurers, assessing each candidate across a wide range of categories and criteria until they were left with only the very best in the biz. Here are some of the winners:

Check out the full 2020 Mozo Experts Choice Pet Insurance Award-winners list! You can read up on all the nitty-gritty details about our judging criteria over in the methodology report.

FAQs:

Is pet insurance worth it?

As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you ever think insurance is a waste of money, stop and consider the alternative. It’s not something we like to think about, but what would you do if your beloved animal got sick or hurt and you couldn’t afford to get them the help they needed? 

Well, the right pet insurance policy can help give you some peace of mind.

How do I compare pet insurance policies?

Before choosing a pet insurance policy, it’s vital to read the PDS to gain a full understanding of inclusions, exclusions, cost and any other terms and conditions involved. This way you’ll be better placed to pick the best option for both you and your pet. 

Here are some of the things to keep in mind: 

Budget: When picking a policy, make sure to first assess your income and budget to determine how much you can afford to spend. Not only will this give you insight into which type of cover you should go for, but it will show you whether a monthly or annual premium will suit you better.

Waiting periods: There’s usually a set waiting period between your visit to the vet and when you can make a claim. Waiting periods can vary for different types of treatments, so be sure to read up on this in the PDS - it could be a deciding factor as to which policy you go for.

Pre-existing conditions: If your cat or dog has any pre-existing medical conditions then it’s super important to disclose this with the insurer before you take out a policy to ensure transparency and confirm whether your pet will be covered for their illness. Remember to carefully read the PDS to check whether your pet’s pre-existing condition will be covered too.

Benefit caps: Make sure you check the PDS on your pet insurance policy to find out what the annual limit is on claims.

Pet breed: Certain illnesses, health risks and character traits are more common among particular breeds of animal. This means that depending on the breed of your pet, insurance might be more expensive or unavailable to them. 

Pet age: Most pet insurers won’t cover pets over the age of eight, so you’ll want to get your furry friend insured while they’re young. By the same token, some insurers will increase your premium as your pet gets older and as they become more of a health risk. So remember to check this before signing up.

What if my pet has a pre-existing condition?

If your pet has a pre-existing medical condition that is not covered by pet insurance, then one option is to purchase an accident-only policy just in case you need to claim on something that is covered.

Alternatively, you might choose to not get pet insurance and open a separate savings account instead that’s dedicated to emergency pet expenses and vet bills.

Just be sure to regularly deposit money into the account or set up an automatic monthly or fortnightly debit (depending on when you get paid) so that there’s always money there if you need to help your pet.

How do I make a pet insurance claim?

The way you make a claim on your pet insurance policy will depend on your insurer. Nowadays, though, most insurance claims are done online. This will usually involve you uploading any receipts or other relevant documentation online for your insurance provider to assess.

Keep in mind that if this is your first claim you may be required to provide additional documentation - so check with your insurer first.

How do I renew my pet insurance policy?

When you sign up to a pet insurance policy, the policy usually renews automatically each year unless you cancel your policy.

Can you get pet insurance for multiple pets at once?

You sure can! If you’ve got more than one furry friend running around at home then you’ll be happy to know many insurance providers allow cover for multiple pets. You might even score a multi-policy discount with some insurers.

Rhianna Dews
Money writer

Rhianna Dews is a lending writer and millennial money expert here at Mozo. Her work is aimed at keeping twenty-something readers up to date with the latest trends in finance and providing budgeting and debt busting tips. She has a Master of Journalism and Communications from the UNSW.