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Does pet insurance cover that? 10 things you may not know about pet cover

Woman surrounded by dogs.

Pet insurance can be a great way to avoid paying expensive vet bills. That said, as with all forms of insurance, it’s not cut and dried. What exactly is covered with cat and dog insurance will vary depending on a number of factors, including the insurance company and individual policy.

To help dispel some of this confusion, we’ve come up with a list of frequently asked questions about pet insurance. We did our own research and spoke to a few experts to gain some insights. Here’s what we found out from spokesperson for Pet Insurance Australia Nadia Crighton and chief executive and co-founder of Knose, Tiaan Dreyer.

1. What animals are covered with pet insurance?

Generally speaking, most pet insurance providers will only offer cover for companion cats and dogs. Dreyer says a small number of insurance providers may offer cover for horses, rabbits and even reptiles. However, dog and cat insurance is the most common.

2. Does pet insurance cover surgery?

Yes, pet insurance does cover some surgeries for cats and dogs. Usually pet insurance will provide cover for accidents and illnesses (depending on the policy you opt for). As part of that, surgery after an accident or as part of treatment for an illness is usually covered. Although you will need to read the product disclosure statement (PDS) in full to make sure you are aware of exactly what types of surgery are covered.

Sub-limits are likely to apply for surgeries for specific conditions. Some common sub-limits are for treatments for cruciate ligament conditions, tick paralysis and orthopaedic conditions. Elective surgeries and surgeries for preventative care may also not be covered in most pet insurance policies.

3. Does pet insurance cover snake bites?

Most pet insurance providers will include cover for snake bites with accidental injury insurance. Although again it is a good idea to check this in the PDS. Some insurance policies may include sub-limits for snake attacks.

4. Does pet insurance cover desexing?

As desexing falls under preventive care, it is not usually covered with most standard pet insurance policies. Some pet insurance providers may offer routine care as an optional extra, which itself may include a benefit for desexing. 

Pet Insurance Australia is one such insurance provider that offers routine care cover as an optional extra. Crighton says a routine care package is available with its Major Medical pet insurance plan. The package comes with a yearly benefit towards preventative care, including vaccinations, worming, behavioural and alternative therapies and desexing.

Meanwhile, Knose sees planning preventative treatment as something that is best dealt with through arrangements other than insurance, which is primarily intended for unexpected events. For this reason, Knose offers Pet Care Plans for eligible cats and dogs.

5. Does pet insurance cover vaccinations?

Again vaccinations are considered preventative care. This means that most standard pet insurance policies will not cover them. That said, as with desexing, some insurance providers will offer routine care cover as an optional extra. A benefit for vaccinations may be included with this.

6. Does pet insurance cover medications?

Pet insurance will usually offer some financial support for medications, so long as the medications are to treat illnesses or injuries covered by the policy. The medication itself will have to be prescribed by a registered vet. 

Cover for eligible medications will generally be capped at whatever benefit percentage applies to the policy. There may also be sub-limits for medications treating certain illnesses or injuries.

7. Does pet insurance cover MRI scans?

MRI and CT scans may be covered to some extent with pet insurance. Testing must be in relation to a covered illness or injury and cannot usually be for elective surgery or in relation to pre-existing conditions. That is, a condition your cat or dog may have had before being signed up for the insurance policy.

The amount of cover you receive for MRI and CT scans will depend on the specific insurance policy. That is, whether you have chosen a basic or comprehensive policy and the annual benefit limit that comes with the insurance plan. Reading the full PDS from cover to cover to see what forms of treatment are covered and by how much is definitely recommended.

8. Does pet insurance cover pregnancy?

Unfortunately pregnancy is not usually covered with most pet insurance policies. Optional routine care cover often does not include cover for pregnancy either. If your cat or dog experiences unexpected complications that lead to hospitalisation, some of these costs may be covered by a pet insurance plan. Again, we recommend reading the PDS thoroughly to find out exactly what costs are covered. 

9. Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Again pre-existing conditions are a fairly common exclusion with most pet insurance policies. Dreyer describes pre-existing conditions as “an injury, illness or conditions your pet has shown signs or symptoms of, or that you suspected or knew existed, before you bought insurance.” This can also count for conditions your cat or dog may develop during the insurance waiting period.

Crighton says some insurance providers may evaluate pre-existing conditions as either temporary or chronic. This means that there is a possibility that temporary pre-existing conditions may be removed as a policy exclusion, after a certain period of time. Pet Insurance Australia specifically will remove a pre-existing policy condition if the pet has not shown signs of that condition for 18 consecutive months.

Dreyer adds that the majority of insurance providers will also not cover diseases for which a vaccine has been approved. Although Knose takes a slightly different approach to the standard here, providing cover in rare circumstances where a pet has been vaccinated and still develops a disease. 

10. Does pet insurance cover euthanasia?

Cover for essential euthanasia may be available as an additional benefit with some pet insurance policies. This means that letting your beloved pet go was deemed humane and essential by a vet. Again it is a good idea to read the fine print, as euthanasia may not be covered in particular circumstances.

How do I choose a pet insurance policy?

Picking a policy for your pet kitty or pooch can be difficult, especially if you’ve never had pet insurance before. Here are a few tips to help you find the right policy for your beloved fur-baby's needs.

  • Work out what level of cover you need. This means deciding whether you want to opt for accidental injury cover alone, or sign up for a policy that covers illness as well. You will also want to think about whether you want a basic insurance plan, or a comprehensive policy.
  • Figure out your budget. Remember this will be a regular cost either annually or monthly. Look at your budget and calculate how much you can afford to pay for pet insurance. It is also worth taking into consideration how much it could potentially save you on vet bills, should anything go wrong.
  • Make a decision about optional extras. Looking at your budget and the initial type of cover you have decided on. Do you think your pet will need optional extras, such as routine care cover? Remember any optional extras you tack on to your policy, will up the overall cost of your insurance premium.
  • Compare pet insurance policies. Shop around to see what pet insurance policies are on offer right now in Australia. You could start your research by taking a look at the winners of the 2021 Mozo Experts Choice Pet Insurance Awards.^
  • Gather pet insurance quotes. Once you have a shortlist of policies that you think might work for you, gather quotes and compare prices. 

Got more questions about pet insurance? Head to Mozo’s pet insurance hub for more information on how cover works.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Pet Insurance Awards

Tara McCabe
Tara McCabe
Money writer

Tara McCabe writes across all areas of personal finance here at Mozo from banking through to insurance. Tara is expert at practical money tips, showing readers ways to live richer and be socially conscious while doing it. She earned a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Canterbury Christ Church University.