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If you have a fur-baby, you understandably want the best care for them but a trip to the vet can be expensive. This is where pet insurance can come in handy.

But does pet insurance make vet trips any cheaper? Does the cost of pet insurance differ between cats and dogs, or even other pets?

In this guide, we explain what pet insurance is, how it may differ between types of animals, and whether it might be right for you.

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is a type of insurance that covers part or all of the vet bills for your pet. Similar to health insurance, there are different policy levels that cover certain costs. According to the RSPCA, there are three main types of pet insurance: Accident Only, Accident and Illness, and Comprehensive. Here’s a quick overview of each below:

Accident Only

This type of policy covers a part of the vet bills for incidents. This can include car accidents, snake bites, fights with other animals, or anything deemed an “accidental injury” by your insurance provider.

Accident and Illness

This policy will cover a portion of the costs associated with an accident or illness. This can include cancer, skin diseases, and hereditary conditions. Keep in mind that this type of cover generally doesn’t include pre-existing conditions.

Comprehensive

Comprehensive insurance covers accidents and illness. This policy generally covers vaccinations, desexing, microchipping, as well as any other routine care. If you have a pet that might be susceptible to hereditary conditions, a comprehensive policy can be a suitable option.

How is the cost of pet insurance calculated?

There are key factors that determine the cost of pet insurance including:

  • The species, breed, and age of your pet: Certain breeds are more susceptible to health problems. For example, pugs are genetically prone to eye conditions, respiratory issues, and spinal deficiencies.
  • Where you live: If you live in an area considered more ‘risky’ for your pet, such as an area known for having paralysis ticks, this can increase your premium.
  • The type of cover: There are three types of pet insurance: accident only, accident and illness, or comprehensive.
  • The excess selected: Just like health cover, you can select an excess you wish to pay to make a claim. The higher the excess, the less expensive your pet insurance and vica versa.
  • Fees: Any applicable government or administration fees.

What does pet insurance not cover?

Before you decide whether pet insurance is right for you and your pet, it’s important to know what isn’t covered. Generally, pet insurance doesn’t cover the following:

  • Pre-existing conditions: If your pet is experiencing a condition that started before your insurance plan was purchased, it may be excluded as a ‘pre-existing condition’.
  • Dental care: Treating conditions like gingivitis, as well as teeth cleaning, scaling, and tooth fractures, are generally not covered by pet insurance.
  • Preventive/routine treatments: This includes food, grooming, training, or preventative treatments like tick/worm/flea control.
  • Treatment of certain conditions: This can vary depending on your policy and insurance provider. Generally speaking, treating pregnancy or breeding-related issues, behavioural problems, or any medications unapproved by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medication Authority (APVMA) isn’t covered under pet insurance.
  • Certain services and procedures: Non life-threatening vet trips like non-essential hospitalisation, routine exams, nail clipping, transport or boarding costs, genetic testing, or organ transplants are generally not covered.

Pet insurance for dogs and cats

Typically, insuring a dog is more expensive than insuring a cat. According to Mozo, the prices differ greatly for each type of cover:

Accident Only: Cats and dogs

There was reportedly a 16.61% annual price difference between cats and dogs for Accident Only cover. This is representative of cat insurance being $62.34 cheaper per year, on average.

Accident and Illness: Cats and dogs

The price gap increases for Accident and Illness cover, with cat insurance being 44% cheaper than dog insurance. Again, this represents a saving of $440.68 for cat owners over dog owners.

Comprehensive: Cats and dogs

Again, cat insurance is cheaper than dog insurance, on average, for Comprehensive Cover. Comprehensive Insurance for cats was 38.25% (or $412.85) cheaper than Comprehensive Cover for dogs.

Can I get pet insurance for another type of animal?

If you have another type of animal, such as a bunny, bird, or reptile, you might be wondering if you can get pet insurance.

There are exotic pet insurance plans available to insure a wide variety of species, including:

  • Rabbits;
  • Birds;
  • Reptiles;
  • Guinea pigs;
  • Ferrets;
  • Rats and mice;
  • Amphibians;
  • Fish.

If you have one of these animals as a pet, there are options available for you to insure your pet. However, these insurance plans may come at a more expensive cost, due to their exotic nature.

The pros and cons of pet insurance

To help you work out whether to take out pet insurance, we list some of the pros and cons in the table below:

Pros of pet insurance Cons of pet insurance
You are covered in the case of an emergency, which could save you thousands of dollars. Exclusions will always apply, so it might not be helpful if your pet has a pre-existing condition or has major dental issues.
Most pet insurance policies include regular visits to the vet, so if you suspect there is something wrong, you can take your pet just to be safe. You’ll likely need to pay for your pet insurance premium up front.
If you become sick and need to be hospitalised, some insurance plans include emergency boarding if there is no one to look after your pet. You can only claim for a certain percentage. According to Finder, you are responsible for about 20% of treatment costs on average.
Some insurers offer 100% refunds, but this will usually expire after your pet is of a certain age. Older pets can be harder to insure.

So, is pet insurance worth it?

Whether you decide to get pet insurance or not is completely dependent on your own preferences and circumstances. You may find that pet insurance is not worth it for you and your furry friend, especially if vet trips aren’t a regular occurrence.

However, if you wish to be prepared in the event of your pet being involved in an accident or becoming ill, pet insurance could offer peace of mind. Emergency trips to the vet can be expensive, and your pet’s life may depend on urgent care that comes with a hefty bill.

Written by: Jacaranda team