Is Pet Insurance Worth It Australia?
We Delve Into The Pros & Cons
Should I get pet insurance for my dog? That’s a question every new pet parent should ask. In Australia, pet insurance isn’t mandatory (unlike some other countries), which leaves it up to you to decide whether it is worth it or not.
So is pet insurance worth it in Australia? Well, the answer is, it depends. The best pet insurances can be incredibly valuable when you are faced with expensive vet bills that need to be paid ASAP, there are various other factors that you need to take into account before settling on a pet insurance policy for your dog.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover in Australia?
The area that almost every pet insurance policy is designed to cover is accidents. So, any decent plan will cover the cost of treatment caused by accidents and unexpected circumstances (and not your own negligence).
Depending on the plan, this can include costs of vet consultations, hospitalisation, surgery, x-rays, and necessary treatments. Some plans cover only accidents while others cover illness too, so they might cover the necessary treatments for most illnesses your dog might get, cancer treatments, skin conditions, tick paralysis treatments and more.
Sometimes the cost will be covered completely by the insurance, but more often than not, you opt for a certain benefit percentage - from 60% to 90%, approximately. This means the insurance pays the agreed percentage of the vet bills, and you pay the remaining amount out of pocket.
In short, it is hard to say what exactly will be covered, as the insurance plans do vary. The important area is to check your provider’s PDS - the Product Disclosure Statement, which will include a complete list of everything that is covered. It’s crucial to pay attention to this and read the fine print to find what fits best for your and your dog’s lifestyle and circumstances.
Does Pet Insurance Cover “Ordinary” Expenses?
Does pet insurance cover desexing? Does pet insurance cover vaccinations? Those are certainly some of the first questions that pop up in the mind of a first-time pet parent with a puppy on their hands and considering pet insurance as an option.
Well, here is the blunt answer: typically, it does not.
"Pet insurance policies are designed to help provide protection for unexpected vet expenses. They are not designed to cover predictable or expected expenses, which may include things like vaccinations or desexing, as these are costs that are foreseen and can be planned for." - Kylie Mitchell, veterinary adviser and relationship manager at PetSure for Money Mag (1)
However, this does not mean these expenses can’t be covered, and these days there are comprehensive/premium plans and add-ons you can add on top of your plan to cover ‘routine care’. What this includes is not strictly defined, but some plans will cover vaccinations, desexing, and other costs involved in routine vet visits. Some will also cover dental care while others will not.
What Is Not Cover By Pet Insurance In Australia?
As already mentioned, routine care and predictable treatments that even healthy dogs need (such as vaccinations) might not be covered, depending on the plan. Pre-existing conditions are also very rarely covered by pet insurance plans.
Others areas may also not be covered which might surprise you. For example, some insurance providers won’t cover treatment for an illness your dog was vaccinated for but caught it anyway.
What is also often excluded are elective treatments, preventative care, behavioural problems, and anything related to breeding and pregnancy.
The Pros & Cons of Pet Insurance
As you can see, the picture of pet insurance in Australia is anything but black and white. It’s not a simple choice of being covered or not. There are many nuances to consider and factors to weigh. To help you get through the process yourself, let’s go over the main pros and cons of pet insurance:
Pros & Overall Benefits
#1 Peace of Mind
The main advantage of pet insurance is giving you peace of mind in case of unexpected problems. Accidents, injuries, expensive surgeries, illnesses that you never expected but now require expensive treatments…
In the unfortunate case that any of this does happen, you’ll surely be happy to know that you can give your pet the green light to do whatever is necessary for your dog’s health.
#2 Pet Insurance in Australia is Better These Days
In 2019, the pet insurance industry in Australia, as a whole, got crowned with the Shonky Award by the consumer advocacy group Choice. In short, they didn’t find any of the pet insurance policies on offer to be acceptable (2). From low caps on certain expenses to various minute technicalities in the contracts that greatly narrowed the scope of what is covered, there were quite a lot of complaints in this area.
Luckily, in the 3 years that have passed since then, many pet insurance providers have addressed the concerns of customers, and some of them are offering decent plans with reasonable coverage.
#3 There Is a Lot of Competition in the Market
There are more companies than ever offering pet insurance plans, which should not surprise us considering that the percentage of Australian homes that include pets is growing every year. What this also means is there is a lot of competition, which makes the insurance companies strive to provide better and more affordable plans. You’ll always have multiple options and you’ll be able to shop around. Just keep in mind that cheaper is not always better and make sure to review the terms of the contract in detail before signing up.
Cons & Potential Problems
#1 Pet Insurance Premiums Can Get Expensive
Yes, you’ll often hear the supporters mention that pet insurance can be quite affordable.
However, that’s simply not always the case. Pet insurance premiums depend on many factors, including, for example, the breed and the age of your dog.
"There can be a big difference in price between dog breeds. For example, French bulldogs are really expensive to insure due to the many genetic health complications associated with this breed." - Uta Mihm, CHOICE pet insurance expert (3)
On top of that, many cheap insurance plans don’t cover a whole lot of areas, and if you want comprehensive coverage the cost can add up quickly.
#2 Your Dog Might Not Even Be Eligible for Insurance
There are various exclusions and restrictions that different pet insurance providers impose. Sometimes, there is an age cut-off, so older pets can’t even be insured, while other times the option is there but it gets more expensive the older your dog is.
Furthermore, some providers might not even insure certain breeds or choose to not cover the things that worry you the most. Congenital diseases and problems caused by genetic predispositions are often excluded from pet insurance coverage, for example.
If your dog has pre-existing conditions, you’ll have a really tough time finding insurance that will cover your vet bills. Pre-existing conditions are usually excluded from insurance plans, but in some cases, they might be covered provided that they are ‘temporary’ or ‘cured’.
Finally, some providers might refuse to insure rescue dogs without known medical histories.
#3 Insurance Premium Prices Are Not Fixed
Insurance premiums can, and often do increase. There can be various causes for the premium increases, but often it automatically happens as your pet ages. You’ll generally pay less if you insure your dog while still a puppy, but that doesn’t guarantee that the cost will stay low. If your pet gets sick often, this can end up increasing your future premiums too.
#4 You Still Have to Budget for Other Expenses
A pet insurance plan that will cover all of your pet’s needs is difficult, if not impossible to find. While seldom included in basic plans, things like vaccinations, desexing, and dental care can sometimes be added, but not always. And even then, there might be caps on the maximum amount of funds to cover these treatments, which might not always be satisfactory.
#5 Getting the Money Can Be Difficult
This problem can often be mitigated by choosing a reputable insurance provider. We are by no means saying this will always be a problem, but occasionally getting the insurance to accept your claim can be a real struggle. And that’s not what anyone wants to hear when their pet is dealing with serious medical issues!
How Much For Pet Insurance In Australia?
How much will pet insurance cost per month? It’s quite difficult to give you a reliable range. Pet insurance premiums depend on a range of factors, including your dog’s breed, age, ongoing costs, medical history, where you live, and more.
But, in recent years, the typical quotes for pet insurance monthly premiums for a young dog of a popular breed that isn’t associated with any particular health problems can range from around $50 for the cheapest options to $150 for premium plans.
Should I Get Pet Insurance?
Will getting pet insurance pay off in the long run? Well, you’ll most likely need a crystal ball to answer that!
This is a question that’s almost impossible to answer. Pet insurance, just like any insurance, is about managing risk. And we cannot make sound calculations regarding incidents that might or might not happen (such as your pet getting seriously ill and racking up thousands in vet bills). But, what we can do is sort of a risk/benefit analysis to figure out what is the best solution for each of us.
If you ask individuals around you if pet insurance was worth it, you’ll probably get answers shaped by the experiences of that person and their pet(s). For somebody who just got pet insurance, and their pet ended up in an accident that involved an expensive intervention that was covered by insurance, it was worth it. For someone who has been paying for pet insurance for years, but has a healthy pet that never required much special care, the insurance might not seem worth it in hindsight.
That’s especially true when we consider the fact that many insurers don’t cover so-called routine care. If that’s all your pet ends up needing, you’d probably be better off setting a bit of money apart for pet costs every month, rather than paying an insurance premium.
But when insurance does come in handy is with those big, unexpected costs, that usually need to be paid immediately. The costs of surgeries or cancer treatment can easily get to five figures. If footing that cost yourself would ruin you financially, that might not be a risk you want to take. And surely no one wants to come into a situation where they have to put a pet down because they can’t pay the bills for expensive treatments.
Related: Does Pet Insurance Cover Grooming & Nail Clipping?
Still, that does not mean you should just go ahead and throw your money at an insurance company. Understanding the specific policy and what it offers is incredibly important, so make sure you do your research before settling on a pet insurance plan.
- Field, N. October 13, 2021. “Is pet insurance really worth the cost?”. Money Mag. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
- Gorman, A. October 9, 2019. “'Riddled with exclusions': pet insurers slapped with a Shonky award”. The Guardian. Retrieved October 9, 2022.
- Engel, P., Mihm, U. October 27, 2021. “Pros and cons of pet insurance”. Choice. Retrieved October 9, 2022.