With over 4.8 million dogs in Australia, it is safe to say we are a dog loving nation. Dogs are part of the family and each year we are spending more money on them than ever.
This thriving market now we have designer dogs, dog spas, dog friendly accommodation, dog cameras, gourmet dog foods and everyone wants the best. New (and newly ‘woke’) dog owners are now asking ‘what is the best pet insurance’ so they can feel protected. Unfortunately many well wishing owners are getting stung when it comes time to actually claiming money back from these insurance providers. This is a big reason pet insurance has a bad name, in 2019 CHOICE named the whole pet insurance industry in their Shonky awards due to the ‘pre-existing condition trap’ but I will dive into that a little later.
To easily find the best pet insurance you need to identify your needs. Each dog is different so just like our own human health insurance, for pets there’s no one size fits all. Once you figure out what you want out of your insurance it will help you weed out the worst options and narrow down the providers worth looking into further. With pet insurance I personally recommend putting the extra time in figuring out the right option from the start, it takes more time and effort but could save you thousands. Especially since once a pre-existing condition emerges changing providers becomes difficult or pointless.
Why do you want pet insurance in the first place? Having a pet is a responsibility, new owners should know and be prepared for the costs that are involved. Not including any fancy extras it is estimated that pet dogs cost Australian owners an average of $1500 per year between food ($622), vet care ($397), health products ($248), grooming and boarding ($215).
Experience tells me those numbers are pretty low, after looking at my numbers with Shih Tzu x Mini Poodle Zeus (est $1,237.20 per year) and asking our Instagram followers how much they usually pay on vet bills per year (we got between $100 to $10,500).
Here is Zeus’ dirty laundry so you can see how much his vet care and pet insurance has roughly cost over the last few years since first starting the premium May 2016. Excluding all training, supplements, flea and worming treatments, sterilisation, microchipping, anything pre-policy (before May 2016), etc.
Zeus is on a ‘comprehensive’ plan which mostly just means it is not just for accident, illness but includes a range of other services. We took a few months to decide which insurance to go with as we had heard the horror stories too. In the end we went with Petmed and it has suited us at this stage.
Here is a look at how our vet and pet insurance bills have looked over the last 4 years (yes I keep everything):
Vet fees including medication since May 2016 – $4,948.81
Pet insurance premiums paid to date – $2,713.66
Claimed amount paid back – $3,025.04
Our premium has increased by almost $400 annually in the last 4 years since it first started and will have another annual increase in May this year. Annual increases of an extra few dollars a fortnight seem slight but doing the math it really shocked me, now I will definitely be reading our annual policy and checking value going forward. We will be staying with them for now (and probably for as long as we use pet insurance for Zeus), because 2 years ago Zeus was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia which any new insurer will class as a pre-existing condition and not cover. Now we are dog owners who have fallen in the ‘pre-existing condition trap’.
This ‘pre-existing condition trap’ is the main reason. Pet insurance only covers for the listed items on your policy but excludes any pre-existing conditions that your dog had before starting policy (or arise during waiting period).
What does this mean for pet owners? (How can you get caught out)
We took out Zeus’ insurance policy for large unexpected expenses, not the small stuff. The two big claims were against bills for $750+ and $2000+ which we were covered for and got out 80% back for. Now knowing Zeus has Hip Dysplasia we will be continuing his insurance for not just his regular treatments (up to $300) but for if the day ever comes he needs major treatment. The kind that could be anywhere from a few hundred to over $10,000 and we would need to pay right away.
You put so much time and effort into giving your dog the best care, so why would you not give them the best insurance for them.