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Useful Pet Insurance information

It seems New Zealand is a nation of animal lovers. In fact according to the New Zealand Companion Animals Council, there are more companion animals than people in NZ! 64% of New Zealand households are home to at least one companion animal, more than almost anywhere else in the world. And some 47% of New Zealand pet owners own more than one pet, according to a Canstar Blue July 2016 survey. But, in the battle of the paws and claws, cats take out the number one spot. Some 44% of New Zealand households have at least one cat, with 28% of households having at least one dog.

Pet-ownership-in-New-Zealand---By-type-of--pets

Source; Companion Animal Council

Kiwis are also fairly dedicated pet owners, with the Canstar Blue survey finding that 65% exercise their animals at least once a day and 70% play with them daily as well. But taking care of pets is much more than keeping them fed, fit and entertained – you also need to ensure their health is up to scratch, so to speak. For many, getting pet insurance is a way to ensure you are covered should your fur baby need some medical attention.

What is pet insurance?

Pet insurance is cover, either partial or full, for veterinary treatments of an ill or injured pet. Veterinary medicine increasingly involves costly medical procedures and medicines, so pet insurance can provide some cover should your pets need these treatments in the future.

 

Written by: TJ Ryan

According to the Companion Animals Council, pet insurance has roughly doubled in popularity in the past four years. One in ten (10%) cat owners and nearly one in five dog owners (19%) now have insurance for their animals.

Pet-Insurance-New-Zealand---Dogs-vs-Cats

Source: Companion Animal Council

There are three main types of pet insurance cover policies: accident cover pet insurance, accident and illness cover pet insurance, and comprehensive cover pet insurance.

Accident cover pet insurance

‘Accident only’ pet insurance policies cover harm or injury caused by an accident, e.g. accidents involving broken bones, burns, snake bites, or bites from other dogs or cats. This type of policy may not pay on all types of accidents or injuries if the pet’s owner didn’t take standard preventative measures. For example, removal and treatment for ticks and fleas will not be covered if the owner didn’t use preventative medications. Injuries due to a pre-existing condition are also not usually covered, such as old orthopaedic (musculoskeletal) injuries flaring up, allergies, cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and other chronic conditions.

Imagine your dog running onto the road and being hit by a car, though. It’s a blink of the eye accident that can cost a lot of money. Accidental insurance cover can help ease the cost of that unexpected event.

 Accident and Illness cover pet insurance

Accident and Illness pet insurance covers accidents and injuries but also covers sickness or disease diagnosed by a vet. Your dog or cat should be covered for minor conditions such as ear infections, skin conditions, and bee stings, as well as major conditions such as cancer, broken bones, diabetes, infectious diseases, and hereditary conditions. Certain conditions will commonly be excluded from this level of cover, including pre-existing conditions and diseases where there is a known vaccine.

Comprehensive cover pet insurance

Comprehensive pet insurance policies cover accidents as injuries, sickness and disease, and also many routine care treatments. Routine care can include behavioural therapy such as dog behaviour training, de-sexing, dental care, and vaccinations. Routine care is sometimes called ‘Wellness’ or ‘Extras’ cover.

What type of pet insurance do you need?

The type of pet insurance you need varies based on a number of factors, such as the age of your animal, if they have any hereditary conditions and what budget you are working with. To help decide what type of pet insurance to get, consider the following:

  • What type of insurance will your pet need at this stage of their life? Pets’ health needs change over the course of their life. A young pet needs preventative vaccinations, de-sexing, health checks and microchipping, which are only covered by comprehensive policies. A pet after their first year should be fairly safe with accident and illness cover, even if they are of a breed that is predisposed to certain conditions such as diabetes, hereditary and congenital conditions. An older pet needs additional cover for old-age conditions such as arthritis, cancer, eye conditions, meaning an accident and illness or comprehensive policy. If chopping and changing your pet insurance around from one year to the next though, keep in mind that new pet insurance policies will often exclude pre-existing conditions.
  • Is your pet covered for life? Some policies will not cover older pets, or will make you pay a higher percentage of the vet bill for an older pet. Some policies will only cover pets older than 8 years old for their life if you already had them insured before they turned 8. You can usually insure your pet from as young as 8 weeks old.
  • Can the annual benefit limit cover your pet’s needs for the year? There may also be sub-limits for the individual treatment categories, such as surgery or dental care.
  • What reoccurring or hereditary conditions are covered? Many types of cats and dogs have reoccurring or hereditary conditions that are specific to their breed, so it’s important to know what your pet might get and whether they would be covered for it or not. Accident and illness policies will cover many hereditary conditions.
  • Is routine care covered and does it cost extra? Some policies will let you add certain routine care treatments as an option without taking out a comprehensive policy. For comprehensive cover, is routine care included, or is it labelled an optional extra that must be paid for on top of your comprehensive policy? A comprehensive policy should include Wellness or Routine Care treatments.
  • Does it suit your budget? There are a couple of ways to make sure you can afford to insure your pet. First, you can choose a cheaper Accident Only or Accident and Illness policy – keeping in mind that the coverage will not be as wide. Secondly, you can pay a lower monthly premium if you have a higher excess, which is the amount you pay if you have to make a claim. However, you need to make sure that you could actually afford to pay the excess if your pet were to need emergency treatment unexpectedly.

What you might receive back from your insurer when you make a claim. What percentage of the vet bill will your insurer pay, and what excess will you have to pay?

Pet type

Pet insurance generally covers cats and dogs. Insurers deal with these under a few different “types” of cat or dog and insurers will ask what specific breed of dog or breed of cat you have. While the breed of cat will generally not make a difference to your premium, the breed of dog you have can significantly alter the amount that pet insurance will cost.

Age Type

  • Young: <1-4 years
  • Mature: 5-9 years

Some providers also cover horses under equine insurance policies, such as Petplan. Very few providers cover birds, fish, reptiles, or exotic animals.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Figuring out the exact cost of your pet insurance is kind of like the equivalent to asking how long is a piece of string? OK, so it’s not that complicated, but as usual it will be measured on a case by case basis.

Here is an example to get you thinking, based on a New Zealand provider’s quote, as at July 2016.

Under Petplan’s Budget Dog Plan, for insurance for an Afghan Hound Breed, you can expect to pay $39.17 a month with a premium of $33.06 a month. This policy covers if the dog is ill or injured and needs hospitalization or complementary (natural) medicines, any boarding kennel fees if you are hospitalized for more than four days and costs of local advertising if the dog is lost or stolen. But it doesn’t compensate for the dog’s death from illness, injury or a refund of the cost of the dog if it is lost or stolen. The budget plan also does not cover if the dog is sick or needs surgery.

On the other hand, for the same dog, the Supreme Dog Plan will cost $49.85 with a premium of $42.35. The supreme plan covers all the areas the Budget Dog Plan does, as well as all the areas the Budget plan does not include cover for.

What affects the cost of pet insurance?

Many factors affect the cost of pet insurance, including the type of animal and the breed.

Cat or Dog: Based on the Australian Canstar team’s calculations, cats are on average 36% cheaper to insure than dogs for the equivalent policy. For older pets, it gets even cheaper to have a cat than a dog.

Breed: This is different for cats and dogs. Different dog breeds will tend to be priced differently in terms of pet insurance cost whereas this is not so common for cats.

Dogs of unknown breed or “bitzers” can be significantly more expensive to insure than dogs of a known breed. The most expensive breeds to insure include Labradors, German Shepherds and Border Collies – while breeds such as Staffies, Pugs and Maltese Terriers cost less to insure.

By comparison, cats of unknown breed or “moggie” cats can sometimes be cheaper to insure than cats of a known breed because of purebreds’ predisposed genetic health conditions. For example, Persians can have chronic breathing problems and Abyssinians are prone to hereditary anaemia.

Age: Just like life insurance for humans, pet insurance gets more expensive as your pet ages. A 7-year-old dog will more to insure than a puppy less than 1 year old. Similarly, a 7-year-old cat will cost more to insure than a kitten.

Size: The larger the pet, the more expensive it can be to take it to the vet and the more your insurance can cost. This is because larger pets require more medication, and they cost more to house and feed if your pet needs an overnight stay at the vet or a holiday stay at a kennel or cattery.

Desexed: If your pet is neutered or spayed, they have a lower chance of contracting many different health conditions, reducing your premium. Neutered males have a lower risk of testicular cancer or prostate disease. Neutered females have a lower risk of mammary gland tumours, ovarian cancer, pregnancy complications, caesarean section births, and injuries resulting from animal aggression.

Indoors or outdoors: Outside pets face many more dangers than indoor pets, so their premiums are higher.

Active or inactive: Some breeds are especially prone to obesity if they are inactive, and insurers may specify that pets are not be covered for certain health conditions if you don’t keep them active. On the other hand, over-active breeds are prone to injuring bones or muscles and their premiums will also be higher. The same active versus inactive dilemma that people face, really!

Please note that these are a general explanation of the meaning of terms used in relation to pet insurance policy cover. Your insurance provider may use different wording and you should read the terms and conditions of your insurance policy carefully to understand what you are and are not covered for. Refer to the product disclosure statement from your provider.

Accident and Illness: An insurance policy that covers a pet for injury, sickness, illness or disease.

Accidental injury: Physical harm or injury that is caused by a single specific, unpredictable, unusual event that was unintended (an accident) and is not caused by a pre-existing condition.

Accident Only: An insurance policy that only covers your pet in the event of an accidental injury.

Age limit: You can usually insure your cat or dog as soon as they are 8 weeks old. Some insurers will only sign up a pet for insurance if it is younger than a certain age. To make your pet eligible for lifelong cover, you should insure your pet before they reach 7 or 8 years old. Pets over 8 or 9 years old may not be eligible for certain types of cover and may only be eligible for accident only cover. Make sure you know about any age limits on your policy before you sign up.

Comprehensive: An insurance policy that covers your pet for injury and illness, and also for preventative treatments, routine check-ups, behavioural treatment and other complementary therapies.

Co-payments: Some policies require a co-payment, which means that the insurer pays a listed percentage of the cost of vet fees, usually between 65% and 85%, and you pay the remaining percentage. You are co-paying the expenses. This is sometimes known as co-share. Some policies require you to pay both a co-payment and an excess.

Excess: The excess is an amount that you pay instead of the insurer, e.g. “the first” $250 or $500 of a claim. Insurers usually have either a policy with different excess options that you choose between, or separate policies that each have a different excess amount. You can pay a lower premium if you have a higher excess, but you need to be sure that you could afford to pay the excess unexpectedly if your pet were to need emergency treatment.

Exclusions: Anything that is not covered by your policy. When a particular health condition or treatment is listed as being excluded from your policy, the insurer will not cover the expenses for treating that condition or having that treatment. Common exclusions include behavioural problems, elective procedures, diet and nutrition, grooming, pregnancy, and pre-existing conditions (where your pet showed symptoms before you bought insurance or during the waiting period).

Extras Cover: Another name for Comprehensive cover or a policy with Routine Care benefits. See Routine Care below.

Inclusions: Anything that is covered by your policy. When a particular health condition or treatment is listed as being included in your policy, the insurer will cover the whole expense or a listed percentage of the expense involved.

Lifelong cover: An insurance policy that covers your pet for as long as they live, even if they grow to a ripe old age. You must renew your policy with the same insurer every year with no break in cover to be eligible for lifelong cover, especially for recurring, chronic or ongoing conditions such as cancer or arthritis.

Limit / Benefit limit: Policies have an annual limit on the amount of benefits you can claim. Many policies also have sub-limits per year for particular types of treatment, e.g. surgery, tick prevention and treatment, or dental. Some policies also have per-incident limits, meaning they will only pay a certain amount per claim for a particular type of treatment. Most $20,000 policies won’t let you claim $20,000 worth of treatment. Make sure you know how your chosen policy works and whether it suits your pet’s condition or health needs.

Optional extras: Optional extras are treatment options that can be added to your policy if you pay a higher premium.

Pre-existing condition: A pre-existing condition is a condition that existed in any form before you signed up for the insurance policy. This is why insurers have a waiting period for illness, so that if your pet shows symptoms of a condition during the waiting period, they do not have to cover your pet for the costs of treatment. Certain pre-existing conditions will not be covered by insurers at all.

Premium: The premium is the amount you pay your insurance provider per year, per month, or per fortnight for your pet insurance cover. Your premium must be paid on time for your pet to be covered.

Related condition: A condition that is considered to be a pre-existing condition because it has same the same symptoms or classification as a pre-existing condition your pet has. Related conditions are not covered by your insurance. Unlike pre-existing conditions, related conditions do not have to happen before the commencement date of the policy or during the waiting period. For example, if your dog has arthritis in its legs and this is a pre-existing condition, and then after the waiting period it develops arthritis in its back, this will be considered a related condition.

Routine Care: Routine Care benefits are preventative healthcare treatments specified by your insurance provider that they will pay for. Common examples of Routine Care include dental treatment, de-sexing, or emergency boarding in a kennel or cattery. See your product disclosure statement to see whether your policy includes any Routine Care benefits. These are also known as Wellness Care, Wellbeing Care, or Extras Cover benefits.

Waiting period: Once you purchase an insurance policy for your pet, accidents will usually be covered immediately, but your insurer may impose a waiting period before your pet will be covered for certain conditions. For example, a 30-day waiting period may apply for illnesses, and a 6-month waiting period may apply for ligament injuries unless you can provide your insurer with a vet certificate saying your pet does not have any ligament injury. A waiting period will usually apply to hereditary conditions or congenital defects existing at birth.

Wellness Care: See Routine Care.

Wellbeing Care: See Routine Care.