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Why All Dog Owners Need Pet Insurance

Written by Ella White

Updated

Happy beagle running next to surf

Buying a pet can be expensive. But looking after them can rack up even higher bills than you first expected. From mandatory jabs to accident-prone pups, there are plenty of ways our dogs incur vet bills – some we can anticipate, and others that hit us out of nowhere. Which is why it’s always recommended that pet owners invest in pet insurance. It might sound like just another expense, but in the long run it could save you, financially.

Here’s the low-down on pet insurance for your dog, what it covers, and why you need it.

If you own a pet, you should have pet insurance. Vet bills can sometimes cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars and if you’re not prepared, you might not be able to afford the help your pet needs to survive and thrive. 

We all like to think we’ve got it covered when we’re looking after our dogs but the truth is, you never know what’s around the corner. And when the unexpected does happen, you’ll be glad you invested in pet insurance to help you foot the bill.

There are a range of benefits that pet insurance can provide, many of which vary depending on the program and provider you go with. Some standard benefits most plans include are:

  • Cover against vet bills as a result of accidents or illnesses
  • Protection against bills for chronic illnesses
  • Cover for dental treatments
  • Farewell cover
  • Lost and found cover
  • Third party liability cover if your dog damages property of harms someone
  • Multi-pet discount if you own more than one dog or other animals

The most important benefits of insurance for your dog is that it covers you against unexpected bills that can occur if your dog has an accident or injury, or is taken in with a temporary or chronic condition. Some illnesses, like diabetes, can require lifetime medication to treat – and that amounts to one hefty vet bill.

Not all insurance plans cover long-term illness. Some don’t pay out for dental work, and others won’t protect you against recurring health issues. Make sure you check the coverage and payment limits your plan offers and that you’re happy that it’s enough to protect you against any high vet bills you might face in the future.

There are a number of policies to choose from, which come with different coverage benefits and price tags. When picking the best plan for you, don’t just go for the cheapest. Be sure to fully research the benefits that could help you out later down the line – especially if you know of any hereditary conditions that your dog’s breed might be prone to.

Maximum Benefit Insurance Policies

A maximum benefit policy will pay out a fixed sum to help you cover the vet bills each time your dog has an illness or injury. This can continue until your ‘maximum’ amount, agreed when you take out the policy, has been spent. This kind of policy needs to be renewed every year to ensure your dog is covered, and when the maximum amount has been spent your insurance coverage will end.

Accident Only Insurance Policies

An accident only insurance policy will pay out a fixed amount of money to cover treatment for each accidental injury your pet suffers. In some cases, these policies will also pay out an amount of money to cover treatment for illnesses. Payments must be up to date and policies renewed annually or whenever they expire to ensure that your pet’s treatment can continue.

Time Limited Insurance Policies

These policies set a time limit for how long they will cover the treatment for an illness or injury. So while a 12 month insurance policy might cover anything that happens to your dog within that one year span, a time limited policy will only cover treatment for an agreed time from when the injury or illness starts. When that time is up or your agreed price limit has been spent, your coverage for that treatment will end even if your dog’s treatment plan is ongoing. Further bills will have to be covered out of pocket.

Reinstatement or Lifetime Cover Policies

A lifetime insurance policy will give you ongoing coverage for any illnesses and injuries your dog incurs. Your policy will have a set price limit that is covered each year, which you can select and agree to when taking out your policy. Usually, the more you pay for insurance the more your dog will be covered for. Your full coverage will be reinstated each time your policy is renewed, but if your limit is reached within a year then your coverage for treatment will be complete until the time comes for renewal.

Generally, this is the most expensive type of insurance policy but it also provides the most benefits.

Co-insurance or Percentage Insurance

Co-insurance is when the holder of an existing insurance policy (i.e. the pet owner) and the insurance company agree to share the cost of a claim, usually to reduce the premium. This often occurs when a pet owner pays a percentage of the vet fees that are still outstanding when their insurance excess has been deducted. This percentage can vary depending on your policy, but always requires the policyholder to pay a portion of the cost of the claim after their excess has been deducted from the bill.

Check your Bilateral Clause

Many illnesses and injuries in dogs can recur or affect another part of their body later on. A Bilateral Clause will mean your insurance policy views the recurring issue or same issue in a different place to be the same condition as before. If your insurance coverage for this treatment is expired, it will mean no further coverage will be issued even if, for example, your dog’ joint issues are now affecting a different leg.

The amount you spend on your pet insurance depends on the type of policy you pick and the coverage it provides. Often, the more expensive policies offer you the best coverage and the most security if your dog does have an accident or illness.

Your budget and location as well as the age, breed, size, and condition of your dog will all alter the premium on your insurance policy. The price of insurance is usually based on risk rating, so the lower the risk of your pet contracting an illness or being in an accident, the lower your price would be.

For example, brachycephalic dogs are known to be prone to a number of hereditary conditions which might make insurance more expensive. Similarly, dogs that live in higher risk areas like the inner city could increase the premium on their insurance coverage.

It’s very important you’re completely honest when taking out any policy. You might think a few omissions could reduce your premium but if you need to make a claim, those omissions could result in your claim not being paid. Your insurance provider will be able to check with your vet and find out if any previous conditions weren’t included in the original quote or misinformation regarding your dog's age. 

The best way to save money on your premium is to shop around. Some providers will specialize in specific breeds, locations or pre-existing conditions. Talk to your vet and research online communities to find the best providers for your dog. Make sure you shop around every year and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to someone. Even if you’re taking a policy out online, they’ll usually be a phone number or online chat so you can talk to someone at the insurance company who might be able to bring the original price down slightly. 

As we already mentioned, the type of coverage you choose and the price of your insurance policy is dependent on a number of factors that are unique to you and your dog’s situation. Here are some things to consider when you’re weighing up which insurance policy to pick.

  • Your dog’s age - the older your dog is, the more they cost to insure but the more likely they are to need veterinary treatment.
  • Your dog’s breed - dogs prone to specific conditions can be more expensive to insure, but also more likely to need medical attention.
  • Your dog’s risk level - pedigree dogs cost more so are considered to be better ‘quality’, but they’re more prone to hereditary conditions and more likely to be stolen.
  • Your dog’s size - for example, bigger dogs are more likely to suffer problems with their joints that will need veterinary treatment and smaller dogs live longer meaning more chance for illness and accidents!
  • Your dog’s health - if your dog has a pre-existing condition it must be declared before taking out insurance. It might not be covered or could incur a hefty premium if you decide to switch insurers.