Just like us humans, your dog or cat will likely develop more health problems as they grow older. Arthritis, diabetes, and complications from old injuries can all necessitate more regular visits to the vet, as can many breed-specific issues affecting the eyes, ears, back, and joints.
If you’ve had pet insurance for years, you’ll have peace of mind that your pet should be well covered for their golden years, as most policies provide guaranteed lifetime coverage, provided there is no interruption in coverage.
For pets approaching their 8th or 9th birthday, start shopping for comprehensive pet insurance right away, as this is the cutoff for new policies with most plans. For a few higher risk breeds this cutoff is just their 5th birthday!
Note that as pets age there is usually an increase in premiums and often a reduction in the reimbursement rate and/or an increase in excess (which pet owners pay out of pocket.) For example, PetPlan policies for dogs have a standard $150 excess, which means this amount is deducted from the claim before reimbursement is calculated. For pets over 10 years of age, the excess increases to $150 + 35%, significantly reducing benefit payments.
For older pets who don’t yet have insurance, there are two options available.
Every insurance brand offers a line of Accident Only insurance, which carries no age limit. These plans provide coverage for a defined set of injuries, with no benefits for illnesses or preventative care. While premiums are quite low (for example, coverage for a 12-year-old Golden Retriever costs just $16 from Bupa), many pets may never have a qualified claim.
There are two brands that offer comprehensive pet insurance with no age limit: PetMed and Australia Post.
PetMed’s Senior Plan is complete accident and illness coverage with a 65% reimbursement rate (compared to 80% on many plans for younger pets), a $10,000 annual benefit limit and a moderate $99 excess. Premiums for a 12-year-old Golden Retriever are $106 per month.
Australia Post launched a pet insurance program last year, and its Bronze Plan provides accident and illness coverage with a 65% reimbursement rate, excess between $0 and $200 and an annual benefit cap $3,000, which is the lowest of any plan. Premiums for that 12-year-old Golden Retriever are $77 per month.
Finally, pet owners should be aware that pre-existing conditions can cause significant coverage limitations. For example, treatment for skin irritation as a kitten can result in all skin conditions being excluded for the life of the cat. Insurers will review your pet’s complete medical history before paying out claims, so the best way to avoid a long list of coverage exclusions is to purchase insurance while your dog or cat is still young.