Looking for the best pet insurance for your dog?
We know that with so many options out there, it can be hard to work out which pet insurance product and provider will best suit your dog.
Which is why we’ve put together this easy-to-use guide to help you compare the various options on offer, so you can find the one that best suits your needs, your dog, and your budget.
Let’s start out by getting answers to some important questions.
What is your dog’s breed?
Whether you have a Rottweiler or Chihuahua, a Greyhound or Bichon Frise, you no doubt chose that particular breed of dog for the traits it offered.
Staffies are known as nanny dogs, so are often picked by families looking for a dog that’s great with kids. Golden Retrievers are known for their loving nature and obedience, making them very easy to train. Smaller breeds such as Pugs thrive on human companionship, and due to their compact size, are often chosen to live in apartments or houses with smaller yards.
With that being said, while we may choose a certain breed for its ‘personality’, it’s important to remember that breed can also determine the health and wellbeing of our pets.
Staffies, for example, can suffer from cataracts and mast cell tumours. Golden Retrievers can suffer from hip dysplasia and obesity as a result of excess eating. Pugs can suffer from breathing problems and issues with their eyes.
While understanding the likelihood of a breed suffering certain conditions may or may not affect your decision to introduce a dog of that breed to your household, it is still worth taking into account. Especially if you plan to invest in pet insurance.
Why? Pet insurance – like any type of insurance – involves weighing risk. The insurance provider will provide cover for your dog, but will look at the risk of doing so in order to determine how much you pay in premiums.
With regards to your dog’s breed, this is a major indicator of potential risk for any insurance provider. Some breeds are more costly insure because they are predisposed to certain health issues.
To find out more about how your dog’s breed affects how much you will pay in pet insurance premiums, check out our post covering the most expensive – as well as the cheapest – dog breeds to insure in Australia.
What is your dog’s age?
Another factor that will affect how much you pay on your pet insurance premiums – as well as what pet cover products you can apply for – is your dog’s age.
As a dog ages, the chances of it needing treatment at the vet increases. Pet insurance providers know this, which is why premiums to insure a younger dog tend to be lower than premiums to insure an older dog.
You will also likely find that as you continue to insure your dog over the years, your premiums will increase year-on-year, even if you don’t make any claims. Why? As with any type of insurance, the cost of providing pet insurance rises each year for the insurer, and this cost is passed on to you.
Before you apply for pet insurance, it’s also worth bearing in mind that some plans are age specific. Most allow you to start cover from eight weeks, but cap pets’ starting age at seven or eight years.
You may be able to continue cover by renewing your policy past that age, but if your pet is older than nine years when you first apply for pet insurance, you will be limited in the number of plans available to you.
Plans designed for dogs aged 9+ often only cover accidental injuries rather than illnesses, mostly due to the fact that dogs are far more prone to illnesses as they age.
What is your dog’s lifestyle?
If your dog is simply a stay-at-home companion, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding pet insurance to suit your needs.
However, if you have a working dog, cover may be harder to come by. Want to insure your Guide Dog? This may be somewhat easier. Guide Dogs Pet Insurance, for example, covers Guide Dogs (as well as cats and non-working dogs), with cover that includes third party liability.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that pet insurance generally doesn’t cover costs associated with breeding and obstetrics. So, if you plan to breed your dogs, you will likely have to stump up for those costs yourself.
Overall, think about what kind of lifestyle your dog will have – and how that might affect what claims you may need to make. From there, check the PDS of the pet insurance you are interested in to ensure the essentials are covered before you apply.
Does your dog have any pre-existing conditions?
As a general rule, pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. That means, if your dog has suffered from a certain condition or received treatment for a certain health issue, you will likely not be able to claim it on a new pet insurance policy.
In saying that, many pet insurance providers allow you to make a claim on temporary pre-existing conditions that have shown no symptoms in the previous 18 months.
Before you apply for pet insurance, check the PDS carefully with regards to the provider’s stance on pre-existing conditions, and how it may apply to your dog.
What is your budget?
As you can see from our pet insurance comparison table, premiums vary widely between providers. While the price you pay on your premiums will be determined by your specific circumstances, the table should give you an idea of where you can go for pet insurance options better suited to your budget.
With that in mind, it’s worth pointing out that cheaper isn’t always better. While you shouldn’t pay more just for the sake of it – and you certainly shouldn’t pay more than you can afford – it’s important to make sure that what you are paying is worth it.
Don’t go for the cheapest option and hope it offers you the cover you want. Thoroughly check your options and choose the policy that will allow you to make claims that apply to your dog’s needs – while sticking to the budget you set for yourself.
What do you want from your cover?
While some pet insurance policies are one-size-fits-all, others come in all shapes and sizes – many with customisable options on how much you will pay in excess, how much you will receive back on claims, and how much you will be able to claim overall each year.
Think about whether you want basic cover that only covers accidental injuries. Think about whether you want comprehensive cover that will allow you to make claims on injuries and illnesses.
While it will take time comparing pet insurance options, doing so should allow you to see exactly what each policy covers – and what it doesn’t.
Take into account whether you want to pay an excess. For example, if you think you will make lots of smaller claims, a no excess option may be your best bet. Also think about how much you want back when you claim on vet bills – 70% 80% 90% or 100%?
Lastly, think about annual claim limits. Do you think you might need to make a big claim? If so, check out policies with higher annual claim limits – but be sure to take into account any sub-limits that may apply.
Be aware that each of these factors can affect how much you pay in premiums. Opting for a policy with no excess and a high annual claim limit that pays out 100% on claims will likely have much more costly premiums than a policy with an excess, a lower claim limit and a lower reimbursement rate.
How many dogs do you want to insure?
Got more than one dog – or cat – you want to insure? While some pet insurance providers allow you to save with a multi-pet discount, many others don’t.
As you compare your options, check out what discount is offered to second, third and fourth pets insured within the same household, and consider how that will affect how much you pay overall. Bear in mind that another provider with no multi-pet discount may still come out cheaper, depending on its base policy price.
What extras interest you?
With so many pet insurance plans out there, providers often try to set themselves apart with features and extras. Some extras to keep an eye out for include GapOnly payments, lifetime cover, emergency boarding, and overseas cover.
Be aware that all extras come with terms, so read the PDS carefully to ensure you understand how they work before you either pay extra for them, or rely on them.
Comparing Pet Insurance Options
Okay, with all that in mind, let’s run through the main points of comparison you should take into account as you compare pet insurance.
- Age Range: Look at the minimum and maximum age your dog can be when you apply for cover. Bear in mind that as your dog gets older, your options for cover will become more limited.
- Cover Level: Think about whether you want basic, comprehensive or premium cover, and keep in mind that even though different providers may market their policies as such, there may be a huge difference in what’s actually covered between providers.
- Coverage: Think about what claims you may need to make, taking into account your dog’s age, breed and lifestyle. Choose a policy that will provide the coverage you need, taking into consideration the various exclusions and inclusions, as well as reimbursement rate, excess and limits.
- Lifetime Cover: If your pet is getting on in age – and you want to continue insurance throughout its lifetime – choose a policy with lifetime cover. Be aware that to enjoy lifetime cover, you will typically need to renew your policy with no breaks in cover.
- Customer Service: Should you need to contact your insurer for whatever reason, you want that contact to go smoothly. Check online reviews for how each potential insurer handles its customer service, communication and complaints.
- Claims: Making a claim should be easy and stress-free. Before you apply, make sure your provider offers easy claims either via email or a specific claims portal, checking out online reviews to see how quickly claims are usually paid out. Opting for an insurer that offers GapOnly can be a big bonus, as this will allow you to make claims in real time when you visit the vet, to then only pay the gap.
- Extras: Consider what extras you may need, and compare your options to find out what’s available. Think about how much extra you are paying for these features, whether you will actually use them, and what limits may apply.
- Exclusions: All pet insurance policies have exclusions. It’s up to you to find out what they are for each policy you’re interested in – and to then make sure they are exclusions you can live with.
- Limits: All pet insurance policies also have annual claim limits. These essentially limit the overall amount you can claim each year. Most policies also set sub-limits on certain treatments, such as paralysis tick and cruciate ligament treatment. Check limits carefully before you apply, especially with regards to treatment you think you may need to claim on.
- Waiting Periods: Every provider puts waiting periods in place – but not all waiting periods are the same across all providers. Check what waiting periods you may have to wait out before you apply.
- Cost: Of course cost matters – but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Compare options within your budget, but be aware that the cheapest policy may not offer the cover you need.
- Intro Offers: To help you save on premiums – in the first year, at least – providers often provide introductory offers to new customers. Check these out on our promo codes and discounts page before you apply to see how much you could save.