Should we insure our pets?

by Mike Isle

Does anyone call their cat Tiddles anymore? Or their dog Rover? Perhaps not. However, if little Tiddles or Rover, for the sake of argument, become sick or are injured the cost of getting them back on four feet again can be horrendous. That is why more and more New Zealand pet owners are turning to pet insurance.

According to MoneyHub, the website that looks into all matters insurance, more than half of New Zealanders (58%) own a cat or a dog. One in 10 cat owners and one in five dog owners insure their pet.

Nevertheless, pet insurance is relatively new for Kiwis, and before we buy a policy for our cat or dog, there are a few things to know to ensure we get the most suitable policy at the right price.

First, not all pets qualify for pet insurance. If your border collie doubles as a sheepdog, it may not be able to get pet insurance — check with the insurer first. Dogs used for racing, hunting or farming may not be covered. Pit Bulls are also excluded by most policies.

However, if your pet does qualify, pet insurance is certainly worth investigating. Even relatively minor surgery such as setting a broken bone can cost thousands. Pet insurance can cover much of the cost, plus other expenses for veterinary fees relating to the treatment of injuries, ongoing conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy, and all relevant treatment and medication, and congenital and hereditary conditions if unknown at the time of taking out the policy.

Some policies also cover losing your pet to theft or straying as well as reward money and advertising a lost pet.

It’s important to know that policies either have an excess (meaning you pay the first $100-plus of any treatment cost) or a co-payment arrangement, where you share 10-30% of the costs and the insurance covers 70-90%.

One final thing — and this applies to all insurance — always disclose everything. The younger, healthier and less complicated the medical history of your pet, the less you’ll pay for pet insurance. However, if you don’t declare health issues and past conditions, upon making a claim your insurer can use ‘non-disclosure’ as a reason not to pay out. It means you’ll be stuck with the bill, unable to claim on it despite having paid the premium. Declaring everything will most likely cost more in the short term but being covered for illnesses relating to those conditions will save you a lot of money later on if your pet needs treatment.

The Record thanks MoneyHub for their assistance with this article. The MoneyHub website includes a comprehensive review of pet insurance options and providers in New Zealand: moneyhub.co.nz/pet-insurance.