Dog and Cat Insurance

Choosing Pet Insurance

pet insurance companiesSome people find choosing an insurer for their puppy or kitten one of the most stressful parts of owning a new pet. There seems to be a bewildering array of insurers on the market, and they expect the new owners to be able to decide what cover they need. How on earth can a non-vet possibly predict what the costs of major surgery will be, or how often their pet will need to visit the vet, or whether it’s best to pay an excess?

With this in mind we have written this guide to pet insurance. Please remember, though, that the following article is only our opinion. No one can predict what your pet’s veterinary needs will be, and the information we have collected may change at any time. However, we’ll do our best! See below for free immediate cover.

If you’re not sure you need pet insurance, read Should I get my dog or cat insured? and How to get a free month of pet insurance.

Assuming you decide on insurance cover for your dog or cat, how do you decide which cover is best?

Generally policies vary by:

  • Percent cover: Most policies pay out 70 to 80% of the veterinary fees but some go up to 100% (eg Petplan, Petcover)
  • Excess paid: The excess can vary from 0 to $500. As you can expect, premiums go up with lower excesses. Higher excesses are good if you only want to cover your pet for large bills and are happy to pay the small ones.
  • Waiting Period: Some commence cover instantly, some require waits of 3-4 weeks to 6 months depending on the condition. Warning: if an accident or illness occurs within the waiting period, it is classed as ‘pre-existing’ and is not covered for life. Cruciate ligament disease usually is subject to a 6 month waiting period. Most policies allow you to avoid this with a special cruciate ligament examination. We perform this check at no charge.
  • The Maximum annual payout: All policies have a maximum amount per year, varying from $500 to $5000. This usually resets each renewal date but cannot be rolled over like sick leave.
  • Accident vs Accident & Illness cover: Once you see the limited definition below, you’ll see why we recommend avoiding these cheaper covers and getting Accident & Illness cover.
  • Routine Care: some policies pay a limited amount for vaccinations, desexing, heartworm and flea control. It’s important to look at the amounts paid versus the extra premium cost.
  • Exclusions, such as: prescription foods (even if foods are covered, check which ones), emergency boarding, dentistry (look at what sort of dentistry is covered if it is), tick paralysis (not relevant in SA), repeat intestinal obstruction, ‘bilateral’ disease (a problem such as cruciate ligament rupture occurring in the second joint), stem cell therapy.
  • What happens as your pet ages. Premiums will go up with age, and some companies may even stop insuring at a certain age.
  • Breed of dog or cat: certain breeds (especially dogs) have higher premiums or require extra fees to cover congenital and hereditary conditions.
  • Third Party Insurance. Petplan offer third party cover for injury and damage caused by your dog other than off-leash situations.

To illustrate the variation, below are four quotes from a leading insurer from 2014.

small dog insurance

The first one shows a Jack Russell Terrier puppy.

old dog insurance

The second one shows the same dog at 7.5 years old.

sharpei dog insurance

The third shows a Shar-pei puppy

cat insurance

The fourth shows a Domestic Short Hair kitten

So here are the questions you should ask your insurance provider:

  • What percent of the fees do you cover?
  • What choice of excess is there?
  • Is the cover Accident, Accident&Illness, or A&E plus Routine Care?
  • Are there any waiting periods?
  • How much will you pay each year?
  • What would my pet cost if the age was greater?
  • Do you insure for life?
  • What does my chosen breed cost?
  • What do you exclude? (Here I’d recommend downloading and reading the Product Disclosure Statement. See an example below)
  • If I sign up, what is the cooling off period?

Remember that it’s always a good idea to organise insurance early in your puppy or kitten’s life. If a problem exists before insurance cover is organised or during the waiting period it will probably not be covered. This is the concept of ‘pre-existing’ illness.

Making a claim is very simple. When you visit please bring a claim form, attach the receipts and sign it. If we have the time we will complete it on the spot, if not we will complete it and send it for you within 7 days. With your first claim we will be asked to send a full medical history.

Payment of the veterinary expenses is generally made as usual by the client. Claims are then usually paid directly to the owner by the insurance company. Please remember that the claims process is out of our hands. We will do everything we can but in the end it comes down to whether the condition is covered by the policy.

In summary, please do not be put off by the complexity of the insurance schemes, or the feeling that you won’t get paid for an illness when you need it. Very few people regret taking out insurance, and some are very thankful indeed. It just takes knowing what to ask, and checking the policies carefully before signing.

Free Petplan Immediate Veterinary Cover

We can arrange 4 weeks’ free immediate cover for your pet via Petplan at your first visit. This temporary policy has a 3 day waiting period and is limited to total benefits of $3000. This is a lower amount than full cover but is good peace of mind and allows your pet to be protected while you decide on longer-term insurance. By offering this we do not endorse Petplan over other insurance companies but equally we are happy to work with them.


Below are the websites of most of the companies in the graphic above. We are sorry that we cannot endorse any specific company. Nothing beats researching your specific needs. (Petplan) $500 only per accident or illness

Here is the general definition of an Accident (may vary between companies)

An accident must:

“(a) be a direct consequence of at least one of the following:

1. a motor vehicle incident;

2. a burn or electrocution; or

3. an allergic reaction to an insect bite other than tick or flea bites;


(b) result in:

4. a bone fracture;

5. snake bite toxicity;

6. a traumatic ligament or tendon injury;

7. a bite wound or fight wound abscesses; or

8. lacerations or abrasion of tissue, skin or mucous membrane due to external violence”(

Here is the exclusion list from one company’s Product Disclosure Statement in 2014

“General Exclusions

We will not pay for:

1. Routine examinations or vaccinations;

2. Treatment related to preventative Treatment or Treatment incurred as a result of internal or external parasites including but not limited to heartworm and fleas but this exclusion does not apply to the Treatment of Illness caused by ticks;

3. Elective and cosmetic procedures including but not limited to tail docking, dewclaw removal, skin fold resection, ear cropping or nail clipping;

4. Orthodontics, teeth cleaning or scaling,expenses incurred in connection with temporary or deciduous teeth or any other dental expenses;

5. The cost of prescription diets, dietary, nutritional or mineral supplements, grooming costs and bathing;

6. Any expenses incurred directly or indirectly as a result of behavioural problems;

7. Expenses incurred as a direct or indirect result of desexing;

8. Congenital Defects or Hereditary Defects/Hereditary Conditions or diseases or Conditions caused by such Defects and Conditions. This exclusion does not include the following breeds whether pure breed or part breed provided You have paid the additional premium; Alaskan Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Bulldogs (all breeds), Chow Chow, German Shepherd Dogs, Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Mastiff (all breeds), Newfoundland, Old English Sheepdog, Pit Bull Terrier, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Shar-pei, St Bernard;

9. Expenses incurred as a result of or related to breeding, obstetrics or parturition;

10. Hospitalisation except that deemed essential by the treating Veterinary Surgeon;

11. Expenses incurred for voluntary euthanasia, post mortem, disposal, burial or cremation;

12. Preventable disease including: distemper, canine hepatitis, para influenza, parvovirus and Bordetella for dogs; viral rhinotracheitis, calcivirus, paneukopaenia, Chlamydia and leukaemia for cats;

13. Any expenses whatsoever for examination, diagnosis, x-rays or any other tests which do not reveal a Condition which is payable under this policy;

14. Any expenses incurred before Your Pet reaches the age of 8 weeks;

15. Any expenses incurred if Your Pet is 9 years or older when Your Policy first commenced;

16. Any expense for transport costs;

17. Claims arising directly or indirectly from, or as a result of, any excluded condition or Pre-Existing Condition;

18.Any consequential loss including loss of enjoyment;

19. Any additional expenses incurred away from a Veterinary Surgery, unless the treating Veterinary Surgeon believes that the Treatment is necessary.

20. Any pandemic disease that causes widespread Illness affecting dogs or cats .

21. Losses arising as a result of infectious disease, where the infectious disease is defined as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or any diseases declared to be quarantinable diseases under the Quarantine Act (1908) or any subsequent amendments to, or versions of this Act”

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