Pet insurance: what you need to know

Pet insurance is one of those out-of-pocket expenses that most pet owners hesitate to commit to. Many see it as a questionable cost so why is it a good idea to consider it?

Accidents happen, and pets fall ill no matter how careful or diligent you are. If your pet is insured you will be able to make decisions about treatment based on what is best for your pet instead of what is best for your wallet.

By being pro-active and doing the research, you can choose an insurance plan that will fit your budget as well as your pet’s specific needs.

If you’re going to insure your pet’s health, start by speaking to your vet. She can give you valuable information that will help you to choose the best plan. For example, some breeds are more susceptible to cancer, heart problems, skin allergies, diabetes and hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia and cruciate injuries. Knowing your dog or cat’s risk profile upfront can help you choose the plan that will cover these ailments.

When do I start pet insurance?

Try to insure your pet from as young as possible because with older animals pre-existing conditions might be excluded for a period of time, or not covered at all.

Pet insurance is great when it comes to big ailments

Veterinary treatment can be expensive. These are among the priciest ailments most commonly encountered:

  • Any trauma e.g. fractures, bite wounds
  • Chronic treatments like skin allergies and ear infections
  • Metabolic conditions like diabetes, Cushings disease and hyper-/hypothyroidism.
  • Older animals tend to suffer from heart failure or kidney failure
  • Blood tests and medications commonly used can also be pricey.

Which plan do I choose?

There is no one-size-fits-all. You need to do the research, gather as much information as possible and choose the one that best suits your pocket and your pet’s needs.

When doing your research consider the following:

  • Cost
  • Limits (annual cover, individual claim)
  • Hereditary illness cover
  • Genetic/breed specific exclusions (do they cover spinal surgery for Daschunds, hip dysplasia for large breed dogs etc?)
  • Waiting periods before you can claim
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions
  • Vaccination benefits
  • Routine care benefits

Conditions you might not be covered for:

  • Prescription diets
  • Cosmetic procedures
  • Obese pets
  • Behaviour issues
  • Pregnancy
  • Breeding and birth problems
  • Acupuncture
  • Rehabilitation therapy ( hydrotherapy and physiotherapy)
  • dentistry

Pet  insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense but ask any pet parent who’s had to fork out thousands for emergency treatment for their beloved dog and you’ll soon see the value in it. Buy the best you can afford; some cover is always better than none at all.

Article by Dr Esmaré van der Walt, head veterinarian at EberVet Pet Clinic in Strand