Pet insurance is about the unpredictable…



Caring For Your Pet

cat-needing-careKiwis love their pets. According to a 2016 New Zealand Herald article, New Zealanders were number two in the world in terms of pet ownership – and we are outnumbered by our pets. 64 per cent of New Zealand households are home to at least one pet with an estimated 4.6 million pets in the country. Cats are the pet of choice, with 44 per cent of households sharing their homes with at least one cat, followed by dogs at 28 per cent.

Pets are wonderful companions, but they come with obligations and costs; the majority of New Zealanders take this responsibility seriously.

In 2015, the NZ Companion Animal Council estimated that caring for a dog costs around $1600.00 a year and a cat costs around $670.00.

These are just the ‘running costs’. As we know, pets can be involved in accidents or become unwell. When this happens, things can get expensive with surgical costs that can creep into the thousands on top of treatments, medicines, X-rays and the rest.

What to do? One option is pet insurance. There’s a good chance your pet will have to visit the vet at least once during its lifetime for more than just a routine checkup, and pet insurance is about the unpredictable. Loving our pets unconditionally makes it very difficult to make medical decisions for them when they are largely based on affordability. Insurance can remove the unpleasant choice of having to put down a pet if the money for the vet bill can’t be found.

Pet insurance policies tend to come in three different types: (a) accident only, (b) accident and illness and (c) accident, illness and routine care.

Typically, there is an upper and lower age limit for pet eligibility (e.g. 8 weeks to 9 years old). The type and age of your pet also makes a difference – certain breeds might be more predisposed toward joint problems or eye issues. Some more expensive policies, around $50 a month, even provide cover for emergency boarding kennel fees, if you should be stuck in hospital for a spell and are unable to look after your pet, and some will cover cancelling a holiday or travel plans if your pet gets sick or has an accident.

However, many conditions are not covered by pet insurance, and if your pet is over 7 or 8 years of age, then you’ll need to contribute at least 20 per cent to any vet bill. Also, you may find that when your policy comes up for annual renewal, it could be that you are no longer covered for things you’ve claimed on.

Vets can get a bad rap for big bills, but the reality is that expert medical care costs. Look at some recent vet bills as listed by

Pet Treatment Costs
  • a CT scan for a cat = $1,750
  • cat’s broken femur = $1,800
  • surgery to remove something that shouldn’t have been eaten = $1,950
  • cat’s chipped tooth = $2,200
  • surgery for a run over cat = $4,000
  • complicated kidney treatment = $5,500

Would you be able to cover these bills? If not, pet insurance may be a good option. Which policy?

According to a 2014 Herald article, pet owners will get much better value for money if they look for a policy that covers basic vet care as well as accidents. Some common pet insurance companies in New Zealand include Southern CrossPet Plan, and Pet-N-Sur.

However, not all pet insurance providers are created equal. If you’re looking for a review of pet insurance companies and costs, then read this article from MoneyHub.