This Article is About
pet insurance
new zealand government
health bills
pet owner
general practitioner
insurance companies
human health
Pet Insurance
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I work in an emergency vet practice based in New Zealand and it never fails to amaze me how few people take out pet insurance for their animals, and how many are surprised to hear about pet insurance. My feeling is because the New Zealand government puts so much money into the public health system the need for personal medical insurance and the frequency we need to pay high human health bills is low. Unfortunately pets do not get the same subsidize as humans, this means when it comes to the vet scene, vets either make no profit margin on their services (such as desexing procedures which are often done for LESS then cost) or our prices seem disproportionately high compared to the human medicine world.

Therefore, I encouage any new pet owner to get insurance early, for a cat you are looking around $150-250 a year and a dog around the $400-600 mark, it may seem a lot if you are just looking at your yearly check up bill however the patients I see through the emergency room rarely come out with anything under $1000 bill often only for 24 hours of stabilization, whats worse is if your pet needs specialist attention you are looking upwards of $3-4000 with some of our clients reaching $10000 (an a few on them is just over a weekend!). Once put in prospective insurance is a small price to pay.

Hopefully by now you are convinced to buy your beloved pet insurance, there are a few tips on how to choose which company.

First, like I mentioned earlier, the big bills, when you really need your insurance, come with emergency and specialist treatment. The insurance companies also know these are the big bills and especially on the cheaper plans will have in the fine print that they will only pay out for visits to a general practitioner, meaning they will pay the bills for your year vaccinations but not where it really counts. So my first and most important tip is confirm and reconfirm your insurance will cover the trip to the emergency room at 9pm after your dog ran in front of a car in the dark.

Second tip while talking about what services your insurance provides for, some insurance policies will cover specialist care if you are seeing a surgeon, but not if you are seeing a medicine specialist. For example if Spot broke his leg and needed a specialist surgeon the insurance will pay out as they assume the surgeon will do a good job and the bill will be a one off payment of $5000, however if Spot was to get cancer and required weekly chemotherapy at $500/week for the foreseeable future this could end up costing the insurance company a lot of money as they do not know when the expenses will end. The take home message for tip two is when checking the fine print for if they cover specialist care, double check that it is both surgical and medical.

Tip number three is also applicable to human insurance, that is insure early before problems start. Most kittens and puppies, if brought from a pet shop, come with a 10 day free insurance cover as part of the take home package, so long as you buy full cover with in those 10 days you are pretty much guaranteed (see the exception in tip 4) your new puppy or kitten will be covered for everything for the rest of its life. However if this insurance lapses your new puppy accidentally jumps from your arm and breaks its leg while not under an insurance policy, not only will you not get insurance for that incident but say the injury leads to arthritic later in life you will not have cover for that either. So my message here is buy your pet and your insurance on the same day!

My final tip for this article is a lead on from tip three, this is mainly applicable to dogs. Through studies it has been shown some diseases occur more commonly in a particular breed, these are called breed predilections. It is common practice for an insurance company to put in their policy they will not cover your dog for any breed predilected diseases, such as back problems in a dachhound. However again read the fine print as some will not only not cover the breed predilected disease but any disease process that occurs to that body part, breed related or not.

The classic example is cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCL), better known as ACL rupture in rugby players. The CCL is a ligament in the dogs knee which ruptures due to conformation more often than injury, the surgery to fix a rupture like this can range form $1000-5000 depending on the type of surgery and the breed of the dog. The dogs that often rupture there CCL are medium to large breed dogs with upright hind limbs such as a labrador, some insurance companies will not cover for ligament rupture in these dogs but also wont cover for arthritis or traumatic damage to the knee both of which are not related to the breed. The double bad news in these case is the dog has two knees and 80% of cases rupture the second knee as well! So my final message is this, preferably you find a company that also covers for breed predilected disease's but if you can't than at least make sure they will cover for other types of injury to that body part.

To recap, firstly get insurance for your furry family member, I didn't mention it earlier, but the times where the price is high is also normally the times when the situation is critical and making a decision to let go of an animal based purely on money when it is a treatable disease is a very hard one. When choosing insurance make sure you follow the 4 tips, choose once that covers emergency and specialist care (both surgical and medical included) and get it early so it will cover all your pets problems and you can choose the best possible care for your pet. My finial point is if you cant decide on a company ask your local vet, they deal with pet care every day and most likely file insurance claims every day, they will have a good idea of which companies pay out and which don't.

Happy insuring!!


Street Talk

Hi Nicole, Thanks for your feedback, unfortunately I have had very little exposure to horses since finishing vet school, however the insurance companies do work the same in New Zealand. Unfortunately insurance companies work with money, their concern is the bottom line not the animal. I think the main point with insurance is to read ALL of the fine print, there are some cat/dog plans out there that will cover the purchase cost of your pet when they die, I assume there is the same in the equine world.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
N  

Hey Dominique, Nice article and I hope it helps make pet owners more aware of their insurance options. However, I was just wondering what your thoughts were on horse insurance, given your experience? I have spent some time in vet clinics, and know of several horse owners who have taken out insurance for their horse, but when the unthinkable happened to one of my good friends' horse the recommended course of action by her vet was euthanasia, yet the insurance company would not allow it. Their reason being that the cost of treatment was less than the payout - there was no consideration given to the suffering of her horse during treatment or that he would be permanently lame for the rest of his life. Have you seen anything like this or are insurance companies better to deal with in NZ than they are here in Australia?

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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