December 4, 2022

However, contrary to popular belief that COVID-19 was the main reason for rising pet ownership, the study has revealed that most owners had long been considering getting a pet even before the outbreak and the restrictions imposed during the pandemic had simply allowed them to do so.

“Our research indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions may have created an opportunity for Australians to introduce a previously desired pet into the family, rather than the pandemic being the reason itself for acquiring a pet,” explained Lance Williams, chairman of the board of directors at AMA. “For instance, working from home arrangements have provided the opportunity to spend time with a young pet.”

Read more: Revealed – which insurance market is primed for considerable growth?

The research also highlighted the positive impact pet ownership had on people’s lives. About 70% of those who participated in the study said that having a pet has “improved their lives” during the pandemic.

“While the participants in both the focus groups and the survey struggled to pinpoint specific changes to behaviours in their pets or themselves, they were able to readily name overall benefits, including companionship, comfort, positive mental and physical health, and unconditional love,” the report noted.

In addition, the study found that pet owners allocate $3,200 per dog and $2,100 per cat each year, primarily for food, veterinary services, and healthcare products. Extrapolated across the country, dog owners have spent $20.5 billion and cat owners $10.2 billion in the past year.

But despite having among the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, data gathered by market research firm Roy Morgan has revealed that a scant 6% of Australian pet owners carry insurance, highlighting a substantial protection gap.

“With the high potential cost of some veterinary procedures, it appears that most pet owners are either prepared to take the risk or perhaps are unaware of the potential high costs involved,” said Norman Morris, industry communications director at Roy Morgan. “The annual cost of the insurance is also likely to deter the take up of pet insurance for many.”

Read more: Very few pet owners have pet insurance

How does pet insurance work in Australia?

Pet insurance is designed to protect pet owners from the financial impact of sudden and unexpected veterinary expenses. Policies typically follow a reimbursement-based model, allowing policyholders to consult or get treatment from a specialist of their choosing. However, there are also a few pet insurance providers that offer the option to pay the veterinarian directly.

Policies vary between insurers but each outline which conditions and expenses are covered, reimbursement rate, deductible, and maximum payout or annual limit. Each plan also has a waiting period before coverage kicks in. The time varies depending on the insurance company, but most require a waiting period of 14 days.

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance plans in Australia offer three main types of coverage. These are:

  • Accident-only: The most basic form of coverage, such policies cover the cost if a pet suffers an accidental injury, including those sustained after being hit by a vehicle.
  • Accident and illness: This is the most popular type of pet insurance policy in Australia, covering the cost to treat injuries sustained in an accident and certain diseases.
  • Comprehensive: This top-tier protection covers illnesses and accidental injuries, as well as additional expenses such as surgery, hospitalisation, euthanasia, and medication. Routine or preventative care may also be offered as a standard inclusion.

Read more: Revealed – the most and least expensive dog breeds to insure in Australia

How much does pet insurance cost?

Just like in other types of insurance, premium prices for pet coverage are determined based on a range of factors, including:

  • The type of pet
  • The pet’s age
  • The pet’s gender
  • The pet’s breed
  • Where the pet owner resides
  • Whether the pet is desexed/spayed or not
  • The level of coverage
  • The excess amount

According to MoneySmart, Australian pet owners spend between $20 and $60 on pet insurance monthly, which is equivalent to between $240 and $720 annually. By comparison, owners shell out an estimated $450 every year on veterinary expenses on top of the $300 to $450 for flea, tick, and de-worming procedures, along with other treatments. This means pet ownership expenses can add up “pretty quickly,” according to the firm.  

Is taking out pet insurance worth it in Australia?

According to experts, the biggest benefit of taking out pet insurance is peace of mind. It gives pet owners the assurance that in an event of an expensive illness or accident, they can afford to give their pets the best care possible.

“Pet insurance can give you peace of mind knowing you will be financially protected in the event your dog or cat suffers an illness or injury,” explained the animal welfare organisation and pet insurance provider RSPCA. “With the unpredictable costs of vet visits, not having pet insurance could mean the risk of being hit with an expensive bill if an unfortunate worst-case scenario occurs.”

Read more: Top claims for canine friends revealed

The consumer opinion website ProductReview.com.au added that getting coverage may be worth it if pet owners believe that they could not afford the upfront costs of veterinary treatment if their pets get sick or injured.

“This is the primary reason pet insurance exists – to help you afford veterinary costs,” the site noted. “The nature of an accident or even an unexpected illness is that it’s sudden and unplanned. If you don’t have enough money saved up for a rainy day, you could find yourself in a stressful situation, prolonging treatment for your pet until you figure out how to get the money.”

In its 2022 pet health monitor report, the pet insurance specialist PetSure revealed the top five medical conditions for dogs and cats, along with the corresponding treatment expenses, to give pet owners a picture of how much it costs to take care of their furry friends. Details are revealed in the tables below.










Cost of top five conditions in dogs (all ages), 2021

Condition

Average cost

Maximum vet treatment cost

Allergic skin diseases

$713

$17,720

Ear infections

$361

$14,629

Osteoarthritis (arthritis)

$614

$9,758

Cruciate ligament disease

$3,817

$26,894

Diarrhoea

$424

$15,971

 










Cost of top five conditions in cats (all ages), 2021

Condition

Average cost

Maximum vet treatment cost

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

$1,638

$47,693

Vomiting

$592

$10,784

Diarrhoea

$443

$6,904

Hyperthyroidism

$1,069

$4,768

Osteoarthritis (arthritis)

$508

$5,524

Source: PetSure, 2022 Pet Health Monitor

What do the top pet insurance companies in Australia cover?

To provide pet owners a comparison of the level of coverage the best pet insurance companies in Australia offer, the pet insurance marketplace Top10PetInsurance.com.au compiled data from dozens of the country’s top industry players, including reimbursement rates, waiting periods, benefit limits, and excess amounts.

Premium prices, meanwhile, were based on a hypothetical six-month-old de-sexed female Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with a 60-year-old owner living in New South Wales, with a 2150 postal code.

Here’s a comparison of the country’s leading pet insurance providers.




























Insurer/Plan

Monthly premiums

Vet bills covered

Excess amount

Annual benefit limit

Waiting period for illness

1300 Insurance Comprehensive Protect

$88.91

75%

$0

$15,000

30 days

Australian Seniors Top Accident & Illness Cover      

$68.81

80%

$0

$12,000

30 days

Bow Wow Meow Ultimate Care

$80.00

80%

$0

$20,000

30 days

Budget Direct Pet Insurance

$54.35

80%

$100

$12,000

30 days

Bupa Ultimate

$78.40

80%

$0

$20,000

30 days

Coles Premium

$76.01

100%

$200

$12,000

21 days

Guardian Platimum Accident & Illness Cover

$68.97

80%

$0

$12,000

30 days

Guide Dogs Premium Care

$80.55

85%

$0

$20,000

30 days

HCF Pet Premium

$101.13

80%

$0

$12,000

30 days

Knose Pet Insurance

$120.32

90%

$0

$25,000

14 days

Kogan Pet Luxury

$67.82

80%

$0

$15,000

30 days

Medibank Ultimate Pet Care

$64.51

80%

$0

$15,000

30 days

Pet Insurance Australia Major Medical Plan

$74.44

80%

$0

$15,145

30 days

Petbarn Total Cover

$102.40

100%

$0

Up to applicable benefit limits

20 days

PetInsurance.com.au Accidental Injury & Illness Cover

$46.05

80%

$0

$10,000

30 days

Petmed Ultimate Plan

$97.08

80%

$0

$18,000

30 days

PetSecure Accidental Injury & Illness

$115.21

85%

$0

$12,000

30 days

Petsy Top Cover

$146.31

90%

$0

$25,000

14 days

Prime Sovereign Accident & Illness Cover

$86.19

85%

$0

$14,000

30 days

Prosure Gold Cover

$81.97

80%

$0

$12,500

30 days

Real Premium Accident & Illness Cover

$70.39

80%

$0

$12,000

30 days

RSPCA Ultimate Plus Accident & Illness Cover   

$74.14

80%

$0

$20,000

30 days

Vets Choice Elite

$104.27

100%

$200

$15,000

21 days

Woolworths Comprehensive Plus

$69.08

80%

$0

$30,000

30 days

Source: Top10PetInsurance.com.au, March 2022