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Pet insurance

Learn more about pet insurance and find the right policy for you

What is pet insurance in New Zealand?

Pet insurance in New Zealand works like this: you pay a specific amount (a “premium”) to your insurer each month, and in return, they pay a percentage of your cat or dog’s vet bills if your pet is sick or injured, up to an agreed maximum. Pet Insurance Finder™ makes it easy to compare your options online, for free.

How does pet insurance work in New Zealand?

Like health insurance for humans, pet insurance helps cover unexpected bills if your furry pal needs surgery or treatment for anything from an animal bite to cancer, as the bills can add up to thousands of dollars. Since most of us don’t have that kind of money sitting around (and there’s no ACC for our dogs and cats), having insurance can help you make decisions based on your pet’s health and not your bank account. Pet insurance in New Zealand works like this:

  • You pay your pet insurance premium monthly or annually
  • You can visit any licensed vet in New Zealand if your pet gets sick (as long as it’s not due to a pre-existing condition)
  • You pay the vet directly
  • You get up to 85% of vet costs reimbursed, as much as $20,000 a year

Comparing the different types of pet insurance

When signing up for pet insurance, you can typicaly choose from three types of cover:

Dog tag
Accident only cover

Accident-only insurance covers injuries caused by an accident, which can include broken bones from a car accident, scratches from fighting with other animals or burns. Bear in mind that this policy doesn’t pay out for all types of accidents.
Medicine
Accident & illness cover

Accident and illness cover protects your pet from accidents, as well as sickness or disease. Your furry friend is covered for conditions such as cancer, infectious diseases, hereditary illness and skin conditions.
Dog vet sign
Comprehensive Cover

Comprehensive cover protects your four-legged friend against accidents and illness as mentioned above, but often to a higher limit. Some policies include (or allow you to add) routine care, which provides a set amount for training, prescription diets, deworming, desexing etc.

How can you compare pet insurance policies?

At first glance, it might seem like most pet insurance policies are pretty similar. Here’s an example of how two insurers’ comprehensive policies stack up against one another.

Insurer AInsurer B
Premium$118.65$121.04
Annual Benefit Limit$12,000$20,000
Reimbursement rate80%85%
Illnesses YesYes
Accidental Injury YesYes
Cancer treatmentYesYes
Excess$0$0
Choice of excess $0, $100 or $200$0 or $50 only

This insurance policy comparison was made for Teddy, a male French bulldog. He is 4.5 years old, desexed, and lives in Auckland.

As you can see, these policies cost around the same and cover Teddy for similar services. However, there are some key differences worth noting, such as:

  • Annual Benefit Limit: The maximum benefit limit between policies can vary from around $11,000 to $20,000. A lower limit generally means cheaper premiums, but you risk reaching your annual limit and being out of pocket if your pet is seriously ill, injured, or becomes ill.
  • Choice of excess: The excess is how much you pay out of pocket if you need to make a claim. Some policies allow you to choose your excess amount (the higher your excess, the less you pay each month).
  • Reimbursement rate: While the difference between an 80% and an 85% reimbursement rate doesn’t seem like much, imagine if you are faced with a $5,000 vet bill. You’ll be out of pocket $1000 with Insurer A (80% reimbursement) or just $750 with Insurer B (85% reimbursement).

Case Study: Teddy the Frenchie

As many a pet owner will tell you, it seems like pets are forever munching on things they’re not allowed to eat, from slippers to freshly baked brownies.

French bulldog

It only takes a moment’s lapse in concentration, and you could be looking at an expensive trip to the vet. For example, imagine that Teddy the Frenchie swallows one of his owner’s socks. Surgery can range from $982 to a staggering $22,919, and costs usually depend on where and when you need it.

With something like a swallowed object, you don’t have time to shop around for the best deal – your pet needs to be taken care of now. With a benefit limit of $20,000, a comprehensive policy helps cover up to 85% of the surgery cost to remove the object. So while you’ll still be out of pocket $3,000 in the worst-case scenario, it’s a bit more palatable than $20,000 or having to make a far more difficult decision.

That’s why it’s always worth looking for a higher annual limit when searching for a policy. While slightly lower premiums may be tempting, you risk being seriously out of pocket if something goes wrong.

Typical situations where pet insurance can help

Our pets can get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Pet insurance can help you out if an accident or illness strikes. Here are some issues your pet insurance can help cover:

  • Illnesses: Diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, ear infections, and lethargy are all common illnesses among kittens and puppies and can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,500 or even more. While pet insurance can also cover you for scarier things like cancer and surgery, pet insurance is often just as helpful when it comes to these common issues.
  • Accidents: Animal fights, car accidents or swallowing objects – these can all be common occurrences with pets, often resulting in a trip to the vet. The cost to treat a fracture could be $2,500, meaning if 80% of your bill is covered with pet insurance, you’ll be looking at $500 for out of pocket expenses.
  • Genetic health conditions: Short-nosed dog breeds such as pugs often have breathing and digestive problems, labradors often have hip dysplasia and Persian cats are prone to certain kidney diseases. If you have a pet that’s predisposed to health issues, you’re better off obtaining insurance before any of them arise.

When should you get pet insurance?

You can get cover for your pet once it’s eight weeks or older. If you are considering pet insurance, you’re better off getting it while your pet is young, healthy and before it develops any conditions. It’s a good idea to consider pet insurance for any of the following reasons:

  • You have a purebred: Purebreds are more likely to have congenital conditions, which mean they’re likely to need surgery at some point or regular medication. Pet insurance can help keep things more affordable.
  • If you can’t afford a huge unexpected bill: Pet insurance keeps things manageable with small monthly payments. Without insurance, you run the risk of being hit with an unexpected bill you can’t afford or potentially having to make a horrible decision.
  • If you have an adventurous pet: Is your canine naturally excitable? Does your pet love to explore the outdoors? If so, you need to think about pet insurance. You never know what kind of trouble your pet might get into, whether it’s eating something they shouldn’t, getting into a fight or running into traffic.
  • If your pet is under the age of Nine: You can usually buy cover for vet bills, accidents, illnesses and routine care for pets under the age of nine. Some policies cover pets over the age of nine for illness, but it can be harder to get comprehensive cover, as insurers may only offer accident cover for older pets.

Should you switch pet insurers?

It’s often the case that the best deals are available to new customers. It can make sense to compare what’s out there and switch to a more affordable policy, as long as your pet is still covered for what you need. However, there are a few key things to watch out for when switching brands:

  • Pre-existing conditions: Any pre-existing condition your pet might have had before being insured is unlikely to be covered by a new insurer. Always check the product disclosure statement (PDS) before you switch providers to make sure.
  • The excess: The monthly premiums might be cheaper, but a high excess means that you may be forking out more than the cost of treatment itself whenever you need to claim. Look for a policy that comes with a low excess. Some have options as low as $0 or $50.

How much does pet insurance cost?

As a pet owner, you know that having a pet isn’t exactly cheap. The average Kiwi dog owner spends $1686 a year, and the average cat owner spends $1,005 a year on their pets (NZ Companion Animal Council). Insuring your pet helps offset the costs of owning a pet with policies ranging from around $14 a month (accident only cover) to $60 a month and upwards (comprehensive cover). As you can imagine, the cost differs from one brand to another, so it pays to compare.


Is it worth it?

Check out some of the pros and cons of pet insurance to help you work out if it’s worth it.

Pros

Cons

  • Your pet may not have expensive health issues (in the short term anyway).
  • Some conditions have sublimits, for example, medication.
  • You are unlikely to obtain cover for pre-existing conditions.
  • There are still some out of pocket expenses

What extra cover should you consider?

Pet insurance policies often let you tailor your policy to work for you. Consider each optional extra on its own merits, and compare pet insurance policies to look for the ones you’re more likely to use. Here are some optional extras that are available with different policies:

  • Routine care. Routine care can be added to most comprehensive policies; it covers the cost of everyday care, from vaccinations to teeth cleaning.
  • Alternative and complementary medicine. This provides cover for things like physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy when recommended by your vet.
  • Dental illness. This covers conditions such as gingivitis, abscesses and the removal of teeth due to cavities or tooth fracture.

Things you probably didn’t know pet insurance could cover

Other than health issues for your cat or dog, pet insurance policies often include some cover for the following:

  • Emergency boarding. If you’re hospitalised for an extended period or in an emergency situation, policies may cover the cost of boarding for your pet until you can get home again.
  • Overseas pet travel insurance. Extends your cover overseas, but generally only if you’re travelling to New Zealand or Norfolk Island.
  • Essential euthanasia. Under this option, if euthanasia is deemed humane and essential by your veterinarian, you may find your insurance provider will cover the expenses involved. Check your product disclosure statement (PDS) to see if euthanasia is covered.
  • Paralysis tick treatment. Your policy may cover up to a specific amount of veterinary treatment arising from paralysis tick bites.

What isn’t covered by pet insurance?

Just like any other insurance, pet insurance doesn’t cover everything. Here are some standard exclusions:

  • Pre-existing conditions that your pet was diagnosed with or showing signs of before you obtained insurance.
  • A malicious act, deliberate injury or gross negligence by you or someone living with you.
  • Treatment for diseases for which there is a known vaccine, which includes conditions like kennel cough and parvovirus.
  • Preventative treatments and procedures such as vaccinations or flea/tick control, unless you have routine cover included.
  • Behavioural problems or conditions caused by behavioural problems.
  • Breeding or pregnancy, or any conditions resulting from these.
  • Grooming, including shampoos, baths, dips or cosmetic surgery.
  • Training, socialisation and any alternative therapies, unless you have cover included.
  • Pet food or supplements, even if they’ve been recommended by your vet.
  • Organ transplant surgery, artificial limbs or prosthetics.

Some common questions about pet insurance

When should I get pet insurance for my cat or dog?

You can usually insure your pet as soon as it’s eight weeks old. Typically, the earlier you obtain pet insurance, the better (before health problems develop) as these won’t be covered by pet insurance.

Do I have to provide a copy of my pet’s medical history?

You generally won’t need to provide a complete medical history but must disclose any illnesses or injuries your pet has suffered before taking out the policy.

What if my pet was adopted from a shelter?

You need to provide a copy of the documentation given to you by the pet shelter.

Can I get cover for multiple pets at once?

Yes. Most companies let you cover multiple pets, with some offering multi-policy discounts when you do.

How do I renew my cover?

Most pet insurance policies require your pet to be under eight years of age when starting the policy. The policy is then renewed each year automatically, provided there is no lapse in coverage.

More guides on Finder

  • Pet insurance for older dogs and cats

    Discover some funds that cover senior pets, what to look for in a policy and how you can help your furry friend feel comfortable in their twilight years.

  • Pet insurance with no waiting period

    Getting immediate pet insurance is a little difficult. This handy guide helps you discover how long you have to wait before your pet is covered.

  • Desexing Your Pet

    If you have a furry friend in your life, it’s essential to consider desexing. There is a range of benefits to having your pet desexed and best of all, pet insurance may cover it. Read on to learn more.

  • Pet euthanasia

    The following guide can help you navigate the difficult process of putting your pet down.

  • How much do puppy vaccinations cost?

    Vaccinating your puppy is one of the most important ways you can help them grow into a healthy dog. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Is pet insurance worth it?

    Is pet insurance worth it or a waste of money? Find out in this comprehensive guide.

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