Pet insurance uptake in New Zealand has been relatively slow since the first policies were launched back in the eighties. Only 5 per cent of cat owners and 8 per cent of dog owners had insurance for their pets in a New Zealand survey taken in 2015. This is comparatively low compared to other Western countries like the UK, where 26 per cent of owners have insurance, and Sweden, where 50 per cent of owners have insurance.
The reason for this reduced uptake in New Zealand is unknown, but one possibility is lack of client knowledge and awareness, which is partly our fault as vets for not educating our clients on the benefits of pet insurance.
It is an unfortunate but all too common problem; owners want the best possible treatment for their pet, but financial restraints limit the levels of care we can offer. This is where having your pet insured comes into its own – giving you peace of mind that, regardless of your situation, your pet will get the best treatment and the best chance of recovery.
Orthopaedic injuries such as cruciate ligament ruptures or severe limb fractures are very common occurrences and can be operated on with very high success rates and full recoveries if referred to a specialist surgeon. However, the cost of these surgeries often runs into several thousands of dollars.
Other medical conditions where there is no definitive cure, and the animal will require ongoing medication for the duration of its life, can also be expensive. A dog with allergic skin disease may be on medication and prescription diets from as young as six months to try to prevent it from getting repeat skin infections. A 25kg dog on a combination of anti-itch drugs, prescription shampoos and food, can cost over $300 a month, and the dog will likely need to be on these meds for the rest of its life.
These are just two examples of conditions where, because of the expenses involved, less favourable but cheaper options may often be chosen, but these will likely impact negatively on the animal’s long-term health and wellbeing. By having pet insurance, the financial side of treatment is taken out of the equation. It allows you to choose the treatment that will benefit your pet the most.
As with any type of health insurance, the younger your pet is when you get it insured, the cheaper the premiums will be and the more conditions the policy will cover. Pre-existing conditions often won’t be covered, so the earlier you insure your pet, the less likely conditions will be written out of the policy.
There are several different providers in New Zealand each with slightly different policies and pricing. It is worthwhile having a thorough read through their fine print before deciding who to go with. Providers may also include discounts on vaccines and de-sexing and offer a certain period of free cover or discounts if you insure more than one animal.
Hopefully, this has given you a little more insight into the benefits of having pet insurance, and if you want some more information, feel free to ask your local vet about their personal experiences with different providers.