I’m no financial expert, so writing an article about why you should consider pet insurance is as daunting as trying to tell someone what health insurance policy is best for them and their family.

At least when it comes to health insurance in Australia there is an argument for getting private cover to avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge or the Lifetime Health Cover Loading (no, I am not going to explain that here…we’re a website about dogs!).

When it comes to pet insurance though, in my personal opinion it comes down to a few factors we need to consider.

Some reasons to consider pet insurance

There’s the day-to-day savings/rebate versus cost argument (much like our health cover ‘extras’ policies) for those veterinarian bills and health care services we know we are going to incur as a dog owner.

Then there is weighing up the likelihood of our dog requiring surgery for some of the common ailments many dogs can experience in their lifetime (ie: cruciate ligaments, hip and back joint issues, or cancer), and then there is the worst case situation of having to make a life or death decision for our dog should they be in an accident or have an injury that can be fixed…but only with costly surgery.

I just keeping thinking about how I would feel about having to make the decision to euthanise Darcy just because I couldn’t afford to pay for the surgery that could save him, and I didn’t have the pet insurance cover that could have!  Many Vets I have spoken to as well, have said one of the worst situations they face is when a pet has to be put down because the owner can’t afford the surgery. This is a heartbreaking decision for both the owner and for the Vet.

So, whilst I’m no expert on the various pet insurance policies on the market, here are a few statistics I have come across across and would suggest that you do some research based on your dogs age, breed and also the costs of surgery for some common ailments or injuries that many dogs sustain these days.

Annual spend on a dog 

According to the Animal Medicines Australia Pet Ownership in Australia Report 2016, the annual average spend on a dog is $1,475 comprising of:

Food: $622
Vet care: $397
Health products: $248
Grooming: $129
Boarding: $86

In the same report, it showed 79% of dogs have been taken to the vet in the past 12 months, including 43 % of dogs that have visited multiple times which is one reason why you might consider pet insurance.

Choosing the right pet insurance cover

According to Choice Magazine, the average cost for pet insurance came to around $390 per annum for common breeds,  so at this level of cost per annum, it does seem a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing your pet will be covered in most emergency situations*.

Do note that some policies have special clauses for the more high-risk breeds, with the accident and illness coverage averaging at around $550 per year for these, according to Choice.

If you do have a breed that is prone to specific ailments, and of course in general, that’s where doing your research as to what level of coverage you will require is really important, as is getting pet insurance early before a condition presents itself.

It’s also well worth having a chat to your Vet about the particular health risks your pet is likely to face due to its breed, age or state of health, and also the location of where you live (ie: ticks paralysis).   I’d suggest also weighing up the insurance costs versus veterinarian costs for ‘extras’ like dental illness insurance when you consider pet insurance.

If you do have an older dog then it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get covered either. It might just mean there are some restrictions around conditions that are already present in your dog, so again, research into the insurance policies available to you and chat to your Vet.

Given most of us consider our dog to be part of the family it makes sense to think about it in much the same way as we would for our own and our family’s health insurance and peace of mind.   I know I have.

* This is my opinion only and do check what level of cover is required for accident and emergency and for different operations or services, breeds and age restrictions when you consider pet insurance.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog walking, dog minding and dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.