A review of pet insurance policies by consumer group CHOICE has found consumers can pay up to $2120(1) per year and still not be covered for common illnesses such as Kennel Cough and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

CHOICE reviewed 68 policies from 19 brands and found the biggest insurer, Petsure, won‟t cover your animal for illness even if they’ve been vaccinated. It also found Petplan failed to disclose co-payment requirements on seven of its policies.

“With pet owners coughing up significant premiums each year, it pays to read the fine print as some policies are likely to get your goat,” says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

Review of pet insurance vaccination clause

One of the most significant carve-outs CHOICE found in Petsure policies dealt with denying coverage to vaccinated pets. The policies state:  We will not pay treatment of the following irrespective of whether your dog or cat was vaccinated or not: a) for dogs: infectious canine hepatitis (canine adenovirus), parvovirus, canine distemper, parainfluenza and all forms of kennel cough. b) for cats: panleukopaenia, chlamydia, leukaemia, FIV, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, herpes, cat flu(2).

“Refusing to cover animals for illnesses that they are vaccinated against is a dog way to keep premiums down. We think Petsure should follow Petplan’s lead and offer cover for these conditions to owners who keep their pets vaccinated(3),” says Mr Godfrey.

Review of pet insurance, old pet hates

“If your furry friend gets sick, pet insurance can make financial sense as the vet bills start to come home to roost, but the longer you wait the more it‟s like slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted,” Mr Godfrey says.

“Your best bet is to insure your pet when they’re young as premiums increase as your pet ages, and there isn’t much choice for animals over 8 years. Also, the longer you wait the higher the chance your pet will have a pre-existing condition that won’t be covered.”

“The sad fact is only one insurer offers comprehensive cover for pets over 8 years, which means owners of older pets who want to change insurers have very limited options.”

(1) Bupa Ultimate (by Petsure) plan for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier living in Darwin, $0 excess with all bolt-on extras.
(2) Petsure-administered PDS s.3.2.3 used brand such as Bupa & Woolworths
(3) Petplan “Covered4Life” PDS p14

Review of pet insurance, co-payment pain

CHOICE found that Petplan failed to disclose co-payment requirements on seven of its eight policies and has referred the issue to ASIC.

“We found after covering 100% of the vet bills until age 8, Petplan‟s cover drops to 65% right at the time in the pet‟s life when they need it the most,” says Mr Godfrey.

“If Petplan’s policy of increasing co-payments as your pet ages wasn’t bad enough, failing to disclose these additional fees had us smelling a rat so we’ve referred the issue to the regulator.”

Review of pet insurance, dead pet clause

Despite most providers dropping their “dead pet” clauses last year following a CHOICE campaign, one insurer – Petcover – still hasn’t ruled out making consumers paying a full year’s premium after their pet has died if they’ve already made a claim.(4)

“While the major insurers have cleaned up their acts when it comes to charging grief-stricken pet owners, it seems Petcover, which is backed by Allianz, hasn’t got the message,” Mr Godfrey says.

(4) 4 Petcover PDS p1

Check out CHOICE’s 9 tips for choosing pet insurance.

Further information about pet insurance can be found here: www.choice.com.au/petinsurance.