Pet Insurance

by Dr. Francesca Matthews

Affordable pet insurance is now widely available to cover cats and dogs.

There are currently three main providers of pet insurance in the New Zealand market. Policies vary from basic surgical policies through to policies that provide much wider cover.

Most pet insurance providers offer a one month free period so that your pet is covered while you review whether to take out a permanent policy.

Discuss pet insurance with us. We get regular feedback from clients regarding how good the clients pet insurance cover is from a particular company. Bear in mind, like any human health insurance policy, once you have made a claim on something it is likely to be excluded if you change to a different provider. Also, if your animal gets sick and you decide then to take out pet insurance the condition your pet is currently being treated for and indeed any that occurred before the inception of the policy will not be covered. 


Thinking about taking out Pet Insurance?

That is great - we recommend you consider taking out a policy if you would find it difficult to find several thousand dollars at short notice (for example if your pet was hit by a car or broke their leg). However it essential to do your homework on the policy you are taking out to make sure it is what you are expecting and what you require.



Questions to seek answers to:

What follows is a list of 23 questions that we would advise you get answers to. This list is not exhaustive:


  1. How much you can claim in total and is this enough? Talk this over with us.
  2. If your pet gets a chronic condition (such as arthritis or a skin condition) that is going to need veterinary care, ongoing tests or medication what happens to my cover - is it for life? What will happen to my premiums? What will happen to my excesses? Will you still cover it after 1, 2, 3, 5 or more years?
  3. How much money could you come up with to help pay for each claim? The more you can come up with the less comprehensive your policy needs to be.
  4. Is your dog on the ‘Select’ list for a specific pet insurance company? If it is, be aware of the additional clauses that may be in place, and to what age cover will be provided.
  5. How will the current age of your pet affect the quoted base premium?
  6. What happens to the premiums or excesses paid as your pet ages?
  7. Will your pet be covered if it is used for sport, racing etc?
  8. What level of risk is your pet? For example an indoor cat is less likely to have a major accident than an outdoor one (although it’s not impossible!), so the outdoor cat may need a higher level of cover.
  9. How secure is this company and what is the Standards and Poors rating of the insurance company underwriter? Are they in a good position to pay out if you claim?
  10. Does the insurance company require forms to be completed by the veterinarian? If so does my veterinarian charge extra for this? Note that insurance companies will not pay costs that veterinarians may charge for filling in forms. Some companies do not require a form, they only require a print out of the notes.
  11. What conditions are listed with specific maximums for claims? If there are any, are these realistic or are the surgeries much more expensive? We can help answer this question.
  12. Whatis the cover for chronic conditions?  For example if you pet is diagnosed with a chronic skin condition that will require lifelong treatment - will that be covered or is the time period of cover limited?
  13. What is the cover for after hours fees? Some companies may limit this so check they cover the costs you would incur..
  14. What is the cover for specialist veterinarians? Note these veterinarians are more expensive and are increasingly being used for more complex procedures so you want to know that their fees and expertise are covered. Again some insurance companies limit this cover which is perhaps some of the most important, especially where specialists are available.
  15. What is the cover for pet loss/funeral/cremation? It depends on the importance of this to you whether this is required - the cover is generally expensive for a very small benefit.
  16. What rebates are available for routine procedures, such as desexing and annual vaccinations?
  17. How do you claim? Is the process straight forward and fast?
  18. What changes to premiums and excesses occur for older pets and at what age does it kick in?
  19. What no-claims bonuses are available?
  20. Is it easy to contact the insurance company or talk to an adviser when you are reviewing the plan? This may give you a good indication what the process might be like when you have to claim.
  21. How quickly can you expect my claim to be paid, once lodged?
  22. Ask your friends and colleagues - how happy are you with your pet insurer and their responses to your contacts and claims?
  23. Is the company New Zealand owned and operated? This may be important to many of you,who prefer to shop local.   

You should also read our article about checking the fine print in any policy.


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