Tag Archives: pet insurance

Deaf pets

Trupanion, providers of pet insurance, have published this very useful guide to deaf animals.  Deaf pets make great pets.  Yes – they have special needs – but they are often even more attentive to their owners because of their deafness and they are easy to train.

Have you considered adopting a special needs pet?  Consider a deaf one!


Petplan USA

I wish I could work at Petplan USA, the pet insurance company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Why?  They’re pet-friendly!  That’s 24/7 pet-friendly not once-a-year-we-allow-pets-to-come-to-work-friendly.

This progressive workplace allows pet parents to bring their animals to work, creating an environment that is productive and happy.  A clear majority of workers surveyed by American Pet Products Manufacturers Association felt that having pets in the workplace leads to a more creative environment, lessened absenteeism and improved the relationship between managers and employees.

Workers who are allowed to bring their pets to work are more likely to work longer hours because they aren’t worried about getting home to their animals.  (And let’s face it – America has a culture of working some really long hours – many New Zealand employers are heading in this direction).

Why go pet-friendly?  ‘Encouraging our employees to bring their pets to work helps to foster a uniquely creative work environment,’ says Natasha Ashton, Co-Founder of Petplan. ‘Happy employees are productive employees and this ‘perk’ certainly has given us a distinct advantage in attracting new talent.  So many prospective employees place a real premium on being able to bring their pets to work as it provides more quality time with their beloved companions and reduces care costs such as dog walkers or pet sitters. Most importantly though, we have found that sharing our office with our pets serves to reaffirm our strong commitment to the good health of pets – both our own and our policyholders’ pets.’

Solid policy is needed if a workplace is deciding to go pet-friendly.  Petplan’s Pets at Work pledge includes the following points:

Healthy Paws. All pets must be current on their vaccinations and receive monthly flea and tick treatment.

Manners Please. Pets must be socialized and well-behaved. Aggressive behavior towards people or other pets will not be tolerated and any pet exhibiting such behavior will be asked to leave.

Port a Potty. Dogs must be housebroken and cats should use the litter tray in the mail room. In the event of an accident any damage is the responsibility of the pet parent. If a permanent stain results then said pet parent will be responsible for the cost of hiring professional cleaners to remove the stain. Three accidents and you’re out.

Off Limits. Other people’s food, the front conference room and any communal building areas outside of the Petplan offices are off limits to all four legged workers. If you need to walk your dog please always make sure that they are leashed and that you use the back door to the building and clean up any mess.

Going Solo. Pets are to be supervised at all times. If you know that you are going to be absent from the office for a period longer than 30 minutes then do not bring your pet in on that day.

Chow Hounds. Pets are not to be fed in the offices (that includes pet food and pet treats as well as human food). A water bowl is always readily available in the kitchen.

Puppy Love. Because not all pets get along with each other, as a consideration to fellow team members please send an email out to Internal Workforce the day before bringing your pet(s) into the office, if your pet(s)are selective in who they consider their friend(s).

In the Doghouse. Destructive behavior will not be tolerated. If a pet willfully causes any damage to property within Petplan then they will be asked to leave the office and their owner will be liable for any costs associated with repairs.

Following the above rules will ensure that coming into Petplan every day really is a dog’s life, whether you are a dog, a cat, or even a human.

Pet personality quiz raises funds for animal welfare

By taking a simple pet personality quiz, you can help raise funds for the Humane Society of the United States.

The quiz is sponsored by Petplan insurance.  For every completed quiz, $1 will be donated to support the Society’s animal welfare efforts.

Take the quiz here.

My advice on buying pet insurance

Vets tell me that one of the hardest things they are asked to do is to euthanise a dog that could be saved by surgery or medication.  The catch is that the owner cannot afford it.   This problem has, in more recent years, been called economic euthanasia because the main deciding factor is cost.

Whilst some vet practices may be able to work out payment plans for customers, many are reluctant to do so because they’ve been burnt by customers who have not paid in the past.  With more expensive treatments and medications available, vet practices are less likely to be able to afford the extension of credit.

We are lucky in New Zealand that our range of pet insurance choices is greater than ever before.  I notice that The Warehouse is advertising a pet insurance product and that is excellent for dog owners and the sector as a whole (including the competitors) because it raises awareness of pet insurance.

Purchasing pet insurance is a serious decision.

Uptake of pet insurance in New Zealand is relatively low.  At least one consumer organisation has advised owners to set aside funds in a designated savings account rather than buying an insurance policy because the insurance is likely to cost more over its term than any benefits that are paid out.  Of course, we’re also told that our level of household savings is low.  And interest rates are hardly likely to grow your savings to the size you will need for a major operation.  Where to start?

My advice is to think about your household budget and be realistic about how much money you can pull together if your dog becomes unwell.  Is your dog worth more to you than this amount?  If so, then start considering insurance that will fit your budget.

An internet search will quickly give you articles on things to consider when buying pet insurance.  The insurers themselves will give you information on why their policy is ‘best.’  Just remember that insurers are also in the business to make money, so you need to understand their policies and exclusions and the premiums you will need to pay.

Always read the policy document first.  Then ring and ask questions.   Your first test of the insurer is to see how quickly and courteously they respond to you.  Don’t stop asking questions until you are satisfied that you understand the finer details.  Finally, follow up with the company to confirm the answers in writing before signing up.  Keep a file just in case you have a dispute later on.

Pet insurance, like other insurance, is there to help you manage the risk if something bad should happen.  The policy may never pay for itself.  That’s not the goal.  The goal is to be able to afford medical care for your four-legged loved one.

The sale of Ellenco to Southern Cross – a positive for pet owners

Southern Cross Benefits Ltd announced this week that it has purchased Ellenco Pet Insurance.  Although some may lament the loss of a ‘mom and pop’ operation that has operated for 22 years, I think the ownership transfer is a good thing for New Zealand dog (and other pet) owners.  Why?

  • Only 8% of dog owners in NZ currently have pet insurance (according to the NZ Companion Animal Council’s Companion Animals in NZ survey, July 2011)
  • The Southern Cross Healthcare Group, of which Southern Cross Benefits Limited is one company,  is the largest healthcare insurance provider in NZ
  • Ellenco’s owners could not afford to put up the $3 million bond required by new legislation and its previous bond of only $500,000 was a potential risk to policy holders
  • In my opinion, Southern Cross is a trusted brand in NZ and should encourage more pet owners to seriously consider the purchase of insurance
  • Southern Cross has acknowledged that surveys of its clients have shown that there is interest in pet insurance – so an audience that hasn’t been reached so far by  insurance providers is aware of the benefits of pet insurance –  but hasn’t had the confidence yet to buy a policy
  • Southern Cross Benefits Limited has an A+ (Strong) financial strength rating from Standard & Poor’s, is a Registered Financial Service Provider, and is a member of the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman’s Disputes Resolution Scheme

Insurance, like other business markets, matures over time.  This is a huge step for NZ in its recognition of the importance of pets and the associated costs of their healthcare.

Another big step in the pet insurance market here was when The Warehouse started offering Petplan insurance, furthering the marketing of pet insurance generally through a very popular retail outlet.

In the words of Ian MacPherson, CEO of Southern Cross Healthcare Group, “Pet insurance is a natural extension for Southern Cross. Many New Zealanders count their pets as part of the family. However, currently very few owners have pet insurance, meaning they are exposed to what can be very high bills should their pet be affected by an unexpected illness or injury.”

It is important to note that the policies of all pet insurance providers in NZ have coverage of some sort for complementary therapies.  Read my pet insurance fact sheet for more details.

Footnote:  Credit must be given to the founders of Ellenco, Rodger Cox and Jenny Ellenbroek.  Ellenco was the first firm to offer pet insurance in New Zealand, others have followed.  Many policy holders have benefited from the coverage of their company’s policies.  Alas, time has caught up with the small Christchurch-based operation.

The Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Act 2010 required insurers to put up higher bonds and the small firm could not afford this change.  Policy holders are lucky that the owners negotiated with Southern Cross for the purchase of the firm’s policies.  Until operations are transferred to Hamilton in 2013, there will be no change to Ellenco’s policy provisions.

Pet insurance support for employees

The Kimpton Hotel chain based in the United States regularly makes it onto the list of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.


Well one reason that distinguishes this employer apart from others is that they offer a benefit programme that includes pet insurance at reduced rates.  The hotel chain has chosen Pet Assure as its insurance provider.

“At Kimpton, we respect and care for all canine companions,” said Steve Pinetti, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.   “We want to make sure every member of the Kimpton family is well taken care of, and that includes making sure our pets are safe and happy.”

copyright Kimpton Hotels

The Kimpton chain offers pet packages at each of its locations; these pet packages include gourmet dog treats, dog walking and dog massage services.

Top 10 medical conditions for dogs

VPI™ Pet Insurance is the largest insurer of pets in the United States.  Each year, the company compiles statistics on the most common conditions that policy holders submit claims for.

The purpose of compiling this list is to show dog owners how some of the problems that their dog may have had in the past could be covered by pet insurance.  It’s a marketing exercise, of course, but it is useful.

In 2010, the top ten conditions for dogs were:

1)      Ear infection

2)      Skin allergy

3)      Skin allergy or hot spots

4)      Gastritis/vomiting

5)      Enteritis/diarrhoea

6)      Arthritis

7)      Bladder infection

8)      Soft tissue trauma

9)      Non-cancerous tumour

10)   Hypothyroidism

Pet insurance is an individual choice and you need to consider your dog’s risk profile, your ability to pay premiums, weighed up against your ability to fund medical bills in the future and your preferences for types of medical or specialist care for your dog.

The best way to make a decision about purchasing insurance is to do your homework.  Information such as this list put out by VPI can help inform your decision.

For my New Zealand readers, see my earlier blogs on coverage of massage/physiotherapy by New Zealand pet insurers.

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance, Part I (Pet n Sur)

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance, Part II (Petplan)

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance, Part III (Ellenco)

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance, Part IV (Petprotect)

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance – Part 4

Petprotect is another insurer in the New Zealand marketplace. It offers three levels of policy coverage:  Value care, Regular care, and Extra care.  This company’s policies are underwritten by IAG New Zealand Ltd.

The company has policy limits for some select breeds of dog.  For the purposes of this article I have used the company’s limits for their standard dog policies.  As with any insurance policy, you need to review the company’s coverage, policy limits,  and premium structure and weigh this up against your own circumstances.

This company has an easy-to-use website, with the ability to download application forms, direct debit forms, and claim forms.  The company responded to my email about coverage on the same day that I sent it (the best response time out of all four insurance companies I have contacted).

As with other insurers, having proper documentation from your vet and complementary therapy provider are important.  (Good news, I meet these requirements as it is my standard practice to record a health history of the dog and details of each therapy session.)   The company will want an itemised invoice and clinical notes to support any claim.

The maximum benefits for each policy apply to treatment, medication and surgery costs which are provided by a registered veterinarian.  This includes acupuncture treatments if these are supplied by a registered vet.  The company is willing to extend its coverage to complementary therapies such as physiotherapy which are provided by practitioners other than registered veterinarians – but only in some circumstances.

Alexandra McMillan of the company explains, “The veterinarian would have tried several options before referring the pet to somewhere else and the clinical notes from the veterinarian would reflect this.  This is a very hard area to outline as we don’t give pre-approval and we have to sight the clinical notes before processing any sort of claim.”

Petprotect’s policy structure is listed below:

Policy type Maximum benefit Excess (per event) Level of reimbursement
Value care $1,500 $50 70%
Regular care $3,000 $50 75%
Extra care $6,000 $50 80%

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance – Part 3

Today I met staff at Ellenco Pet Insurance Ltd to discuss their coverage of complementary therapies.  Ellenco has the honour of not only being 100% New Zealand owned and operated, but also the insurer with the longest record of providing pet insurance in New Zealand – 21 years.

Jenny Ellenbroek, Manager at Ellenco, says, “Our main concern with complementary therapies is that the owner has taken the pet to their vet for a diagnosis and the vet has referred the pet for complementary therapy treatment.”

“We are very concerned that some pet owners are taking their pets to therapists who have no proper training or education and encourage pet owners to check qualifications carefully.”

As with providers Pet-n-Sur and PetPlan (previously reviewed), Ellenco will ensure that the vet has noted the need for therapy on the pet’s file and that the injury/illness occurred during a period when the pet was insured. The company may ask for notes from your therapist, so you need to ensure that your therapist keeps records of each treatment.  (Good news – I again meet these requirements)

Ellenco’s website is easy to navigate and is apparently scheduled for an upgrade which should increase functionality.  The company rep responded to my website enquiry within two days (a good response time).  He referred me to Jenny almost immediately to ensure he was giving me the ‘right’ answers about coverage and requirements for claims.

Below is information on Ellenco’s cover for alternative therapy, including physiotherapy.

Reminder: There are now several providers of pet insurance in New Zealand and so it pays to check on limits of coverage and premiums to ensure you buy the one that is likely to meet your needs.

Ellenco policy type Level of rebate for alternative therapies Limit per policy period
Base 70% $250.00
Ultra 80% $300.00
Premier 85% $400.00
Ellenco also offers a Jade Plan.   Under this policy, there are no limits for complementary treatments and a maximum refund per policy period of $12,000 applies for traditional veterinary care.

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance – Part 2

I have continued to track down information about pet insurance in New Zealand and, more specifically, whether massage therapy is covered.

There is more good news, this time from Petplan.

Petplan has 30 years of experience in the UK providing pet insurance, which is one reason why their brochures can be found in many vet surgeries in New Zealand.  A good number of our vets go overseas for experience and so they become familiar with pet insurance products (which are more popular in other countries – but are growing in popularity here).

Petplan policies are underwritten by a third party, Allianz New Zealand Insurance Limited.   The company responded to my enquiry through their website in approximately two working days – not a bad response time – by sending me a copy of their policy wording.  This document is lengthy and takes time to get through, but the company also takes telephone calls through its customer service number to ask any questions about the coverage – so don’t be put off by the legalistic (insurance) wording.

Dogs must be between 8 weeks and 8 years of age to be insured for the first time, with the exception of defined ‘select breeds’ who must be covered before they reach the age of 5.

As with Pet-n-Sur (previously reviewed), the essential part of the process is to ensure your vet has placed a note on your dog’s file that they recommend physiotherapy.   Petplan will want to make sure that the physiotherapy is for a specified illness or injury.  You are then able to select your provider, making them aware that they must be willing to fill out the relevant portions of the Petplan claim form.

Petplan considers complementary therapies as part of its overall reimbursement limits for veterinary care and so the limits for reimbursement are comparatively quite high.  As with most insurance companies, pre-existing conditions are not covered.

Reminder: There are now several providers of pet insurance in New Zealand and so it pays to check on limits of coverage and premiums to ensure you buy the one that is likely to meet your needs.

Here is a breakdown of the company’s coverage by dog plan (which includes all veterinary care including physiotherapy treatments):

Budget Dog Plan Standard Dog Plan Supreme Dog Plan
$9,000 per year $14,000 per year $18,000 per year