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.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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2 responses to “My advice on buying pet insurance

  1. I have one puppy. Which insurance company should I choose to make an insurance?

    • I’m located in NZ and we have three insurers. All of them offer plans that are competitive and cover complementary therapies (to an extent). My advice is that you compare policies for coverage and any limits they would impose on your coverage. A cost effective policy is one that gives you partial cover – assuming you have the means to ‘top up’ if a major situation occurs.

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