What is the average cost of owning a pet vs the average cost of pet insurance over their lifetime?
There’s a lot to consider when determining the cost of owning a pet over the course of its life and then comparing it to the cost of pet insurance.
In terms of the average cost of ownership, ASIC’s MoneySmart details3 that:
- Dogs, on average, cost $1,475 per year.
- Cats, on average, cost $1,029 per year.
- Aussies spend $12.2 billion on pet products and services every year.
- Food is the biggest cost for pet owners: $622/year for dog owners; $576/year for cat owners.
MoneySmart also states that vet care is the second-highest annual cost for dog and cat owners, after food expenses3. And if you’re unfortunate to have a pet that contracts a serious or chronic illness, you could be forced to make a tough call on whether to spend significant amounts of money on treating the condition. Pet insurance can help by limiting the impact to you financially when situations like this arise.
Learn more about the responsibilities of being a pet owner.
How can insurance reduce pet costs?
Many pet owners don’t realise that the cost of basic pet insurance premiums can be lower than even the cost of your pet’s food for the year. A study from MoneySmart reveals pet insurance generally costs owners between $20 and $60 per month. Still, the higher end yearly cost of pet insurance ($720) is less than the cost of premium food for the year ($800), according to MoneySmart, and even lower with a cheaper pet insurance policy ($240).3
Note: Some policyholders don’t claim on their pet insurance at all, or not as often as they are eligible for. Despite this, pet insurance is there to ensure you have protection against some of the costs of eligible vet expenses should the unfortunate happen.
Why is pet insurance important for Australian pet owners?
Pet insurance is important for Australian owners for a variety of reasons. Not only are dogs and cats susceptible to common ailments as well as unexpected injuries from road vehicles and other animals, but there are threats in this country that other pet owners around the world don’t have to endure.
Australian pet owners also have to contend with a range of additional risks to their pets such as (depending on where you live), risks from native wildlife. These can include:
- Venomous snakes and spiders;
- Poisonous critters in your backyard like frogs;
- Kangaroos; and
- Common insects like fleas and ticks
You can use the RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase to read about additional risks in your household and backyard to help make your pet’s environment as safe as possible.
In terms of other basic risks, your dog or cat may contract an ailment such as osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, hip dysplasia and more.
Note: RSPCA Pet Insurance will have sub-limits, and in some cases, annual condition limits– plus any pre-existing conditions your pet has won’t be covered.
Does pet insurance provide cover if my pet needs surgery?
Many pets around Australia have to undergo surgery at some point in their lives, and the cost of consultations, procedures, medication and recuperation expenses can all add up.
A pet insurance policy can cover a portion of your pet’s surgery costs if it’s an eligible illness or injury –so long as it’s not required due to any pre-existing conditions.
It’s important to check your pet insurance provider’s relevant Policy Booklet so you know what is and isn’t covered.
If you already have a pet insurance policy, you may be covered for a portion of your eligible vet expenses after surgery. However, if your pet requires surgery and you don’t already have a policy, you may not be able to get cover for it.
It’s also important to speak with your provider to understand any necessary waiting periods. For example: the Accidental injury cover typically starts as soon as your policy commences. This means there’s no waiting period and your animal is covered immediately.
However, there is usually a 30-day waiting period for any illness conditions. Included in this waiting period will be any illnesses or conditions that arise as a result of symptoms you were aware of during this time. Also, any cruciate ligament injuries and/or surgeries typically involve a six-month waiting period from the policy commencement dated. Some insurers however, like RSPCA Pet Insurance, may waive that waiting period depending on your circumstances – so speak to your provider to discuss your options
What is the average out-of-pocket expense with (and without) pet insurance?
Depending on your policy and the expenses incurred due to your pet’s illness or injury, there may be a substantial difference between the costs with insurance compared to without (out-of-pocket).
MoneySmart suggests pet insurance typically costs anywhere between $20 and $60 per month – depending on the level of coverage.3
In terms of out-of-pocket expenses, not all injuries and illnesses will be covered so check each policy’s exclusion list in the relevant Policy Booklet. For any eligible vet bills, there will be a maximum percentage of that bill that you can claim, with the remainder being your out-of-pocket expense. There will also be an annual limit and possibly sub-limits and condition limits for certain types of claimable events.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have pet insurance, you won’t have to pay any monthly premium or worry about paying the remaining out-of-pocket percentage of an eligible vet bill. However, if your pet requires vet treatment or – worse – serious medication or surgery, then you will need to cover all the expenses yourself. That means you can’t take advantage of pet insurance benefits such as being able to claim up to $20,000 every year, as well as any extra benefits included in your policy.
Should I consider getting pet insurance for my dog?
Considering that dogs are the most common pet in Australia,1 many owners choose to take out pet insurance to cover against common injuries that may occur at the park or near busy roads.
The right pet insurance policy can protect your dog against a portion of the costs associated with vet bills due to injury from accidents like dog attacks and car accidents. You can also choose a policy that includes illness coverage. This option means that you may be covered should your dog fall ill to any one of the most common sicknesses inherent in canines.
How can senior Australians benefit from pet insurance?
Research shows that senior Australians who own a pet are more likely to lead healthier and happier lives.4 The Baker Medical Research Institution in Melbourne studied seniors with pets over a three-year period and found that they had “lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels” – even accounting for unique personal factors like weight, diet, and whether or not they smoke.
The same study found that the elderly who suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia improved their verbal communications when participating in animal-assisted therapy sessions.5
Because many seniors keep pets for company, having the appropriate level of pet insurance can protect them financially in case the unexpected happens and may be something worth considering.