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For pets’ sake: Is pet insurance worth it?

Approx. 6 minutes read

This is not an advert.

If anything, we’re advocating for the preservation of the relationship between you and your pets. As pet lovers and vehement supporters of pets as the heroes in pet-human families, Pet Hero strongly believes in prioritising, protecting and preserving your pets’ health and wellbeing. The best pet insurance is a solid foundation of nutrition and health, but the next best thing is dog insurance or cat insurance for your furry and purry friends, respectively.

Here’s why…

The importance of pets

The role of pets in our lives has transformed dramatically in the last 40 to 50 years. Our dogs and cats have walked into our homes from their outdoor kennels and runs. They’ve climbed the social ladder, progressing from yard animal to king or queen of the household. Our pets have taken up their rightful place on the couch or in their very own pet beds, are fed very specific health-focused diets, get kick-ass toys, dietary supplements, anti-anxiety medication and even their own clothing and shoes!

Why have we elevated pets to the level of best furry friends and four-legged family members?

Because they deserve it. Because they are the adopted family members that bring a special spice to our lives with their unconditional love, goofy antics and unique pawsonalities. Because they have feelings and live a complex experience; they have physical and emotional needs, and are sensitive to their role in our families. They are also good for our own physical and mental health, and deserve to be recognised as our heroes too.

Reasons to invest in pet insurance

Considering the status of our pets as family members, pet insurance is imperative for protecting their wellbeing. It’s hard to fathom driving your car without car insurance, so pet insurance seems like a no-brainer. You can always replace a car. You can never replace a pet.

But I already prioritise my pet’s health – that’s the best pet insurance!

We agree – ensuring that your pet is in optimal health is a great strategy for preventing illness and physical decline, and reducing the number of vet visits. However, pet insurance is for more than just everyday pet health.

1. Accidents and emergencies

Veterinary bills – like medical care for humans – can be exorbitant, at no fault of the vet. Medical equipment, tests and medications are expensive to source. Your pet might need emergency medical treatment, overnight animal hospital stays, complicated surgeries, repairing a fractured limb, wound repair, antivenin (or venom antiserum) for snakebites – to name a few. These might not be top of mind when you bring your puppy or kitten home, but any one of these situations can very quickly become a reality.

Very few pet owners have an emergency fund for unexpected veterinary bills, which is why even the cheapest pet insurance is better than no pet insurance.

2. Pre-existing conditions

Unless you have health clearances and/or guarantees from a registered breeder that your new kitten or puppy is healthy, it may be impossible to tell whether your pet has any congenital or hereditary conditions. Sometimes the symptoms of hereditary conditions will become apparent while your pet is still young; sometimes congenital disease is progressive and the symptoms only show later on in your pet’s life.

These illnesses may need life-long management, special equipment and chronic medication, which can accrue costs very quickly. In this case you’ll want your pet insurance to cover pre-existing conditions. Not all pet insurance policies do, so make sure this particular type of cover is listed if your dog or cat is a breed susceptible to known congenital diseases.

3. Preventive pet care

Your pet’s health is not just about curing an illness; a lot of what you do for your pet is about preventing their illness in the first place. Depending on which pet insurance plan you choose, your pet’s preventive care can be covered by your insurer. This may include everything from:

  • annual vet visits
  • sterilisation
  • tick & flea medication
  • vaccinations
  • dental care
  • microchipping

Some pet insurance providers will list pet dental insurance under a different tier, while some will label it as preventative. If you have a breed of dog or cat that is prone to dental issues, you’ll want to confirm whether they are covered under your plan, and to what extent.

4. Avoid economic euthanasia

When you’re thinking about adopting a new pet, you’re probably focused on saving a life – especially if your favourite breed is ‘rescued’. New pet owners will gush about their new furry friend, take a bunch of photos of them in their new pet bed, playing with their new toys, and proudly walking with their new harness and collar. Getting pet insurance quotes doesn’t sound so cute and Instagram-worthy, but it’s something all new pet owners must consider, or risk the possibility of economic euthanasia.

Economic euthanasia is what many pet parents have needed to resort to in the past when their pet gets ill, hit by a car, needs eye surgery, etc. and they can’t afford it. Rather than let their pet suffer, they opt – regrettably so – to put the dog or cat to sleep. Not only does this take an emotional toll on the pet owners; veterinarians are forced to face the dilemma of killing an animal that could have been healed if finances weren’t so constrained.

This scenario was, in fact, what led to the first pet insurance company in the USA in 1981. Dr Jack Stephens vowed to end economic euthanasia by financially empowering pet owners with bespoke insurance for pet care. It’s only been in the last 10 to 15 years that pet owners in South Africa have warmed to the idea of pet insurance – that a relatively small premium can offset what would otherwise have been huge veterinary bills.

How to get your pets insured

The pet insurance market in South Africa is very competitive and there are so many options to choose from. Before diving straight into a pet insurance comparison, write down:

  • the breed/s of pets you want to insure (some insurers offer a discount for multiple pets insured)
  • the ages of your pets (some pets older than 9 years are covered differently to younger pets, or not at all)
  • the type of cover – accident, illness, chronic medication, dental care, congenital disease, everyday cover (i.e. vet check-up), or even behavioural training/correction and prescription food

Most pet insurance policies can be approved on the same day, with premiums paid on a month-to-month basis. Some policies will have a waiting period for certain types of cover (like congenital diseases) – just make sure you read all the policy wording and ensure you are covered for your pet’s specific needs.

How to claim from pet insurance

When you have a pet health emergency or need to make a claim for an incident for which your pet insurance covers your pet, you will receive an invoice from the veterinarian or animal hospital.

  • Some insurers will reimburse a vet bill that has already been paid.
  • Some insurers will settle the vet bill with the vet, without you needing to pay the vet.

When you take out a pet insurance policy, confirm with the insurer what is required for the claim process.

Conclusion

With a pet insurance pawlicy sorted to cover your pet’s veterinary and/or emergency medical bills, you can breathe easy knowing that no matter what happens, you can make decisions for your pet’s wellbeing based on their medical prognosis and the vet’s recommendation – not based on your financial status.

 Pet Hero is the home of the best selection of pet food, treats, toys, supplements and all the goodies required to turn pet parents into pet heroes. Sign up to our weekly newsletter for an exciting dose of pet pawmotions, competitions, inspiration, pet care advice and valuable tidbits delivered straight to your inbox.

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