Insuring Fido: should you buy pet insurance?

By Staff Writer

Like most things in life, loving your four-legged friend can come at a cost. Basic costs, such as inoculation fees for a puppy, can set you back at least R250 (excluding vet consultation fees). Depending on its breed, a puppy’s 14-week rabies shot can cost you R300. It is essential for puppies to be de-wormed every three to six months and this can cost owners R70. To prevent unwanted litters, your pup will need to be sterilised at six months, which can cost around R1 200. But these costs are minor compared to medical care needed to save your best friend’s life.

Every dog gets his day
According to Marilyn Hoole, founder of TEARS, a non-profit animal rescue organisation, pet insurance is a big help to pet owners who might otherwise have to fork out thousands of rands for their pet’s medical care.

“Pets who get run-over usually need hip-replacements and surgery could cost between R5000 and R10 000. Even when your pet gets into a fight it can cost you up to R1 000,” said Hoole.

There are several insurers that cover pets in South Africa now, including: MediPet, PetSure (underwritten by Hollard), and Onepet. MediPet is South Africa’s largest pet insurance provider and has insured over 9000 cats and dogs since their establishment in 2007. The insurance covers any breed of domestic cat and dog from the age of eight weeks.

MediPet provides up to R25 000 cover per pet per annum and this will include costly expenses like hospitalisation, major surgeries like ruptured cruciate, luxating patella and hip replacements. Accidental injuries, illnesses, operations, dog fight lacerations, gastric torsion, tumour removals and even snake bites are covered by Medipet.

The coverage will even pay a portion of your kennel, cattery or pet sitter costs should you become ill or unable to care for your pet.

Pet insurance is especially popular in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia but it is still not taken out by many South Africans as many pet owners are not aware they can insure their pets against veterinary fees.

And it’s not only cat and dog owners who can enjoy the security of insuring their pets. Providers like PetSure even cover veterinary fees for horses.

According to Clive Berman, managing director of PetSure, there has been an increase in pet owners taking out insurance to offset the high cost of expensive veterinary bills. The most common claims they get are for illness and hospitalisation.
“It is a good decision to have this type of insurance so that a pet owner will not be forced to make an economic decision regarding the wellbeing of their pets,” said Berman.

Is pet insurance worth your while?
Pet insurance is similar to a medical aid in that it covers medical costs but it is classified as a short term insurance policy, and works as such.  

According to Candice Bloom, practise manager at the Cape Animal Medical Centre, most pet insurance companies will not provide cover for routine preventative health like vaccinations, deworming, tick and flea treatment and sterilisations.

However, pet insurance does generally cover expensive life-saving emergency treatment and surgery like foreign body removal (when your dog eats a sock and it gets stuck in the intestines), GDV (Gastric Dilation Volvulus - when the stomach twists) and Parvo virus – common in unvaccinated puppies.  Bloom has seen sad situations where animals had to be put to sleep because their owners could not afford these types of expensive surgeries.

She added: “Costs are sadly a limiting factor and a massive burden to the owner if they are not prepared for it. Not enough pet owners have pet insurance and it can make such a difference to your pet’s life and yours.”

Justmoney’s view:
A pet is a wonderful blessing but just like humans their medical costs can become a financial burden. Even if you can cover the basic preventative health treatments for your pet, it is also good idea to have insurance to cover your pet’s health care, which you may not be able to afford.

Ask yourself if you’d be able to cover hospital expenses if your dog suddenly ran out in front of a car or if your cat needed life-saving surgery after eating something that got stuck in its intestines. If the answer to that is no, then perhaps taking out pet insurance would be a good idea.

As with your own medical scheme it is essential that you read the terms and conditions of your pet insurance cover carefully and that you find out what the cover includes and excludes. Ask your pet insurance provider about what excesses you’d be eligible for should there be any major claims. Also, don’t just take out insurance with the first provider you consult. Shop around for the best quote. Compare pet insurance prices annually and ensure that your pet goes for check-ups and inoculations regularly so that it stays healthy and fit.


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