The delight of owning a pet requires ‘risk management’

01 August 2013 Dr Julia Swan, Hollard Pet Insurance / PetSure

Apart from your children or close family members, people feel very deep emotional attachments with their pets who undoubtedly become part of the family. When you first set eyes on your new puppy or kitten, do you ever think about the costs involved in looking after them?

Do we take into consideration what the unexpected costs will be should -our furry friend fall ill or have an accident? More importantly, will we be able to afford the veterinary care that they need? This is why pet insurance is important.

Pet insurance explained
Pet insurance is short term insurance that facilitates the payment of ever-increasing veterinary bills. A portion of the final veterinary costs get paid back to the owner, thereby lightening the financial burden and assisting the client with unforeseen bills.

The goal of pet insurance is not for clients to recover costs but is a means of managing their financial risk should their pet fall seriously ill. It is different from a medical aid as it is not concerned with treatment results or doctor incentives and is also not intended to interfere with the vet/pet relationship.

Pet Insurance is a growing industry all over the world, including South Africa. This is being driven by the fact that veterinary fees are increasing and less people can afford expensive treatments for their pets. People have stronger emotional bonds with their pets and are willing to do a lot more than in the past. There are a number of new products that have entered and are about to enter the South African market.

Certain companies and products have different levels of cover. For example, Hollard Pet Insurance / PetSure offers an accident only option, an accident and illness option and a product containing accident, illness and routine care cover. Certain conditions are not covered, such as pre-existing conditions, congenital and hereditary conditions and conditions relating to breeding.

There is a general low level of awareness about pet insurance with most Pet Owners. Pet Insurance members, often do not read the Policy Documentation and, as a result, they have misconceptions reguarding what is covered.

Pricing and breed considerations

Typical premiums can range between R33 /m for accident only cover to over R200/m for comprehensive cover.

The cover is specific for each pet and a client can take out a policy for a number of pets. However, each pet will have its own premium. Most of the products cater for multi-pet discounts. For example, Hollard Pet Insurance / PetSure offers a multipet discount of up to 20% on all the pet’s premiums.

One can obtain Pet Medical Insurance for domestic cats, dogs and horses. Working dogs such as security dogs are not covered.

Some examples of what some of the procedures can cost

When one looks at the cost of certain procedures, there is a definite need for insurance cover in the industry. Reports show that cruciate ligament ruptures can be very expensive. A certain claim received by Hollard Pet Insurance / PetSure for a Rottweiler with a cruciate ligament injury totalled R14 378,81. A few months after the surgery, the dog got cancer where another claim was submitted to Hollard Pet Insurance / PetSure for R4 150,74. Chronic conditions can be also very expensive to treat, the claimed amounts are small but over a period of time, the costs add up.

Pet Insurance is becoming increasingly important in South Africa. Many people are realising the costs that come with owning a pet and are becoming more responsible pet owners.

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