Dogs vs cats: the cost of pet insurance in Australia

Katherine O'Chee

Friday 13 September 2019

It’s no secret Australians love their pets like family, whether that’s giving them a spot at the dinner table or buying them new toys for Christmas. 

Dogs vs cats: the cost of pet insurance in Australia

With so many Aussies being proud owners of four-legged furry friends - 38% of households own dogs and 29% own cats, according to the RSPCA - pet insurance is no doubt a staple in many of our budgets. 

But how much does it actually cost to insure your cat and different breeds of dogs? What affects the price of pet insurance, and what features should you look out for? 

As part of the 2019 Mozo Experts Choice Awards for Pet Insurance, our expert judges have assessed 28 different Aussie pet insurers and crunched the numbers to answer these burning questions below: 

Cats vs dogs: which is more expensive to insure? 

In general, cat insurance would eat a smaller chunk out of your budget than dog insurance, regardless of which type of cover you go with: 

  • For Accident-only cover, there’s only a small 16.61% (or $62.34) annual price difference between cats and dogs. 
  • For Accident & Illness cover, the price difference widens significantly, with cat insurance costing an average 44% cheaper (or $440.68 less) than dog insurance. 
  • For Accident, Illness & Routine cover, cat insurance also costs considerably less than dog insurance, amounting to a 38.25% (or $412.85) price difference. 

But there’s one exception to the rule: accident-only plans, on average, charge an average $16.67 more to insure cats than small dogs. 

What affects the cost of your pet insurance? 

Type of cover 

It’s not impaw-ssible to guess that as cover gets more comprehensive, prices go up. 

However, the big price gap between Accident-only and Accident & Illness plans for dogs is worth noting. While Accident-only would only cost you an average $375.24 a year, you’d need to factor in a much higher average spending of $1,001.60 for Accident & Illness. 

That said, the latter plan could save you heaps if your pet ran into health trouble down the track and you ended up with thousands of dollars in vet bills. 

Age 

Average cost of pet insurance according to your pet's age

Unsurprisingly, cover gets more expensive as your pet ages. However, there’s a sharper incline in year-on-year insurance cost increases once your cat or dog turns four years old.

Up until three years old, the average cost of premiums jumps by $68.66 a year for dogs and $43.24 a year for cats. But as soon as they hit their fourth birthday, that annual price hike creeps up to $99.83 for dogs and $62.60 for cats. 

Size and breed 

Average cost of pet insurance by size

While price did not vary for cat breeds in our judges’ sample of insurance quotes used for the 2019 Mozo Experts Choice Awards, they did change for dogs. Tinier breeds of dogs, such as chihuahuas or maltese crosses, tend to cost hundreds of dollars less to cover than bigger breeds like kelpies or labradors.

So if you’ve got a little fluff ball at home, you can expect to spend a much lower amount on insurance.

According to Mozo data, annual Accident & Illness plans cost an average of: 

  • $731.91 for small dogs
  • $845.71 for medium dogs
  • $1,042.69 for large dogs

But this trend isn’t always the case. Be mindful that if your dog is more prone to health problems, you may be digging a lot deeper into your pockets every year to pay for pet insurance. 

For instance, while Fred the French bulldog is considered a small breed, he would cost a whopping average $1,358.89 a year to cover for accidents and illnesses. This is $307.67 more expensive than an Accident & Illness plan for, say, your neighbour’s much larger dog, Libra the labrador, which she would spend a lower average of $1,051.22 a year to insure. 

Pet insurance features to keep an eye on

Scared of barking up the wrong tree when picking out cover for your furry companion? Read on to find out which pet insurance features you should pay attention to:  

Features to look for when choosing a pet insurance policy

Annual benefit limit

Pet insurance policies put a cap on the total amount you can claim annually for your dog or cat’s medical treatments. Out of the providers assessed as part of the Mozo Experts Choice Awards 2019, this maximum limit ranges anywhere from $3,000 up to $20,000 a year. 

While you might not actually claim $20,000 by the end of the year, having a higher benefit limit can you give peace of mind that if your beloved Coco or Charlie does develop a serious illness or injury, you won’t be hit by a vet bill that’ll cost you a paw and a leg.

For the 2019 Mozo Experts Choice Awards, our expert judges only considered plans with an annual benefit of $12,000 or above for its Exceptional Quality category, and an annual benefit of at least $6,000 for its Exceptional Value awards. 

“It’s important to know you’ve got that much cover behind you, as otherwise, your policy might stop helping you with vet bills just when you need it most,” Mozo’s expert judge, Peter Marshall said.  

Benefit Percentage 

Most providers will only reimburse you for a certain percentage of your vet costs, with the assessed insurers offering anywhere from 100% refund on your claims down to 50% for Accident & Illness cover. 

For our Mozo Experts Choice Awards this year, most of the policies that won awards in our Exceptional Quality category have a benefit percentage of 80% or more.  

The higher the benefit percentage, the less you’ll need to pay at the vet, although cover with a higher benefit percentage will generally require you to fork out more money for premiums. 

And keep in mind age limits may also apply. So, even if a policy says they cover 100% of your claim, make sure to check their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and comb through the fine print to check whether or not the age of your pet lowers the percentage you’re refunded. 

Dental cover

Your furry friend probably loves to chew and play with their favourite toy, but chomping on the wrong object could leave them in dental distress. It’s likely that your pet could encounter dental problems at some point in their life - anything from loose or broken teeth to inflamed gums. 

That’s why dental cover could make or break the quality of a policy, and was weighted significantly in our expert judges’ calculations. 

This is an important feature to keep a lookout for, as about 60% of assessed providers don’t cover dental in their Accident & Illness plans! The remaining 40% either have automatic coverage (25.40%) or offer it as an optional add-on (14.29%) - with the maximum level of dental cover among any of these providers being their annual benefit limit. 

Excess 

Excess is the amount that you pay towards a claim, and some providers allow you to choose between different levels of excess. When you select a higher excess, you save more on premium costs. 

Our expert judges valued this ability to vary excess, and out of all the insurers assessed, the highest number of options offered was four, from $0 up to $200 excess. 

Good insurers usually ask you to pay excess the first time you make a claim for one condition, but not for any follow-up treatments. But some providers may charge per claim rather than per condition, so be sure to read the PDS before taking out pet insurance. 

And here are a few other quirky things your pet could be covered for: 

Cruciate ligament conditions

Unfortunately, according to Pet Insurance Australia, cruciate ligament issues are becoming more common among dogs, and it could even cause hindlimb lameness in your furry friend. 

That’s why getting your pet insured for cruciate ligament conditions as early as possible can be essential, as there’s typically a six month waiting period from the time your policy starts until coverage (and pre-existing conditions aren’t covered at all). 

Among the providers assessed, the cap for cruciate ligament conditions cover spans from $1,500 to unlimited (up to the annual benefit limit). 

Legal liability

Scared that your pet might attack strangers or run into traffic and trigger a car accident? Well, third party liability cover could protect you from the cost of damages or injuries caused by your dog or cat. 

Interestingly, about 85% of assessed providers don’t cover legal liability under their Accident & Illness plans, but among those that do, the maximum level of cover is $5 million. 

Tick paralysis 

Tick paralysis could be life-threatening to your pet if not treated quickly. All of the assessed insurers automatically cover tick paralysis as part of their Accident & Illness cover, although their limits vary, ranging from anywhere between $500 to up to the annual benefit limit. 

Where to find a top notch pet insurance policy

On the hunt for award-winning policies with great value features for Aussies and their four-legged friends? Well, look no further than the Mozo Experts Choice Awards.

Held annually, the Awards give us an opportunity to showcase products in the marketplace that our in-house experts have deemed to be exceptional in quality or value. Our experts have dedicated hours of research based on objective verifiable facts, calculations and analysis to assess these products.

Curious about which pet insurers have won awards this year? Head over to the 2019 Mozo Experts Choice Awards for Pet Insurance for a full list of winners.

Compare today's top expertschoice

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