Of all the things we insure in our lives; ourselves, our homes, our cars etc., pets seem to slip the minds of many.
There are an estimated 10 million household pets in South Africa, of which only about 1% have insurance according to Hippo.co.za.
That number is extremely low for creatures whose vet bills can sometimes run into the thousands, often unexpectedly.
However, South Africa is not the exception. Even in the US, where over 70% of households own at least one pet, very few are insured in a country infamous for its exaggerated medical bills.
With over 200 millions cats, dogs, birds and other small pets excluding fish, only about 3 million of them are insured, which is still under 2%.
Reasons why you need pet insurance?
We value our pets as members of the family. It is therefore paramount that they get the same medical preparedness we grant our spouses and children.
Here are a few reasons why you might require pet insurance:
Vet fees: Although not as much as what you would pay in a human hospital, vet fees can sometimes be substantial. In South Africa for example, you can expect to pay up to R1 500 f0r neutering a cat, and close to R2 000 to neuter a dog. And these are just the scheduled vet visits.
When it comes to emergency visits sometimes requiring specialists, the fee will be much higher. For instance, a total hip replacement will cost about R35 000 just for the operation, not including other rehabilitative treatment. This procedure is more common than you would imagine, especially among large dog breeds.
Sometimes your pet may require an MRI scan at R10 000 a pop, or cancer treatment that may set you back R20 000.
If for nothing else, vet fees should be the biggest motivator for pet insurance.
Flexibility: Unlike most human insurance, pet insurance often gives you the freedom to select your own specialist. This means that you are not tied to just a few vets, and you can therefore access specialized treatment conveniently.
Fewer limitations: Human health insurance is famous for its limitations. With pet insurance however, the barriers are few and you can insure almost every legal pet without much paperwork or bureaucracy.
Types of pet insurance in South Africa
Many insurance providers in South Africa group pet insurance into 3 categories: Dog and cat insurance, Exotic pet insurance and Horse insurance.
1. Dog and cat insurance:
As the title says, this insurance covers the two most common household pets. According to some 2014 data, there were 9.1 million dogs in South Africa, and 2.4 million cats. That means South Africa is a ‘dog country’, as opposed to a country like the US which has a healthy balance between the two.
The number is also triple what it was just 2 decades ago.
What dog and cat insurance covers.
– Accidental injuries, e.g. broken bones, open wounds.
– Illness caused by an upset stomach, skin conditions, ear infections, cancer, or diabetes.
– Gastric torsion, also known as stomach twisting
– Tumor removal
– Hip replacement
– Specialized diet prescribed by a vet
– Preventative care such as vaccination, tick control etc.
– Pet sitter financial cover in case owner is unexpectedly hospitalized
What dog and cat insurance does not cover.
– Pregnancy and delivery
– Procedures that are not mandatory
– Tick paralysis
– Heredity illnesses
– Pre-existing conditions that showed signs before insurance was taken
– Dental procedures
* This list may differ from one insurance provider to the next.
2. Exotic pet insurance
Exotic pets are other animals that fall outside the traditional definition of a pet. The proper definition is animals that are not native to South Africa, but for insurance purposes, the net is also widened to include peculiar animals that are not commonly domesticated.
In a previous article, we have discussed in details about the types of exotic pets you can own in South Africa.
The insurance premiums charged on exotic pets will first of all depend on the type of animal. A house fish will for example attract a much lower premium than say, a tiger.
The list of services, procedures and treatments covered will also vary widely from insurer to insurer, and from animal to animal. Some policies may only cover emergencies such as surgery, illness and injuries, while others may include things like vet check-ups and vaccination.
Importantly, you should insist on a policy that covers theft, owing to the high price tag some of these animals attract.
3. Horse insurance:
The horse is categorized on its own, owing to its size and purpose. While animals its size are typically regarded as livestock, horses have a special place in our lives and are therefore pets. Horses are one of the few pets also considered an asset.
A 2013 report put the number of horses in South Africa at 300,000, of which tens of thousands of them are valuable race horses.
Raising and breeding horses is an expensive affair, and a proper insurance plan is very necessary.
Acquiring a horse can set you back up to R200 000, more expensive than many cars on the road. An insurance plan that covers theft is paramount.
Horse insurance (also known as equine insurance) premiums are based on many factors, key among them the purchase price. However, the value of a horse can increase over the course of its life, through things like race winnings, siring income, and training fees. Therefore, constant adjustments on the premiums are made.
A horse’s medical fees can be very high owing to the types of specialists required to keep them in tip top shape. Without insurance, many owners would certainly be unable to give them the treatment they need.