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Everything You Need To Know About Pet Insurance


August 8, 2022
Many South Africans have decided to adopt a cat or dog this year. Research by Euromonitor International shows that pet ownership has increased in South Africa. More people are working from home, so there’s never been a better time to invest in companionship. 
If you’re thinking about getting a pet, you’ll need to consider how this can impact your finances. While toys and food might seem relatively affordable, illnesses and accidents aren’t — which is why pet insurance is a necessity. Auto & General has compiled a guide to help you navigate the world of pet insurance so that you can make an informed decision.
How does pet insurance work in South Africa? 
To understand what type of pet insurance you should be looking at, you'll need to know how it works in South Africa. As pet insurance has only been available in South Africa since the 1990s, the relatively new insurance product isn't regulated by the country's Medical Schemes Act. This means that pet insurance companies can be more flexible in their coverage and tailor their products to your pet's needs. It also means that you can complement your pet insurance with third-party coverage for specific incidences. 
What does pet insurance cover?
Your pet insurance coverage will depend on the type of coverage you choose and the pet you're insuring. Most insurance providers will give you various levels of coverage to choose from. 
Basic coverage tends to cover pets for accidental injuries requiring hospitalisation or surgery. Intermediate coverage includes third party liability and the costs associated with end-of-life care. The most comprehensive packages also include diagnostic testing, scanning services and routine check-ups. 
Each plan will have coverage limits, with the most premium plans having the highest limits. In some cases, you might have to pay an excess to access certain benefits. You might also be placed under a waiting period. The age, type and health of your pet will impact what your pet insurance does and doesn’t cover.
What does pet insurance not cover?
No two pets are the same. The type of coverage an exotic bird can expect will naturally differ from that of a rabbit, for example. As cats and dogs are the most common pets in South Africa, they inform most of the coverage and exclusions adopted by pet insurance companies. 
In most cases, pre-existing conditions aren't covered by pet insurance and basic coverage usually doesn't include treatment for congenital or hereditary conditions. On higher coverage plans, a waiting period can apply before you access coverage for congenital or hereditary conditions and breed-specific ailments. 
For example, flat-faced breeds are prone to experiencing brachycephalic conditions that can hamper their breathing. Similarly, long-bodied breeds like terriers and dachshunds are known to develop intervertebral disc disease, which can cause pain and movement issues.
What does excess mean in pet insurance?
Like with your own health insurance, an excess can apply to your pet insurance. This means that you'll need to pay for claims under a set amount or contribute a certain percentage to a bill. The amount of excess you pay can differ from company to company. At Auto & General, you don't have to pay any excess for check-ups, end-of-life care or third party liability claims. You will need to pay a 10% excess for each minor care and diagnostic claim you make. In your first six months of coverage, you'll need to pay 25% or a minimum of R500 of the cost of any surgical or hospitalisation claim. From your seventh month of coverage onwards, this drops to 10% or a minimum of R500.  
How to choose pet insurance?
Now that you know more about pet insurance, you’ll need to decide which company to choose. Ideally, you should do this as soon as you decide to get a pet. Any delays in getting coverage can hold up treatment or care when your pet arrives. Here are a few tips for finalising your decision:
Ask questions: Make a list of all the questions you’d like answered. Make sure the pet insurance company can answer them to your satisfaction.
Know your pet: The more you know about your pet, the more accurate your quote will be. Even if you’re adopting a pet from a shelter and have limited information on its background, a visit to the vet will give you a reasonable age estimate and determine if your pet has any congenital or hereditary conditions.
Be honest: Your insurance coverage is only as effective as the information it’s based on. Lying to lower your premiums can backfire on you. Make sure you’re transparent when it comes to your pet and their health.
Where to get pet insurance?
Take your time to go through the various pet insurance options available. Auto & General is ready and waiting to help you select the pet insurance coverage that works for you and your pet. Simply request a quote from us today and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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