Pet Insurance 101

Pet Insurance 101

The low-down on pet insurance


When a beloved pet becomes ill or is injured in an accident, you’ll do anything to help your furkid get well. But sometimes this comes at an astronomical cost. Most vets require a deposit before operating, and bills can run into the ten thousands. This is why pet insurance is so important.

Do you need pet insurance?

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of a sick pet, you’ve probably thought about pet insurance after paying for the vet bill.

“When our German Shepard Gemma cut her foot, we ended up having to pay R5000 for x-rays. Throughout the ordeal the vet couldn’t provide a reliable estimate of the costs and in the end we paid about R15,000.” – Hillary, human to Gemma.

Like medical aid or car insurance, the most important reason for taking insurance out is that you want to be covered in times of uncertainty so that large, unexpected expenses are covered.

“My dog Stella, a Scottie, had to go under the knife three times to have stones removed from her colon – costing me a total of R20,000!” – Kate, human to Stella.


5 tips you need to know before getting pet insurance

  1. Take insurance out while your pet is still young, as most insurance companies will not insure a pet that is younger than 8 weeks or older than 8 years.
  2. If you insure your puppy or kitten, it can remain on the insurance plan until old age.
  3. You have to have been on pet insurance for a month before you can submit any claims.
  4. Your pet has to be microchipped at a cost of on average R250.
  5. The pet medical aid will not pay up front and won’t necessarily cover the entire bill. You’ll need to pay and then claim back.

What does pet insurance cover?

Pet insurance will usually cover accidents, unexpected illnesses and emergencies for dogs and cats.

There are generally three levels of cover you can take out:

  • Accident only
  • Accident and illness cover
  • Accident; illness and routine care cover which contributes towards things like vaccination, deworming, tick and flea control, sterilisation and dental scale and polish.

Some policies will also cover alternative medicine/therapies, such as homeopathy and acupuncture, if they are administered by a provider registered with the South African Veterinary Council.

Can I take out pet insurance for exotic animals?

General pet medical aid is currently unavailable for exotic pets, birds, reptiles and rodents. In order to get exotic pet insurance, speak to a broker. Some insurers will provide equine (horse) insurance cover.

What doesn’t pet insurance cover?

Unless extra cover is taken, pet insurance does not include preventative care like vaccinations, spaying or neutering.

Pet insurance also excludes food, grooming, training and behavioural problems, and pre-existing conditions.

Any hereditary diseases or defects won’t be covered. This is particularly important for pure breeds who tend to suffer from breed-specific ailments, for example hip dysplasia in German Shepherds.

Can I go to any vet?

Your pet will have access to any registered vet in South Africa.


How does pet insurance pay out?

You’ll have to pay the vet bill up front and send your invoice to your insurance company who will reimburse you once a claim has been filed and assessed. It is therefore extremely important that you have access to funds to pay for the initial cost.

With regards to how much pet insurance will pay, it depends on what percentage of pet medical aid rates your vet charges. This will differ between vets and pet insurance companies.


Coverage for prescriptions is included, but these can’t be for pre-existing conditions or routine care like flea or tick control. Prescriptions will only be covered if the prescription is a result of the accident or illness.

Chronic medication (taken for longer than three months) will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Can’t I just open a pet savings account instead of paying monthly pet insurance premiums?

While saving for rainy days is always a good idea, putting away a small amount every month would probably not come close to covering some of the expensive vet bills people are faced with.

How much is pet insurance?

On average, insurance for a dog will cost R150 per month. The premiums decrease when you add on more pets. Insurance for two dogs, will cost about R250 per month.

Pet medical aid for cats is slightly less than pet insurance for dogs. On average cats will cost R120 per month.

Pet insurance plans:


Who are some pet insurance providers?

You pet insurance will depend on a number of factors, like age, area, breed etc. To compare pet medical aid schemes, visit Hippo.

Some popular pet insurance brands include:



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