Pawtecting Your Furkids: Pet Insurance and a Vet’s Take on It

More than just a pet, for most people, their furkids are family. Similar to having children, keeping a pet comes with costs. From food to treats and toys, these costs can quickly become significant in your monthly budget. Not only so, pets, like their owner, fall sick. Overnight, these unexpected veterinary expenses can create a dent in your savings. Guarding against these unpredictable costs with pet insurance can give peace of mind to pet owners during difficult times, allowing you to concentrate on your pet’s recovery.

In this article, Planner Bee will take a look at pet insurance, what it covers typically, and why you should get it. We also talked to veterinarian Dr Veevien Chan from Atlas Vet to know more about her views on pet insurance in Singapore and how it can help pet owners.

What is typically covered in pet insurance?

Pet insurance, similar to our health insurance, helps to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of medical treatments and veterinary bills. Knowing that the medical bills will be fully or partially taken care of by the insurance policy allows you the freedom to seek timely treatment for your furkids and focus on taking care of them while they recover

For most pet insurance, there is usually an out-of-pocket deductible payment before the policy kicks in. Thereafter, depending on the plan you purchased, these policies can cover up to nearly 80% of the bills. While the policies may differ slightly depending on the insurance companies’ underwriting, they typically cover the following:

  • Accidental death and injury
  • Non-surgical treatments
  • Surgical procedures
  • Post-surgery care
  • Cancer treatment
  • Third-party liability
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Vaccinations

Why should you buy pet insurance?

The biggest reason to purchase a pet insurance policy for your furkid is to cushion the out-of-pocket expenses when they fall sick. Emergency pet surgery can easily set you back a few thousand dollars in Singapore and the coverage can usually help cushion more than half of the treatment fees. Liberty PetCare, for example, covers $1,500 to $10,000 in clinical and surgical benefits depending on the policy you purchased for your pet.

With these clinical and surgical benefits, pet owners also no longer have to be in a tough situation where they have to euthanise their pets because they cannot afford the treatment expenses.

“It is unfortunate that we do see some cases where clients are not able to pay for vet care for their pets. Some of these cases involve life-saving procedures which makes it very difficult for all parties involved. We can only try our best to help save these animals within the means of the clients and hope for the best,” Dr Veevien shared.

Knowing that the bulk of your expenses is covered by the insurance, however, eases the financial stress on yourself and even allows you the chance to seek alternative treatments that might be better for your furkid.

Limitations on pet insurance in Singapore

“Pet insurance is actually pretty common in countries such as Australia and the US. However, the number of clients with pet insurance in Singapore is still very low,” Dr Veevien let on. “I do find that pet insurance doesn’t seem to be widely marketed in Singapore. Many clients may not be aware that there is such insurance available.”

Not only is pet insurance less marketed in Singapore, but Dr Veevien also noted that the limited coverage from these policies is also one reason why pet owners are not keen on taking up the insurance.

For example, CIMB My Paw Pal (underwritten by Sompo) has a list of excluded breeds such as Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, and German Shepherd. AIA Paw Safe only covers your dog to the age of 8, while CIMB My Paw Pal and Liberty PetCare offer coverage up to 13 years old.

With AON Happy Tails (underwritten by NTUC Income) being the only pet insurance available in Singapore that covers the pet for its lifetime, it also comes with its own limits — a $250 deductible and a 20% to 40% co-insurance, depending on your pet’s age. This insurance is the only one among the four available that offers chemotherapy benefits of $1,000 to $1,200 when your pet is diagnosed with cancer by a veterinarian.

The higher insurance premium, such as the plans under Liberty PetCare which ranges from $350 to $750 annually, also deters many owners from taking up pet insurance. There are, however, cheaper policies which typically cost below $100 per year. However, the cheaper premiums also translate to certain limitations that Liberty PetCare does not have. For example, AIA Paw Safe does not cover treatment resulting from non-accidents, such as illnesses, and CIMB My Paw Pal only covers up to 70% of medical expenses claimed.

Furthermore, pet insurance in Singapore, unfortunately, only covers dogs and cats, leaving owners of other animals such as rabbits and parrots without a choice. “Insurance helps humans better afford medical bills, so hopefully it will do the same for our pets. Hopefully, insurance policies will improve over time so that more people will be encouraged to take them up.”

Pet insurance is an essential consideration for pet owners

“People often ask me what’s the hardest thing about being a vet,” Dr Veevien shared, “Seeing animals suffer because their owners are not able to afford diagnostics and medical procedures to find out what’s wrong and treat them properly, is one of the most upsetting situations to me because I feel so helpless.”

An October 2021 survey of 1,018 Singaporean pet owners reveals that amongst the surveyed, about 30% of the pets were acquired during the pandemic. Nearly half the respondents shared that they are first-time pet owners as well. While pet-related medical emergencies cost less than a human’s medical bills, it is still a significant cost to bear for their owners, and there are many new owners who are blindsided by the costs it takes to keep a healthy and happy pet.

Furthermore, even the most well-behaved furkid can react negatively to stressful situations. Having pet insurance allows the third-party liability coverage to kick in if your pet injured someone or damaged properties, with Liberty PetCare covering $100,000 to $500,000 in third-party liability fees for both their dog and cat policies.

Looking at options available to help cushion unexpected pet-related costs should be one of the things that new pet owners should prioritise. While the existing plans might have their shortfalls, it is still beneficial to read up on the policies the insurers offer and decide if these benefits outweigh the downsides.

Taking care of your furkid and giving them quality care is not an easy or cheap task. “Having pet insurance helps clients make the best possible decision for their pets,” Dr Veevien concluded.

For more information about pet insurance, check out Planner Bee’s Guide to Pet Insurance which includes comparison tables between the different insurers. Alternatively, drop us an email at ask@plannerbee.co to know more!

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