“With tired eyes, he looked at me. “Help me” was written all over his feline face. I reached out to comfort him. He hissed and bared his teeth. “Don’t!” His body aching so much that the slightest movement from me interpreted as potential pain.
I knew there was a little girl at home, waiting for her best friend to come home. I also realised today will be the first day that she will have to deal with the unfairness of reality. She will go to bed tonight without her favourite friend and tomorrow she will awaken a little more experienced in what life can give and take.
I made my diagnosis, my medical team ready to take on this medical emergency, my patient young and prepared to fight back and then: I looked up into another pair of eyes full of pain, my client wants as much as me to help but financially cannot afford it.
Pet medical insurance would have been the answer. For a small monthly fee, he would have been covered for this condition and received the best possible treatment my team can give. Please consider medical insurance for all your pets. In these financially challenging times, it is so much more important to prepare for the unexpected. The love they give me and you is endless, let us not put a price tag on their lives.
Above heart-breaking story is based on an actual incident and was shared with us by a vet.
In the last decade, the available medical care for our pets has improved dramatically. Regularly, vets will make use of specialised diagnostic modalities previously only available to human patients.
- It is now possible to arrange an MRI scan for a dachshund with a spinal problem.
- If a vet needs to investigate the possibility of cancer spread, a CT scan can be used.
- Before recent advances in orthopaedic surgery, dogs with hip dysplasia were treated conservatively with pain medication or salvage procedures. Certain specialist surgeons now perform total hip replacements with excellent success rates but at a very high cost.
Pet owners are faced daily with the heart-breaking reality of financial limitations when it comes to their pet. Speak to any vet, and they will tell you the frustration they experience when presented with a critically sick patient that needs intensive treatment but without the necessary funds. Unfortunately, humane euthanasia often becomes the next option. Many of these patients only needed intensive veterinary intervention for a few days but paid with their lives instead because no provision was made for unexpected illnesses.
In recent years the pet medical insurance options in South Africa to pet owners increased significantly which is excellent news for the pet industry, and even better news, for the dogs and cats out there.
The pet owner has first to decide what they need from an insurance policy before applying.
Your pet’s risk profile
It is essential to know your pet’s health risk. Ask your vet what the most common health conditions your breed of dog or cat is predisposed to. Skeletal abnormalities like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and patella luxation have a known hereditary component.
Look at your pet’s lifestyle and temperament to see if there is any additional risks because of his/her uniqueness. The weekend warrior that spends most of the weekend in the bush has an increased risk of tick-borne diseases. The cocky little yapper might just drive another dog to snap, therefore has an increased dog bite risk.
Keep all these risks in mind when applying for pet medical insurance and ask the company if they do cover these specific conditions. Some policies exclude hereditary or breed-specific conditions, which will be of little value if your pet has an increased risk for developing the condition.
Most insurers will give cover to pets from as young as eight weeks. The upper limit for pets is usually set at eight years of age. Once they have enrolled, they will receive lifetime cover. Pet owners will get the most benefits from their policy if they get insurance for pups as soon as they are eight weeks. This reduces the risk of exclusions on pre-existent conditions.
Some insurers offer an accident only policy for older pets, but this will not cover common health problems in the senior pet.
Most pet medical insurers exclude routine care except, where an add-on is offered (at an additional cost), that will contribute some funds to routine care. Pet owners often cannot understand why routine care is not covered. Consider the following: when you commit to a new pup or kitten, certain expenses are known upfront. You know what his food will cost per month, what vaccines are needed and at what age she can be spayed.
But you do not know when he will swallow a sock and need expensive surgery or when she will fracture her leg and need the intervention of an orthopaedic surgeon to save her.
Does the insurance cover routine care and if so, find out what percentage of the cost will be covered? You could be paying a bill of R1200 for spaying your dog, but the insurer might only pay out R300 of that bill. Will this then be a deciding factor to take up the specific cover? Is paying more per month then worth the ‘extra cover’?
Pet insurance is there when you need it most – not for the routine procedure which can be budgeted for - but for those dark days when a sudden illness or an unforeseen incident leads to high medical expenses. In those trying times, your pet needs you to focus on supporting him to get better and not to focus on the financial burden.
The terms and conditions section should be carefully read by the prospective client. The FAQ section often answers a lot of the common queries the pet owner might have. It is also essential to ensure that the company is “pet specific”. The medical needs of pets are different from humans, and the insurer needs to have a good understanding of the pet industry but also a working knowledge of pet health care. Most pet insurance companies will only cover your pet while you are inside South Africa – if you travel with your pet across borders, ask your pet insurance company if there will be any cover.
If you are still not sure about which company to use, ask them for testimonials of satisfied clients.
Questions to ask the pet medical insurer before taking their cover:
- Does any breed exclusions apply?
- Do you cover disease with a known hereditary or genetic component?
- Is there a set annual limit, or sub-limits per condition?
- Does my dog or cat need permanent identification like a microchip or tattoo?
- What is the waiting period from the time of inception to cover?
- What is the excess per claim?
- Do I have to submit a request for pre-authorisation before a procedure?
- What happens if my pet needs chronic medication for a condition?
- Do they cover extras like emergency boarding, missing pet reward or death?
- How quickly will my claim be settled?
Pet medical insurance costs less per month than a bunch of flowers, and flowers will colour your life for a week, a pet will uplift your spirit several times in a single day for years. Don’t disappoint your pet when he needs it most, get pet medical cover today.
PawPaw is an innovative Pet Insurance product for South Africa that provides cover for veterinary costs that South African pets may incur due to illness or injury. PawPaw is an affordable solution for any family with cats or dogs.