What is Pet Insurance and why do Pets need insurance?
Health risks and uncertainties are a part of life whether it is humans or animals. When we commit ourselves for the entire life of pets, it becomes our responsibility to ensure them healthy living and a good life. Pet insurance is health insurance for pets to cover a part of your pet’s medical bills based on your package provided by individual companies. Like any other member of our family, we need to cover them for all health emergencies via insurance. With the growing trend of owning pets in India (including exotic birds and animals which have a higher maintenance costs), and the increasing costs of medical expenses, pet insurance becomes more of a necessity than ever before.
Treatment of illnesses such as cancer or heart disease or a minor accident can cost anywhere from a few thousands to lakhs. A ballpark estimate of lifetime healthcare expenses for an average dog is around 3 to 5 lakhs INR. Pet insurance transfers the risks about high expenditure for any medical treatment of a pet to the insuring company and provides pet owners a peace of mind. It makes the health cost for your pet more affordable and lets you enjoy extra quality time with him without worrying about any unexpected circumstances.
Which pets can be Insured?
In India, pet insurance is available for dogs, cats, birds, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits, elephants as well as few exotic birds and animals, etc. The list may vary from company to company. Some companies offer insurance only to a particular type of pet.
What is covered under Pet Insurance?
There are three types of pet insurance covers as mentioned below:
- Lifetime cover– It covers the pet and the owners for any illness or disease which spans for the entire life of the pet like arthritis, eczema etc. Under this, one receives a specified amount each year towards treatment of the pet
- Money Limited Cover– It provides limited protection in terms of money which is spent to cover veterinary expenses for the treatment of the pet
- Time-Limited Cover– It offers protection to a pet for a specific period after a pet has become ill or suffered an injury to meet its medical expenses
Usually, below are the inclusions for any pet insurance policy:
- Treatment expenses
- Death due to accident (or accident while in transit- rail, road, air)
- Illness contracted
- Loss/ theft
- Accidental poisoning
- Third-Party Liability (optional)
- Add ons (optional)
While some of the general exclusions under the pet insurance scheme are as follows:
- Willful or malicious injury
- Death due to rabies, Viral infections, etc.
- Injury or illness arising out of neglect/unskillful handling of the pet
- Loss or injury due to war, foreign hostility, revolution, rebellion, military upheaval, etc.
Most of the companies do not provide coverage for routine check-ups, vaccines, heartworm, teeth cleaning, spaying/neutering, etc. However, some of these are covered in the add-ons plan of some packages. One may also have to get their pet checked out by a vet before getting coverage if they have not seen a vet in more than a year.
How to Choose a Pet Insurance Policy?
While not many options of pet insurance are available at this point but one must be cautious while choosing an insurance product that it should be able to help find the right treatment, doctor/institution, cover the routine, and other major healthcare expenses for your pet. Below mentioned are the key pointers to be considered while selecting any policy option:
- Standard versus Custom Plans: Most policy companies have options to provide customized plans for your pet depending on the breed, size, age, etc. as well as coverage required for your pet. Do consider evaluating all options rather than buying any standard plan
- IRDA approval: Check whether the company is registered with IRDA (Insurance Agents Examination Portal). IRDA protects the interest of and ensures just treatment of policyholders
- Sum Insured and the Premium: Generally, the sum assured for pet insurance products like dog insurance, ranges from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 30,000 and the premium ranges from 3% – 5% of the sum assured. This depends on the breed and other related factors. Compare the range for available products before selecting any product
- Add-On Cover/ Third Party Liability – Insurance providers like Future Generali offer add-on covers for the base policy, such as for the loss of show entry fee. This cover is offered for the forfeit of the entry fee for dog shows when the pet cannot make it to the show due to an injury or illness. Some pet insurance policies offer third party liability cover, if your pet bites/ attacks a third party or causes damage to third party property. Do check for the available add ons and third party liabilities, which are most suitable for your needs before buying any insurance
- Types of Cover – Select the appropriate cover- lifetime cover, time-limited cover or money-limit cover and also, what is covered under each based on your need before finalizing any insurance product
Process of getting your pet insured:
The process of getting pet insurance is quite straightforward. Although, for you the pet insurance might be looked as more of an emotion than a product, the industry sells it more like a property insurance than health insurance. When buying insurance, there is an age limit applicable for all your pets like most companies bracket the age limit for dogs and cats between 8 weeks to 8 years. The process requires a proposal form to be filled, and submitted along with a veterinary health certificate which should have unique identification (through tattooing/branding, nose print, photograph or microchipping), color, sex, breed, age and other details about the pet. One can choose any vet as long as he or she is licensed.
Typically, there is a waiting period before you can start claiming your pet insurance. It is a short term at the beginning of the policy when your coverage is restricted. This is done basically to prevent fraud. Waiting periods may vary by region, but will generally be 24 to 48 hours for accidents, and from 14 days for an illness to one year on certain medical conditions, depending on the type. One may decide to opt for a policy with a shorter waiting period and that offers the best coverage and value. If your pet has a health issue during the waiting period then the claim can not be covered, even if it is an unforeseeable emergency.
Another contrast as compared to human health policies is that for pets, you need to spend the money first and later get it claimed from the insurance company. But with the growing number of pets and the launch of organized healthcare service providers, we can anticipate that the upcoming pet insurance policies will be able to provide seamless comprehensive solutions on a cashless basis in near-future.
List of Companies providing Pet Insurance in India:
The global pet insurance industry size was estimated at USD 3.33 billion in 2018 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 16.3% by 2028*. As per India Pet Food Market Forecast and Opportunities 2019 report, the Indian pet care market is valued at $1.22 billion with an annual growth rate of 35%*.
Despite its increasing popularity, around 90% of the market share is with a handful of companies. In India, these are more covered under animal and bird policies by most public sector insurers like New India, United India, and Oriental Insurance. Only a few private companies- Future Generali, Bajaj Allianz General, Pawtect, and Pawinsure have started offering tier-based policies for most pets. Brief coverage details for small pets (Dogs, Cats, Rodents, Exotic Birds and Animals) can be referred below:
- Future Generali (Dogs): Covers accidental death and/or death from any disease of the dog
- Bajaj Allianz (Dogs): Pets are taken care of in its home insurance policy and covers only death of the pet due to accident or disease
- Pawinsure (Dogs and Cats): Covers health conditions such as heart conditions, blood pressure, diabetes, soft tissue surgeries, gastrointestinal-related ailments, cancer, etc. It does not cover doctors’ consultation fees, vaccination fees and diseases that can be vaccinated, death, accidents, birth or congenital defects, pre-existing, pregnancy-related, tick-related, food poisoning, object swallowing and theft
- Pawtect (Dogs and Cats): It is a three tier-based insurance policy with the highest premium one covering major soft tissue surgery, third party liability, major illness (including stem cell therapy, laser, blood transfusion, etc.), and accidental injuries. Also covers consultation/emergency fee, lab tests, X rays, CT scans, and MRIs
- New India Insurance (Dogs): Provides insurance for dogs from 8 weeks to 8 years of age and covers the pet against diseases and death due to accident
- United India (only for Exotic and Indigenous Breeds): Covers against permanent total disability and death due to accident
- Oriental Insurance (Dogs): covers against disease and death due to accident of dogs aging 8 weeks to 8 years
The Premium size typically ranges between 3% to 5% of the sum assured (which depends on the pet owner) but it may vary depending on the pet’s age, breed, third party liability coverage, accidental rider, death rider, disability rider, etc. Insurance companies generally bear 80% of the sum insured (market value certified by a veterinary doctor) and 20% is borne by the owner. Some of these companies might also offer third-party cover or add-on benefits for lost or stolen pets and breeding risk amongst others.
Like for human insurance, it is better to buy any insurance product at an early age of the pet when the chances of illness are lesser to minimize the premium size.
1. Economic Times
2. Grand View Research