Top 10 insurance claims for cats and dogs in 2023
As the year winds to an end, a look back at the most common pet insurance claims by New Zealand’s dog and cat owners is chock-a-block full of insights for pet lovers to use in better protecting their furry loved ones.
PD Insurance’s Chief Operating Officer Michelle Le Long says deep diving into the claims across 2023 has drawn out trends that need to be brought to light, such as warning pet parents to keep an eye out for (seemingly harmless but often quite serious) grass seeds and to not take gastro lightly.
“We recently surveyed 2,000 PD Insurance customers and, among many other questions, asked about their top health worries for their pets,” she notes. “Interestingly, the results aligned with several of our top 10 claims, so the concerns are justified. It's great to see a good proportion of pet owners understand where some of the risks lie - knowledge is power in pet protection.”
“However, experience tells us there’s plenty more to learn.”
The survey revealed the top five responses as: 60% were worried about their pet eating something they shouldn’t, 39% were worried their pet would break a bone, 39% were worried about intestinal obstruction, and 37% were worried about a bite wound from another animal. Happily, the number five top response was ‘I don’t worry because they have pet insurance’.
Top 10 most common types of insurance claims for dogs in 2023
Dogs are susceptible to various skin problems, including grass seed irritation and bacterial and fungal issues. One poor pup is Rebel, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier X, whose severe allergies come in the form of itchy welts across his chest and belly. Naturally he can’t resist scratching the painful welts that lead to damaged wounded skin and infections, which in turn can cause a vicious cycle. After many vet visits and trials, Rebel’s mum is very grateful to be insured. The highest PD claim payout for skin allergies in 2023 was $6,839.
Common in dogs with floppy ‘closed’ ears and highly unpleasant for the poor pooches, yet not uncommon in other dogs, the highest reimbursement here was $4,549. The prevalence of ear infections highlights the need for pet owners to clean and check their dog’s ears as part of regular grooming.
Gastro is quite common and can be serious, to the point where it’s an alarming and expensive ordeal when your dog comes down with it. Usually gastroenteritis can be treated through stopping feeding for 24 hours, medication or changing diet, but sometimes it is a symptom of a more concerning underlying condition, such as kidney failure or cancer. While the average claim in 2023 was $789, the top claim maxed out the customer’s Classic plan $10,000 annual benefit limit minus the excess. However, vet bills went well beyond that to reach a whopping $12,630.
Some of the most common causes of diarrhoea include worms, parasites, bacterial or viral infections and eating something they shouldn’t. The average claim for diarrhoea was $344, but the maximum claim paid was $8,023.
Foreign body ingestion
Accidental ingestion of harmful objects range from pantry items to rocks, socks, dog toys and more, even poisonous sea creatures. One dog ingested a tennis ball (who’d think a tennis ball is risky?!), ending in vet bills of $7,006 and a claim payout of all but the excess. A claim that followed closely was for $6,665 for a dog who ate an AirPod… only the dog made it through.
Dogs routinely end up at the emergency vet after eating something toxic. A Rhodesian Ridgeback named Hazelnut nearly died after accidentally ingesting 30 heart medication pills. Piper, a Border Terrier, ingested an entire block of rat bait that fell from a shelf. The average claim for poison ingestion in 2023 was $775 but the highest payout was $9,049.
A dog vomiting may happen for several reasons. The most common cause is eating something they shouldn’t have and often the cause is unknown. Sometimes, the cause can be serious, like swallowing something toxic or a sign of a severe illness. When in doubt, check in with your vet. The maximum vomiting-related claim payout came to a staggering $9,875 (the customer’s annual benefit limit minus their excess), but their vet bills reached $12,106 due to a number of health issues found by the vet throughout their examinations, tests and treatment.
Dogs can hurt themselves in many ways and when a leg is compromised the repair bill can be exorbitant. The highest claim paid for a limb injury came to an eye-watering $13,044. In fact, this was the third highest claim PD Insurance paid in 2023.
Just like humans, cats and dogs can be allergic to various things such as certain foods, insect bites and stings, pollen, mould and much more. The average claim for treatment of allergic reactions was $238 but the maximum claim paid out in 2023 was $5,452.
Conjunctivitis (aka pink eye)
Caused by bacteria or viruses, this eye disease is somewhat unavoidable. It was a common cause for claims, though, with the highest paid coming to $1,052.
Top 10 most common types of insurance claims for cats in 2023
Despite the nine lives myth, cats aren’t immune from harm. As ‘wanderers’, these furry friends can pose an even greater challenge with being looked after; it’s a bit like herding cats, really. The top claims for felines through 2023 included:
Injuries sustained in fights with dogs or other cats were the most common claim, with the highest claim paid at $5,000 – the PD Accident plan annual benefit limit. The vet bills actually came to $8,972… Ouch. If you have a very territorial cat, a catio or cat fence could be a great way to keep it and others safe. These structures are increasingly popular for good reason!
An infection from injury, whether oral or elsewhere, is an ever-present risk. Many bite wounds result in abscesses due to bacteria infecting the wound. PD Insurance’s 2023 data shows while the average claim for an abscess was $310, cat owners paid up to $2,738 to treat them.
Similar to dogs, most cases of diarrhoea are caused by eating something they shouldn’t have. It will often go away on its own, but if your cat is lethargic, vomiting, has a loss of appetite, or is showing other signs of discomfort, take it to the vet. Treating diarrhoea in 2023 averaged a $268 claim reimbursement but the highest reached $2,049.
Watch out for ‘pink eye’ in your kitty to catch and treat it early or you might end up with a vet bill (or insurance claim) of more than $1,000. The highest claim reimbursement here was $1,040. Note that eye infections in cats can be caused by a range of health problems, big and small (allergies, tumours, trauma, foreign matter, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, etc), so it’s always best to have a vet examine your cat to ensure it isn’t a symptom of a more serious underlying issue.
Urinary tract obstruction
Although not as well-known a medical issue in cats as a UTI, urinary tract obstructions featured higher on the 2023 top PD claims list. They occur almost exclusively in male cats and can require life-saving surgery. The highest related claim payout came to $8,943.
Although slightly further down the top claims list for cats than dogs, gastro can be serious and expensive to treat in cats too. While the average claim payout was $487, the highest was $4,825 - maxing out the customer’s claim limit minus their excess. The vet bills were more, however, reaching $6,489.
Cystitis, meaning an inflamed bladder, is a common cat health condition. It’s different to a UTI in that no bacteria are present, though it’s the same it that it’s uncomfortable for kitty and costly to set right. While the average claim paid in 2023 was $338, the highest was $3,673.
When a cat breaks, fractures, or otherwise injures a limb it gets expensive fast. The highest limb injury claim provides paws for thought, at $9,775 – reaching the customer’s $10,000 Classic plan annual benefit limit minus the excess, though going well beyond in vet bills to hit $12,781.
Lower urinary tract infection (UTI)
A feline UTI - essentially a bladder infection with the culprit usually being bacteria - is a nasty affliction that can also nastily afflict the wallet. While the average PD Insurance payout over the year was $462, the highest was $5,867.
While eye infections only just slide into the top 20 for dogs, for cats these are number 10 on the list of most common claims. The highest payout was the lowest across the top 10, at $857.
Insure the pets before conditions become pre-existing
In New Zealand, the government heavily subsidises human medical care, but this isn’t the case for pets. While you won’t pay a fortune to have your broken arm fixed, your dog or cat’s broken bone could cost you over $13,000, as seen in the top 10 dog insurance claims.
Le Long says, “Each of our customers who submitted a claim like the examples above is pleased they took out pet insurance. It means being able to get quick, quality treatment for their fur kid without a big, unexpected cash outlay. Pet owners are getting a soft landing during a tough time.”
She reminds pet parents to consider getting pet insurance early while pets are young and healthy.
“Conditions emerge with age, so if you secure insurance before your pet develops health problems, most things will be covered when something goes awry,” Le Long concludes.
Note: The premium PD Insurance plan has a $20,000 annual benefit limit, which would’ve benefited a number of the above-mentioned customers through a higher claim payout.