The pet population in India has grown to 10 million in 2014 and India is considered to be the fastest growing global pet market ($800-million-plus industry). Pets are family members you choose, and so you want to love them, take care of them – which like everything else comes at a cost. Let’s try to understand what it means to take care of your pets and how you can cover them in the best possible ways with insurance.
Cost of healthcare
Having spoken to pet parents, I have understood that the cost of owning a pet depending on the age and the breed can be high. Healthcare is an important component when you have a pet. For instance, the annual routine healthcare expenses such as vaccination, deworming, tick treatment and minor illnesses in the first year when you get a dog are estimated to be in the range of ₹6,000 - ₹10,000, and then an average of ₹5,000- ₹7,000 every year.
Treatment for minor to a major illness such as cancer or heart disease can cost anywhere from a few thousands to lakhs. On a rough back-of-the envelope estimate, taking the average age of a dog at 12 years, the average lifetime healthcare expenses should be in the range of ₹2.50 lakh to ₹4 lakh.
Pet insurance policies in India, mostly are more “animal/bird" policies provided by public sector insurers. These cover animals like dogs, cats, horse, rabbits and pigs. For instance, the dog insurance covers all kinds of dogs including exotic dogs, from 8-weekolds to 8-year-olds. It covers death due to accident, illness, poisoning, permanent disability, liability of personal injury or property damage. The insurance has add-on benefits that can cover lost or stolen dogs and breeding risk amongst others.
Buying the insurance requires a proposal form to be filled, veterinary health certificate providing unique identification through a tattoo or nose print. The sum insured in such policies is the replacement cost of the dog, and the premium is around 5% of the sum insured.
Insurance companies usually bear 80% of the sum insured (market value certified by a veterinary doctor) and 20% is borne by the owner or parent of the pet. Most of the policies currently available cover replacement costs, but not care and wellness-related expenses, largely due to the lack of a big market, and also an organised network of healthcare providers.
With growing number of pets and launch of organised healthcare service providers, upcoming pet insurance policies will be able to provide seamless comprehensive solutions on a cashless basis. Such policies will cover expenses related to illnesses, injuries, liability and wellness , such as doctor visits, surgeries, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, third party covers and discounted services to pet spas.
The risks covered under a dog insurance plan vary from insurer to insurer. Very recently, Digit Insurance in association with a pet supply distributor Vetina launched a pet insurance product. It currently covers only dogs and gives protection against major illness, accidental injury and third party covers.
Pet insurance solutions of the future should be able to help find the right treatment, doctor and institution, cover the routine and major healthcare expenses — whether they require hospitalisation or not.
As welcoming a pet to the family entails a lot of cost and responsibility, it is best to get it insured when it is young. While getting an insurance policy for the new member, do look at every detail, know about all the exclusions and the claims process. You will find them complex with a lot of problems. These of course should get resolved in the coming years.
Mahavir Chopra is director health, life and travel insurance, Coverfox.com