old dog-hero

Insurance claims reveal cost of pets entering twilight years

Tuesday , 31 August 2021 by Alaina McGregor

Getting old can be just as hard on hips and hearts for dogs as it is for people, according to Southern Cross Pet Insurance’s (SCPI) list of top 10 most expensive pet insurance claims over the past year[1].

Elderly dogs were among the top contenders for costly claims that SCPI paid including $13,367 for a 12-year-old Greyhound needing several treatments for arthritis, heart disease and hip pain, and a $13,188 claim for a 14-year-old Labrador receiving treatment for irritable bowel disease and the removal of a mass.

The most expensive claim paid by the insurer was $13,772 for a five-year-old German Shepherd needing treatment for her ears, vomiting and peritonitis – an inflammation of the abdominal cavity which is serious and can be fatal for dogs.

When it came to the most expensive claims for felines, SCPI paid $11,479 for a Ragdoll cat that was hit by a car.

Coming in second was a $9,507 claim for a Devon Rex cat called Lambchop that needed substantial treatment for coughing and pyothorax[2]. The unlucky moggy also needed treatment for some injuries sustained in a cat fight.

Lamb Chop’s owner, Jules Calnan, said when she took him to the vet, he was immediately referred to an emergency animal specialist vet for urgent treatment of life-threatening injuries which was distressing for both of them.

“Specialist and emergency veterinary care can be very expensive so I wouldn’t have been able to make the decision to take Lamp Chop there without pet insurance. When faced with a traumatic situation and having to make difficult decisions, it was such a relief to not have an additional burden of financial stress,” said Calnan.

Anthony McPhail, General Manager of SCPI, said that while pets can be healthy for many years, just like humans, all sorts of health issues can emerge as they age.

“Many of our expensive claims this year have been for older cats and dogs, and it’s comforting to see these beloved family members get the treatment they need in their twilight years.

“Having pet insurance from the early days of your pet’s life means that in their older years you can confidently seek care when needed, and have peace of mind knowing your pet’s vet bills will be covered,” said McPhail.

SCPI National Sales Manager and former vet nurse Kerri Murray said since the outbreak of COVID-19 and various lockdowns, people have the opportunity to monitor their pets’ health.

“Being in close confines means we are better placed to notice if something’s wrong with our pets. We can see if they’re acting differently, are off their food, or have any lumps or bumps that might require a visit to the vet.

“Vets are an essential service and are open at all lockdown levels, so be sure to book an appointment if you have any concerns about your furry family member,” said Murray.

For essential pet care tips during lockdown, the New Zealand Veterinary Association has published some helpful tips here.

The list of SCPI’s top five cat and dog claims paid is below (for the period 1 June 2020 – 31 July 2021).


Top five dogs

Claim paid

Top five Cats

Claim paid

German Shephard (5yrs)

Damaged ears, peritonitis, vomiting


Ragdoll (3yrs)

Traumatic injury – hit by car.


Greyhound (12yrs)

Myriad conditions including hip pain, diarrhoea, heart disease and arthritis


Devon Rex (2yrs)

Coughing, pyothorax, cat fight injuries


Labrador (14yrs)

Irritable Bowel Disease, regurgitation, excision of a lump/mass


Domestic long hair (8yrs) Feline triaditis – a liver inflammatory disease


Bichon Frise (11yrs)

High liver levels, removal of lump in glands, pancreatitis, cruciate and more


Domestic short hair

(18yrs) Chronic renal disease, osteoarthritis, urinary tract infection, vomiting and more.


Bull Mastiff (11yrs)

Skin issues, reaction after slug bait toxicity


Domestic short hair (7yrs) Peritonitis, respiratory tract infection






















[1] Data source: SCPI’s top 10 most expensive claims paid for the period 1 June 2020 – 31 July 2021.

[2] Pyothorax is when pets develop inflammatory fluid in the chest cavity.