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HCF research reveals 4 in 5 pet owners worry about soaring pet care costs

HCF 5 mins read

Concerns about the high price of caring for furry friends are hitting hard, according to a new study commissioned by HCF, Australia's largest not-for-profit health fund.

The research shows a whopping 80% of pet owners are feeling the strain, with four in five pet owners concerned about how much it costs to take care of their pets.1

From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, worries about pet health and wellbeing is on the rise, with pet parents now spending a minimum of $1,715 annually for a cat and $3,218 for a dog.2

“Factors like ageing pets and rising treatment costs are driving up prices, making it harder for pet parents to manage,” said veterinarian and pet expert, Dr Katrina Warren.

Adding to the pressure, PetSure data reveals that over the last 12 months, pet healthcare expenses have continued to increase at a rate that exceeds the high inflation seen across the economy.

For example, to treat common pet health ailments like arthritis and elbow conditions, the year-on-year increase for treatment costs is more than 50%.

“Pet parents want to ensure their dog or cat receives the best possible care, but rapidly increasing vet costs can leave them with some difficult decisions to make,” said Dr Katrina Warren, who urges pet owners to plan ahead for unexpected pet health issues.

Some conditions might be easily covered by the average family budget, but PetSure research shows that, on average, pet parents would have trouble finding more than $3,000 for an unexpected pet health expense. Concerningly, claims show many common accidents and illnesses cost much more to treat and can occur at any age.

Common treatments for cats, such as a snake bite, can incur an average cost of $2,200, but can reach as high as $10,000, according to the Pet Health Monitor 2023 Report. Similarly, treating skin allergies in dogs can range from an average cost of $520 to a staggering $17,400, highlighting the substantial expenses that can arise when addressing various pet health conditions.3

While some pet parents might question the value of pet insurance, with no Medicare for pets or government subsidies like we see in human healthcare, vet bills can leave pet owners in a challenging spot.

"Pet insurance can play a role in helping to support you with unexpected costs,” said Lorraine Thomas, HCF Chief Operating Officer.

“When using features like the GapOnly service, pet parents can worry less about the upfront cost of pet bills by paying only the gap4 at participating vets or get up to 80% back on eligible vet bills5,” Lorraine said.

“HCF policy holders can also take advantage of complimentary access to 24/7 VetChat6, a telehealth service, that connects pet owners with a registered vet by phone or video to access quality vet care when and where the pet parent needs it.”

While the new research may give pet owners reason to pause, Katrina said the findings are generally paws-itive.

“Aussies love their pets, and the results show just how deeply that love goes. Nearly all (97%) pet owners surveyed said they are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of their pets, with three in four (75%) strongly agreeing with this statement,” 1 said Katrina.

Four in five pet owners surveyed said they are using or planning to use at least one strategy to manage expenses, from buying pet food in bulk (46%) and grooming their pets at home (43%), to cutting back on personal pleasures, like dining out and shopping (29%).1

“While costs are rising, there are ways to ensure our furry friends stay happy and healthy without breaking the bank," Katrina said.


Some of Katrina’s tips for keeping pets happy and healthy on a budget include:

•       Stock up on pet supplies in bulk

•       Don't skip vet visits – early detection saves money in the long run

•       Keep an eye on pet weight and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine

•       Educate yourself on common pet health issues

•       Consider pet insurance, especially for young pets

•       Keep cats indoors to prevent accidents and disease

•       Try DIY grooming with proper tools

•       Keep harmful household products out of reach

•       Create homemade pet toys and furniture

•       Whip up homemade pet treats







1. YouGov. (2024). Paws and Pocketbooks Research Study. Conducted for HCF. Fieldwork undertaken between 14 and 18 February 2024. Total sample size: 1,043 adult pet owners aged 18 and above. The survey was carried out online. Figures weighted and representative of all Australian adult pet owners aged 18 and above.

2. SECNewgate Research. (2022). Animal Medicines Australia, Pets in Australia: A national survey of pets and people [Report]. Commercial in confidence.

3. PetSure. (2023). PetSure's Pet Health Monitor 2023 Report. Retrieved from:

4. The gap means the difference between the vet’s invoice and the eligible claim benefit under your policy. GapOnly® is a trademark owned by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure). GapOnly® is available on eligible claims at participating Vets with a pet insurance policy from a GapOnly® pet insurance partner.

5. Policy Terms and Conditions, limits, sub-limits, exclusions, excesses and waiting periods apply.

6. VetChat is a non-insurance product that is separate from the HCF Pet insurance product and is separately provided by VetChat Services Pty Ltd (VetChat). VetChat is a related company of PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd. VetChat consult membership and consultations are subject to VetChat’s general Terms and Conditions, including the Privacy Policy which are available online at

Key Facts:

·       80% of pet owners are concerned about how much it costs to take care of their pets.

·       Pet parents spend a minimum of $1,715 annually for a cat and $3,218 for a dog each year.

·       Pet healthcare expenses have risen at a rate higher than inflation.

·       Veterinarian Dr Katrina Warren encourages pet owners to stock up on pet supplies in bulk, try DIY grooming with proper tools, and consider pet insurance – especially for young pets.

About us:


HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers almost 2 million members with health and life insurance, and travel and pet insurance. HCF has been awarded Outstanding Value Health Insurance by Canstar eight years in a row from 2016-2023. On average over the last ten years, HCF has paid out more cents in every dollar in premiums to members as benefits than the industry average. To learn more about HCF go to



HCF Pet Insurance is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473 (AFSL 241436). The insurance is distributed and promoted by The Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia Limited (HCF) ABN 68 000 026 746 (AFSL 241414) and arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923 (AFSL 420183). Any advice provided is general only and does not consider your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD), available at before deciding if the product is right for you and please do not assume that pet insurance and health insurance are similar. HCF may receive a commission of up to 17% of the premium for promoting HCF Pet Insurance policies. For more information, contact HCF on 1800 630 681 or HCF Pet Insurance is not part of HCF's health insurance business.


Contact details:

For more information about the research or to arrange an interview with Dr Katrina Warren contact:

Joni Thomes +61 475 576 738 or

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