Pet owners now see their pets as more than just domesticated animals. They see them as part of the family and deserving the same treatment that human family members receive. After pet school, pet marriages and pet funerals, pet insurance is now catching on in Hong Kong as more owners want to take better care of their animals. There are two pet insurers in Hong Kong - Blue Cross and Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance (RSA) - that offer pet insurance plans, Pet Care Insurance (Blue Cross) and My PetGuard (RSA). Pet Care was launched in 2005 and My PetGuard in 2006. The coverage is offered to all microchipped cats and dogs in Hong Kong, excluding dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Regulation such as the pit bull terrier, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasiliero and Japanese Tosa. The enrolment age of dogs under the My PetGuard policy should be under nine years old and under 12 years old for cats. The insurance can be renewed to up to 15 years of age as long as the insured pets are regularly vaccinated. Pet Care Insurance accepts enrolments for dogs and cats between six months and eight years of age, and the policy can be renewed until death. My PetGuard covers veterinary charges, laboratory expenses, overseas extensions for veterinary fees, advertising or rewards for lost pets, third-party liability, death from injury, travel protection and holiday cancellation. Premium rates vary and a quote is given for each pet on consultation. Pet Care Insurance includes medical expenses, third-party liability, funeral services, holiday cancellations, advertising expenses for lost pets and overseas coverage, with the standard premium ranging from HK$988 to HK$2,480. Joseph Ng, senior manager of motor and personal lines at RSA Hong Kong, says that medical cover and third-party liability cover are the two most important parts of insurance. RSA records show that animal medical expenses are much higher than human medical expenses, with 75 per cent of one-time vet visits costing between HK$500 and HK$800, 22 per cent costing more than HK$800 and only 3 per cent of pet visits costing under HK$500. 'Although medical cover is a major part of pet insurance, third-party liability is also a key claim area,' Mr Ng says. 'I think third-party liability coverage is more important. You never know when your dog will attack and the consequences can be costly.' Both insurers saw an increase in buyers this year. Philip Yao, director of Apex insurance broker, which sells the Blue Cross Pet Care Insurance, says that Apex has close to 1,000 pets insured in Hong Kong and the number continues to grow. He says Hongkongers are generally receptive to the idea of pet insurance but most are not aware that it's an option. 'We do not advertise our insurance policies. Our new buyers are usually friends of present customers.' Iris Tsang, who works as a volunteer in the Concern Group for Pets, had a mini-schnauzer that died in 2007. The schnauzer was insured and Ms Tsang says that the pet insurance eased her financial pressure during the schnauzer's final years. 'I insured my schnauzer when she was seven years old for a premium of about HK$2,000. I used about HK$30,000 on medical treatments during her final two weeks and claimed about HK$20,000 in the end,' Ms Tsang says. 'While all pet lovers are willing to pay for their pet's medical treatments, the cost can be an unexpected burden,' she says. 'It's a relief when you know you can always claim for the expense. Since I had my dog insured I don't hesitate when the vet recommends laboratory tests or treatments ... I know that at least I won't have to worry about the cost.' Pet insurance policies are negotiated through agents. Claim forms may be downloaded online and have to be returned with the vet's signature. Claims are reimbursed within a month in most cases. All pet insurance excludes pre-existing health conditions, such as cancer or heart attacks, grooming costs and routine preventive treatments. Discounts are available for subsequent pets under the same owner.