It’s not just Japan’s humans that are outliving their peers in other countries. Advances in science have led to pets living longer lives as well, but expensive vet bills take their toll on pet owners, opening up a market for private pet insurance.
A private survey revealed that the pet insurance market has grown nearly 20% yearly, reaching ¥49 billion (US$450 million) as of March 2017, according to a report by The Japan Times.
Life expectancies of our furry friends have increased partly due to veterinary hospitals treating a larger number of sick or injured pets. Sophisticated (and expensive) medical procedures such as CT scans, blood transfusions, and magnetic resonance imaging are now being applied to pets.
As the medical bills pile up, many pet owners in Japan have taken out insurance policies.
There were 8.92 million pet dogs and 9.52 million pet cats in Japan as of 2017, according to estimates by the Japan Pet Food Association. The number of dogs has declined slightly in recent years, but the number of cats has remained stable.
Pet ownership seems to be rising, given the number of online photos and videos posted by owners. Some have even gone viral, turning the featured animals into celebrities in their own right.
“Considering their pets as part of the family, owners who seek proper treatment for their pets are increasing,” an official of Tokyo-based ipet Insurance Co. told The Japan Times.
While only around 7% of Japanese pet owners have insurance, behind world leaders Britain and Sweden, growth potential is high and competition is fierce, the report said.
E-commerce heavyweight Rakuten Inc has acquired a provider of low-cost, short-term pet insurance, while Anicom Insurance Inc., the market leader in Japan, offers a policy that covers up to 70% of vet bills from a network of over 6,000 animal hospitals. Meanwhile, ipet Insurance’s flagship product also covers up to 70% of bills.