A guide to travel insurance with pets

Accidents, injuries and illness can happen to your pet at any time, so find out how to travel safely with your furry friend and what type of insurance you need to keep them protected.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 20 September 2022  | 6 mins read

Key points

  • Pet travel insurance can cover unexpected costs and holiday disruption caused by pet illness or injuries
  • Some pet insurance policies include cover for your pet if you’re taking them abroad
  • The Pet Travel Scheme allows you to travel within the EU without your pet having to spend time in quarantine
  • When you’re planning your trip, find out which airlines are pet-friendly and what requirements you’ll need to follow

Do I need travel insurance for my pet?

Your own travel insurance policy won’t include cover for your pets or their medical expenses. Instead, pet travel insurance is designed to give you financial protection if something unexpected happens to your pet while you’re away.

It’s not a legal requirement to have cover, but it can give you reassurance that your pet will be looked after if they become injured or ill.

While you can’t usually buy standalone pet travel insurance, some pet insurance policies include cover for travelling abroad or you can buy it as an optional policy extra.

What can pet travel insurance cover?

Pet travel insurance is designed to help if things don’t quite go to plan with your pet on holiday.

For example, it can help cover the costs if your pet needs urgent treatment or if they suffer an illness or injury that affects your travel plans.

A typical policy might include cover for:

  • Unexpected vets’ fees for illness or injury
  • Quarantine costs if you have to return without your pet
  • Lost pet travel documents
  • Emergency transport to get your ill or injured pet back home
  • The theft or loss of your pet while you’re overseas
  • Holiday cancellation if you need to cancel or cut short your trip because your pet needs urgent treatment

What affects the cost?

If you already have a pet insurance policy, you might find this includes cover for travelling abroad. If it doesn’t, you may be able to buy this cover as a policy extra.

As with any pet insurance, the costs will also depend on the type of policy, the type and breed of your pet, your pet’s age and any pre-existing conditions.

It’s always best to compare policies to see whether pet travel insurance is included as standard, and if not, how much it would cost to add it on.

What should I look for in a pet travel insurance policy?

To help you get the right cover for your needs, look at pet insurance policy wording carefully and check the following:

  • Which countries are included in the cover
  • Policy limit amounts
  • Which events and situations are covered, including holiday cancellation
  • The age it will cover pets up to
  • Any exclusions, such as pre-existing medical conditions
  • Policy cost compared to other providers
  • Length of time your pet will be covered for when abroad, it’s usually up to 90 days per year

What is the Pet Travel Scheme?

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) is designed to stop the spread of rabies and other diseases making it easier and safer to travel abroad with pets.

The scheme allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets to be taken in and out of participating countries, including the UK, without having to put them in quarantine.

To be eligible for this scheme your pet needs:

  • A microchip
  • A valid rabies vaccination
  • An animal health certificate
  • Tapeworm, tick and flea treatment with an official certificate of proof

The requirements may differ depending on the country you’re travelling to, so it’s always best to check in advance.

You'll need to wait 21 days after any primary vaccinations before you travel, so bear this in mind when you’re planning your trip and visit to the vet for the animal health certificate.

What about pet passports?

It’s no longer possible to use a pet passport that’s been issued in Great Britain to travel from the UK to the European Union (EU) or Northern Ireland (NI).

Instead, you’ll need to use an animal health certificate.

To get one of these, you’ll need to take your pet to the vet no more than 10 days before you travel - you should contact them at least a month beforehand to arrange this.

To be eligible for the certificate your pet also needs to:

  • Be microchipped
  • Be vaccinated against rabies

You can use your pet’s animal health certificate for onward travel within the EU and it will be valid for four months.

Be aware that your pet will need a new one every time you take them from Great Britain into an EU country or NI.

What if I need to take my pet outside the EU or NI?

If you’re travelling with your pet to a non-EU country, you’ll need an export health certificate for them.

You’ll also need to complete an export application form if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales.

When you’re planning your trip, check the rules of the country you’re travelling to in case there are any other restrictions or requirements you need to follow.

Can I get cover if my pet has a pre-existing medical condition?

As pet travel insurance generally either comes as part of your pet insurance policy or is bought as an optional extra - you’re likely to receive the same level of cover abroad as you do in the UK for any of your pet’s pre-existing conditions.

But it’s always best to contact your insurance provider to check before you purchase any extra cover.

If you’re taking out new cover, you’ll need to declare any issues your pet has or had when you apply. If you don’t, you could invalidate your policy and your premiums could go up when you try to take out cover again.

Can I take my pet on the plane?

This will largely depend on your airline, the type of pet you want to take and where you’re travelling to.

Not all airlines will let you take pets and those that do usually only allow cats and dogs.

In most cases, if you’re allowed to take your pet on the plane, it’ll need to be kept in the hold during the flight.

Usually, the only pets allowed to fly with you in the cabin are registered assistance dogs.

Which airlines are pet-friendly?

While you might have a preferred airline, not all operators allow pets so you may need to do your research to find the right carrier for your destination.

Some of the commercial airlines in the UK that are pet-friendly and allow you to travel with pets in the hold include:

  • Air Canada
  • Air France - KLM
  • Air New Zealand
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Emirates SkyCargo
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Tui Airways
  • United
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways

Which airlines don’t allow pets?

Whether you want to use an internal flight or take your pet out of the country, some airlines will only allow assistance dogs to travel with you.

Airlines that don’t allow pets include:

  • easyJet
  • Flybe
  • Jet2
  • Ryanair

What is an airline-approved pet carrier?

Pets will usually need to be carried in the plane’s cargo hold when they’re taken on a flight - this means they’ll need to be transported in a pet carrier or container.

To make sure your pet’s safe and has enough space while it’s travelling, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has strict guidelines on the containers that can be used.

For example, the pet carrier needs to:

  • Have the correct amount of ventilation
  • Be solid and leak-proof
  • Provide enough space for your pet to stand, sit, turn around, and lie down
  • Have a lockable door
  • Have fixed food and water containers with outside access for filling

Airlines will usually only accept IATA-approved containers, so always check to see what your airline’s specific requirements are.

Can I take my pet on the Eurostar?

No, unfortunately Eurostar trains aren’t pet friendly, so the only pets permitted are guide dogs and assistance dogs.

However, you can travel with your pet if you go via the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

This way you can travel in the comfort of your own car and stay with your pet for the whole 35-minute crossing. You’ll need to take your pet’s animal health certificate and any other required documentation with you.

Are pets allowed on ferries?

This will depend on the type of pet you have. Every UK ferry operator has their own pet policy - most will accept dogs, but some will also allow cats and ferrets to be taken on board.

Typically, most pets will be required to stay in your car or vehicle during the crossing. However, some ferries have pet-friendly cabins, lounges and kennels that you can book in advance.

If you’re keeping your pet in the car, you might want to arrange a mid-voyage visit to check on them, but this isn’t always possible.