A guide to travel insurance with pets

Thinking of taking your pet on holiday? Here’s how to get the right travel cover for them, plus tips to help your trip go smoothly.

Thinking of taking your pet on holiday? Here’s how to get the right travel cover for them, plus tips to help your trip go smoothly.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: please check the latest government travel advice that sets out what you need to do, if anything, before you travel abroad and before you return home. You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. Travel rules can change at short notice, so check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for the latest information.

Josh Daniels
Travel Insurance expert
6
minute read
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Posted 14 OCTOBER 2019 Last Updated 9 FEBRUARY 2022

Do I need travel insurance for my pet? 

You can’t typically get standalone travel insurance that covers your pet abroad, but many pet insurance policies include travel - or you might be able to add it on at an extra cost. Although it’s not compulsory to have insurance for your pet when taking them abroad, it can be very useful if your pet gets ill or is injured while you’re on your overseas trip. 

Not every pet insurance policy offers travel overseas as part of its cover, so you’ll need to check policies to see if this is included when you compare.

What can pet travel insurance cover? 

Pet travel insurance can cover: 

  • Vet fees if your cat or dog is injured or becomes unwell while you’re away.
  • Theft or loss if your pet is stolen or goes missing – it could help with paying towards adverts and a reward to help find them.
  • Holiday cancellation if you have to cancel your trip because your pet has died or needs urgent treatment.
  • Emergency repatriation to cover the costs of getting your pet home if they’re ill or injured while you’re away.
  • Loss of your pet’s passport or Animal Health Certificate.
  • Quarantine costs, which can help pay for your pet to be looked after in kennels if they’re unable to travel because of illness – but you’ll need to have followed all local rules and regulations to be able to claim. 

Check any policy carefully before you buy, to make sure it covers the needs of you and your pet. Also check that your pet is covered in the destination(s) you’re travelling to.

What affects the cost of pet travel insurance? 

Pet travel insurance is typically included within lifetime policies, which offer higher levels of cover and tend to be more expensive.

When calculating the cost of pet insurance, providers typically take into account: 

  • The age of your pet.
  • Your pet’s breed and whether it’s a pedigree dog or pedigree cat, as these can be prone to hereditary illnesses.
  • Any pre-existing health conditions.
  • The amount you’re willing to pay towards a claim (the excess).

What do I need to consider before travelling with my pet? 

Travelling with your pet needs careful planning. As well as insurance, you’ll need to think about how you’ll get to and from your destination, the documents you need and your pet’s welfare abroad.

Although flying might be the fastest option, some animal rights charities advise only travelling with your pet by plane if absolutely necessary, for example if you’re relocating abroad. So investigate all your options for travel, for example, by ferry or Eurotunnel if you’re travelling to Europe. 

If you’re considering a cruise, be aware that most pets aren’t allowed on board, other than service animals like guide dogs and emotional support dogs, although there are specific cruises where you can take a pet.

Before planning your trip, make sure you’ve fully considered your animal’s welfare – for example, how it will cope with travelling, the climate in your destination and being in a strange place. If you’re not sure, you can get a second opinion from your vet.

What about pet passports? 

Since Brexit, you can no longer use a pet passport issued in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) for travel to an EU country or Northern Ireland. But you can still use one that was issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland.

When travelling to an EU country or Northern Ireland, your pet needs: 

  • A microchip.
  • A valid rabies vaccination – dogs must be at least 12 weeks old for a rabies jab.
  • An Animal Health Certificate (AHC) issued by an authorised official vet, unless you have a pet passport issued in an EU country or Northern Ireland.
  • Tapeworm treatment for dogs if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway or Malta. 

These requirements also apply to assistance dogs. 

There’s no set price for an Animal Health Certificate – it’s up to individual vet practices to set their own price. They’re typically around £150 but can cost far more and you may need to add on the costs of microchipping, vaccinations and treatments. 

A certificate can only be issued 10 days before travel, so make sure you have an appointment booked in.

What do I need to take my pet outside the EU or Northern Ireland 

If you’re going to a non-EU country, you’ll need an Export Health Certificate (EHC). You’ll also need to fill out an Export Application Form (EXA) if you’re in England, Scotland or Wales.

You have to nominate a vet, who’ll be sent the Export Health Certificate. They’ll check your pet meets all the health and identification requirements before you travel. 

Make sure you check the rules of the country you’re travelling to for any additional restrictions or requirements in plenty of time. For example, some countries may require proof that a rabies vaccination has been effective, which can take around three months.

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

If you have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has launched a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

Can I take my pet on the plane with me? 

Potentially yes, but some airlines don’t offer pet travel at all, while others may not permit it at weekends. Additionally, certain breeds are banned from travelling for safety reasons.

Pets over a certain size or weight might not be allowed in the cabin and will have to go in the cargo hold instead. A few carriers only allow pets in the main cabin if they’re an assistance animal, like a guide dog. The Guide Dogs Association website has advice about taking assistance dogs abroad.

If pets are allowed and able to travel in the cabin, they’ll need to be in an airline-approved pet carrier.

If your pet has to travel in cargo, it should be in a pressurised and air-conditioned area that doesn’t get too cold and is quiet with the lights dimmed if possible, to encourage pets to sleep during the flight. Ask the airline about the conditions in the hold to make sure you’re happy.

Your pet will need to go through airport security, so make sure they have a metal-free collar and lead.

Which airlines are pet-friendly? 

The UK government publishes a list of airlines and airports you can use for pet air travel

Airlines have specific rules about which pets are and aren’t allowed to travel because of their breed, size or weight, so you’ll need to check with them to see that your pet fits the requirements.

What airlines do not allow pets to fly? 

The following airlines do not allow pets on flights: 

  • EasyJet
  • Flybe
  • Ryanair
  • Balkan Holidays 

This is not a definitive list, so check before you book as things change.

What is an airline-approved pet carrier? 

Pet carriers must meet the airline’s requirements to be suitable to fly. To be airline-approved, a pet carrier must: 

  • Be secure
  • Be easy for staff to handle
  • Have adequate ventilation
  • Have enough space for your pet to stand, turn around and lie down
  • Lined with pet pads
  • Be able to fit under the seat in front of you if your pet is travelling in the cabin 

You can buy airline-approved pet carriers in store and online, but check any rules about dimensions with the airline first. 

Getting your pet used to the carrier before you use it to travel can make it less stressful for them.

Frequently asked questions

Can I take my pet on Eurostar?

Only guide dogs and assistance dogs are allowed on board Eurostar. You could consider Eurotunnel or a ferry instead.

Can I take my pet on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle?

Yes. You’ll need a ticket each way for your cat, dog or ferret and have the necessary documents. Guide dogs and assistance dogs travel free. Eurotunnel also takes a variety of other pets including rabbits, rodents, birds, amphibians and reptiles if you have the required veterinary certificates. 

There are dedicated pet exercise areas while you wait for your train. The journey time is around 35 minutes, and you and your pet can stay together in your car during your crossing from Folkestone to Calais.

Can I take my pet on a ferry?

Potentially yes – but ferry companies each have their own rules and policies. You’ll also need to have all the right vaccines plus an up-to-date Animal Health Certificate. 

Some ferry operators may allow only guide and assistance dogs. Others may expect pets to remain in cars during the crossing, so options for foot passengers may be more limited. Check what’s required and any restrictions before you book.

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