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Mexico: Crossing the border with a small dog

Photo by Señor Codo

At about this time of year, when Seattle becomes rainy and grey, a trip to Mexico starts sounding particularly good. We spent last Christmas in San Miguel de Allende, and enjoyed every warm moment of it. Chloe came into our life the week after we got back, but I would return with her in a heartbeat. What documents are required to bring a dog with you into Mexico? The Mexican consulate in Seattle never answered my e-mails, so I called the Mexican Embassy in Washington D.C. to get the official word.

Here’s what I was told by the Embassy representative I spoke to. You need to have in hand a health certificate (“Certificate of Veterinary Inspection”) from a U.S. veterinarian issued not more than 5 days before you cross the border, and proof that your dog has been vaccinated against rabies and distemper (date of vaccinations not specified). A letter on your vet’s letterhead will suffice for proof of vaccinations. Neither document needs to be certified by Mexican consular authorities. There is no fee unless you travel with more than two dogs.

Additional advice? Bring duplicates of both documents, in case the border officials keep a copy. Bring proof that you own your dog; if nothing else, ensure that the health certificate includes your name as owner and a description of your dog (age, sex, breed, coloring, markings). To be on the safe side, have your dog vaccinated against rabies 30 days, but not more than 12 months, before entering Mexico. You may also be told at the border that your dog has to have had a flea treatment (see below), so have the date of your dog’s most recent treatment entered in her health certificate.

How about returning from Mexico? You will need to show the U.S. border official proof that your dog was vaccinated against rabies more than a month, but less than a year, before entry. Your paperwork to get into Mexico should be sufficient, unless you’ve stayed in Mexico for a very long time! (In that case, you’ll need to get a health certificate from a licensed Mexican veterinarian.)

A dog walking friend of mine who travels constantly with her elegant Schipperke dog returned from a June 2009 trip to Mexico with the following report from her border crossing:

“When I called from Seattle before my trip, the Mexican tourist office gave me inaccurate info. by telephone. The agricultural inspectors at the Mexico City airport immediately corrected this misinformation upon our arrival. They told me that I should have read the Ag. regulations on the web. So, I needed to do three things immediately in order to remove my dog from their office. The Ag. inspectors called a very busy, very efficient and pleasant private vet to come to the airport for the vaccination, etc., so that we could comply with the regulations;
1. Rabies certificate: A rabies shot must been given within a year or the dog must be revaccinated upon arrival in Mexico, regardless of the length of time covered by the vaccination’s producer (in our case, it was a three year coverage.) Whether my certificate from the Kansas State Univ. lab (required blood test for travel to Hawaii, UK, etc)., would have been sufficient I do not know.
2. The USA veterinarian’s health certificate must be no more than 5 days old. (Ours was under the 15 day limit that was the time required by Mexican tourism telephone informant). The Mexican vet signed/created a new one.
3. The dog must be certified to have been given flea/tick medication. I had just given a dose of Pfizer “Revolution” to my dog several days before and did not want to administer another, so they kindly let me purchase a new dose from the vet and agree to give it to her that evening. (It is not recommended to overmedicate this drug).
The cost of all of this was very low by USA standards, the vet was professional and pleasant. It was, however, a long process and I wasted time by arguing with the ag. inspectors and thus lengthened the many hours that my dog had to wait to pee after a long time from our departure from the Seattle airport early that morning.”

From reading my friend’s report as well as on line reports from other travelers, it appears that there is some variation in people’s experiences of crossing the Mexican border with a dog. If you and your dog have traveled to Mexico within the past year, I’d love to hear about your border crossing, and what documents or information you were asked for!


  • tiffany dugan

    I understand the requirements for taking a dog to Hawaii, and appreciate the info on how to minimize the quarantine time. What I am wondering now – is there any paperwork necessary in the Hawaiian airport to bring him on the plane to return to the states? (besides paying the in-cabin fee at the ticket counter). Thank you very much for your very helpful website, Tiffany Dugan

  • Hi, Tiffany — This reply is so overdue that it may be moot. I am so sorry. The answer will depend on your airline. As far as I can recall, sitting here right now, only Hawaiian and Alaska let you fly out of Hawaii with an in-cabin dog — I don’t believe that Alaska has any paperwork requirements, but Hawaiian may. I’d call your airline and confirm. As far as I know, from the U.S. government’s point of view, your trip counts as interstate travel, not an international immigration.

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