Are you planning to move to North America soon? Or maybe you are headed to the United States, Canada, or Mexico for an extended trip? If you have a pet dog that you are planning to bring along with you, you may be wondering what the rules are for bringing your dog into North America? Traveling to any other country with a dog can be a hassle, but for those of us who love our canine kids, it is totally worth it!
You are smart to be researching and preparing for this in advance of your travels. We all love a good adventure, but we don’t need the surprise regulations to be added to those adventures. It’s good to know what to expect before packing up and leaving and being prepared is the only way to dive into an adventure like this. If you are ready to learn more about what you need to do in advance of your trip or your move, here are some tips that will help you in bringing your dog into North America.
Table of Contents
- 1 Bringing your dog into North America—United States
- 1.1 Here are the most important things to do before bringing your dog to the United States
- 1.2 What paperwork do you need to bring a dog into the United States?
- 1.3 What websites should you check before bringing a dog into the United States?
- 1.4 Be sure to check out state requirements
- 2 Bringing your dog into North America—Canada
- 3 Bringing your dog into North America—Mexico
Bringing your dog into North America—United States
Bringing a dog into the United States is much easier once you have studied and prepared yourself for the steps it takes. To prepare for this, you must first know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of requirements1 that must be met before you can bring your dog into the United States.
Here are the most important things to do before bringing your dog to the United States
Be sure your dog is in good health
First and foremost, your dog must appear healthy in order to bring them into the United States. If they appear or act sickly upon arrival, at a minimum they may be quarantined.
Keep up on rabies shots
If you and your dog are entering the United States from countries with a high risk for dog rabies, be sure they are up to date on their rabies vaccination and you have documented proof via a valid rabies certificate.2
Be sure that your dog is free from screwworm
Screwworm is known to exist in certain countries.3 If you are bringing your dog into the United States from one of these countries you need to be sure that your dog is free from screwworm, and you have a certificate stating as such from a veterinary official from the country you are arriving from.
Research the rules for your particular method of travel
How are you planning to get to the United States? There are different requirements for bringing a dog into the United States depending on your mode of transportation.
Airlines establish their own set of rules and requirements as do ship lines if you plan to arrive via a boat. Additionally, if you are driving into the United States, those rules are different as well. Be sure to look up requirements for those border crossings as well.
Groom and bath your dog before you leave and immediately upon arrival
Before you leave, make sure to groom and bathe your dog. They cannot enter the country with excess dirt or even natural bedding in their fur (for example, straw or hay). You should also bathe your dog as soon as you arrive at your destination.
What paperwork do you need to bring a dog into the United States?
Just to reiterate, you potentially will need the following paperwork to bring your dog into the United States, depending on several factors.
- Rabies Vaccination Certification
- Certificate of Health from your dog’s veterinarian
What websites should you check before bringing a dog into the United States?
At the beginning of your planning, you should first visit the following websites to familiarize yourself with the rules related to bringing a dog into the United States. It is wise to visit these sites again immediately before your departure for the United States as protocols can change rapidly.
It is important to check these sites often because depending on the status of specific countries, or potential disease outbreaks. Knowing the different rules and any potential changes will help your move go much more smoothly.
Be sure to check out state requirements
While not all states have their own set of protocols as it relates to bringing a dog from another country, some do. It is a good idea to check the APHIS website for your destination state to ensure you have satisfied any and all requirements.
I hope that these tips make it easier for you when it comes to bringing your dog into the United States and I wish you the best of luck in your move!
Bringing your dog into North America—Canada
Canada doesn’t have a specific regulation when it comes to quarantining dogs that enter the country. However, in order for dogs to enter the country, they do need to meet certain health requirements.4 Additionally, depending on the country you are arriving from, you may need certain paperwork.
When do you need vaccination paperwork to bring your dog into Canada?
If you are traveling from a country that has cases of rabies, you need to arrive with a valid rabies vaccination certification. This certification must be signed by a licensed veterinarian, it also must describe your dog (for example, breed, color, size). The European Union pet passport is an acceptable alternative to the rabies vaccination certificate.
If your dog is arriving into Canada without their owner, even if it is coming from a rabies-free country, these documents are required. Additionally, if your dog is arriving in Canada without their owner via cargo, they need a complete veterinary health certificate. This certificate needs to include vaccination records for parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, and parainfluenza.
When do you not need vaccine paperwork to bring your dog into Canada?
Canada does not require rabies vaccination certifications in the following instances:
- Your dog is less than 3 months old
- Your dog is an assistance or service dog and arriving with their owner
- You are traveling from a rabies-free country (for example, Finland, New Zealand, Australia). You do need to bring a certificate from a veterinarian which confirms that your dog comes from a rabies-free country and hasn’t been out of that country for six months.
What about dog food?
If you are coming from the United States, you may bring up to 44lbs (20kg) of dog food. However, the food must be from the United States and commercially packaged. It the food along with your dog who will be eating it must be with you at the time of entry from the United States.
Personal imports of pet food from other countries are prohibited.
Bringing your dog into North America—Mexico
A health certificate for dogs and cats is no longer needed to enter Mexico. Dogs and cats may be taken to the border without health certificate documentation, they will be inspected by SENASICA upon arrival. But make sure you understand all of their guidelines.5
What paperwork do you need when bringing a dog into Mexico?
- Mexico requires a Certificate of Good Health. This is valid for 15 days from the date of issue. It must show proof of rabies vaccine. And proof that your dog has been given a dewormer (external and internal) within the past six months.
- Additionally, if your dog arrives in a carrier, it must be clean and without any bedding or toys. The carrier will be sprayed with a preventive treatment.
- Also note that only the balanced food ration considered for the day of arrival is allowed.
Lastly, upon arrival in Mexico, you will need to go to the Agricultural Health Inspection Office (OISA). A representative of the National Service for Agrifood Health, Safety, and Quality (SENASICA) will meet with you and inspect your dog to be sure that they meet all necessary requirements and issue you with a Zoosanitary Import Certificate.
Hope this helps makes planning for bringing your dog into North America a little easier. Have fun and safe travels with your pup. And if you are driving around in the car, have a read of our tips on taking a road trip with your dog.
Here’s a handy downloadable bringing your dog to North America checklist:
- “Bringing a dog into the United States,” CDC, last reviewed, October 8, 2019.
- “What is a valid rabies vaccination certificate?” CDC, last reviewed May 27, 2020.
- “Animal health status of regions,” APHIS, last updated March 3, 2021.
- “Travelling with your dog: import rules,” Government of Canada, last updated October 9, 2020.
- USDA APHIS