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Traveling to Mexico with a Dog or Cat

Traveling to Mexico with a dog or cat is pretty straightforward, as long as your pet is in good health. You no longer need a health certificate to travel to Mexico with a pet. If you’re flying, you need an up-to-date rabies vaccine certificate. Your dog needs to be in a clean, approved kennel. You will need to visit the Mexican Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISA) so your pet can be inspected by a SENASICA official. They will inspect for infectious or contagious disease, parasites (fleas and ticks), and open wounds. This guide outlines everything you need to know about traveling to Mexico with a dog or cat.

In this guide, we’ll cover documentation requirements, how to transport your pet, health inspection, pet food, vaccine requirements, veterinary care, and more. Whether you’re driving to Mexico, walking across the border, or flying, there is no need to leave your pet behind. This guide focuses on dogs and cats. We’ll also talk about entry requirements for other types of common pets. In addition, we’ll outline the rules for bringing your pets back home with you.

This guide focuses on U.S. and Canadian travelers. Most of the info also applies to travelers from other countries as well.  I have lived in Tijuana for the past 3 years. During that time, I have crossed the border with my dog Teddy on several occassions. In this guide, I’ll outline my experience.

Key Takeaways

– You do not need a health certificate to travel to Mexico with a dog or cat if you’re traveling from the U.S. or Canada. Some airlines do require a health certificate. Check with your airline.

– Your pet does need an up-to-date rabies vaccine certificate. It is also a good idea to bring proof of parasite prevention (fleas, ticks, lice, and mites.)

-You can enter Mexico with up to 2 dogs or cats per person. Most airlines only allow one pet per person.

– Your pet may be inspected when you arrive in Mexico to ensure they are in good health and free of ticks and parasites.

– Your pet must be kept in an airline-compliant kennel when flying. You can only bring a small amount of food. There should not be any bedding or toys in the kennel

-If you’re traveling with more than 2 pets or exotic pets, contact your nearest Mexican consulate before your trip

– The rules are not consistently enforced. You may not be asked for any documentation or inspection.

A dog riding in a car
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Table of Contents

Traveling to Mexico by Land with a Dog or Cat

Walking or Driving across the US-Mexico border with a dog or cat is easy. As of 2019, you no longer need any documentation to bring your pet to Mexico, as long as your pet is in good health. You don’t need a health certificate from your veterinarian. You don’t need proof of parasite prevention or proof of rabies vaccination.

If you’re driving to Mexico from the Southern Border with Guatemala or Belize, you will need to show a health certificate from a veterinarian. I’ll talk more in-depth about this document later on. 

When you walk or drive across the border to Mexico, your pet needs to be inspected at the Mexican Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISA) by a SENASICA official. To find the animal inspection office at the border, look for signs that read ‘SAGARPA/SENSAICA’. 

You must bring your pet into the office in a clean cage or pet carrier. An official will inspect your pet to verify that they are in good health and are free of ticks and other parasites. They will also inspect for open wounds. If your pet is in good health, you are free to proceed into Mexico. 

The US-Mexico border
The US-Mexico border

Not every land border has an OISA office and SENASICA inspector. In fact, pet inspection is uncommon at land borders. If there is no inspection office, you can just drive or walk across the border with your pet. 

When returning to the U.S with your pet, you may need to show proof of rabies vaccine depending on which state you cross into and how thorough the immigration official is. If your pet has been outside of the U.S. for more than 6 months, you may need to show a health certificate before your pet is allowed to return.

The process is the same if you’re entering Mexico by sea. Look for a zoo sanitary office at the port. Not all ports have an animal inspection office.

Flying to Mexico with a Dog or Cat

When you fly into Mexico from the U.S. or Canada, you don’t need to show any documentation for your dog or cat, as long as they are in good health. You do not need to show a health certificate from a veterinarian. You also don’t need to show proof of rabies vaccine. If you’re flying from any country other than the U.S. or Canada, you will need a health certificate from your veterinarian.

You will need an airline-compliant cage or kennel to keep your pet in during the flight. You can only bring enough pet food for the day of your arrival. Pet toys must be clean. You may have to discard your pet’s bedding upon arrival.

Airlines sometimes have stricter requirements for flying pets. For example, some airlines require your pet to have a health certificate from a vet, even if you’re flying from the U.S. or Canada. Some airlines also require a rabies vaccine certificate. Airlines can also have their own rules regarding pet cages, food, and bedding. You’ll need to check your airline’s pet requirements before your flight.

Upon arrival in Mexico, you’ll be directed to an OISA zoo sanitary office in the airport where a SENASICA official will perform an inspection of your pet. In most airports, this is just a small kiosk or office near customs. The official will look for signs of infectious or contagious disease, parasites, and open wounds. After passing the inspection, you’re allowed to bring your pet into Mexico. 

When flying back to the U.S, you may need to show proof of rabies vaccine depending on the airport you fly into. You’ll want to check the requirements before your flight. It’s a good idea to bring an up-to-date rabies vaccine certificate.

A beach in Cancun

Documents you May Need when Traveling to Mexico with a Dog or Cat

Whether or not you need to bring any documents with you to travel to Mexico with a dog or cat depends on where you’re coming from, your mode of travel, and your pet’s health.

If your pet is healthy and you’re traveling from the U.S. or Canada, you probably don’t need any documents at all. In most cases, you don’t need any documents to return home with your pet either.

If you’re traveling from outside of the U.S. or Canada, you may need some supporting documentation to travel to Mexico with your pet. 

If your pet has a health issue, you may also need to bring supporting documentation to prove that they are being treated and are not contagious. 

A few documents you may need to bring with you include:

  • Health certificate- This is a document from your vet that proves that your pet is in good health.
  • Rabies vaccine certificate- This proves that your pet’s rabies vaccine is up to date. 
  • Other vaccine records- Record for standard pet vaccines including parvo, distemper, hepatitis, etc. 
  • Record of medication- This proves that your pet has been treated for fleas, mites, ticks, heartworm, etc.
  • Proof of ownership- Your pet’s registration acts as proof of ownership.
  • Veterinarian treatment instructions- This would only be necessary if your pet is under treatment for some kind of infection, parasite, or lesion.

Chances are, you won’t need all of these documents. You may not need any of them. In the following sections, I’ll outline each document in more in-depth and explain when you’ll need it and when you won’t.

Health Certificate for Mexico

If you’re traveling from the United States or Canada to Mexico with a dog or cat, you do not need a health certificate. You don’t need a health certificate to return to the U.S. or Canada either. This requirement was recently eliminated. Before December 2019, Mexico required a health certificate from your vet in order to bring your pet across the border. 

You will need to show a health certificate if you’re flying to Mexico from outside of the U.S. or Canada. For example, European travelers need to obtain a health certificate for their pet before traveling to Mexico. You will also need a health certificate if you’re driving or walking across the border to Mexico from Guatemala or Belize.

Some airlines require a health certificate, even if you’re flying from the U.S. or Canada. This is the case with Aeromexico. Some airlines only require a health certificate if your pet is flying cargo but not if your pet is riding in the cabin. This is the case with Delta, United, and Alaska Air. If you plan to fly into Mexico, be sure to check the airline’s pet policy first to see what documents they require. These policies can change at any time.

What is the Health Certificate?

The health certificate is a document from your veterinarian that shows that your pet is in good health and has had all of its required vaccinations.

The health certificate should include the following information:

  • A description of the animal- Breed, name, color, age, identifying markings, etc.
  • Your name and address in your country of residence- You should also include the address where you plan to stay in Mexico if you know where you’re staying.
  • The date that the animal was vaccinated for rabies and distemper- These vaccines must be administered at least 15 days before you arrive in Mexico. Animals that are younger than 3 months are exempt.
  • A declaration from your vet stating that the animal was in good health upon inspection- The declaration should also state that the animal was de-wormed within 6 months of its arrival in Mexico
  • The vet’s license number and signature- To prove that the document is authentic.

Your pet’s health certificate must be issued by a licensed veterinarian in your home country. The document must be printed on headed or sealed paper from your vet. It cannot be handwritten.

Your pet’s health certificate should be issued no more than 15 days before your arrival in Mexico. You should bring the original as well as a photocopy. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of the document or scan it and back the file up to your email or cloud storage so you can access it from anywhere.

Rabies Vaccine Certificate

Mexico does not require proof of rabies vaccine for your dog or cat. You may be asked to present a rabies vaccine certificate when flying, driving, or walking into the U.S. Whether or not you need this document depends on the state you’re entering and the immigration official you talk to. Some airlines also require proof of rabies vaccine for your pet, regardless of your destination. 

Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to bring a valid rabies vaccine certificate when traveling with your pet, just to be safe. You never know when you’ll be asked. 

Most rabies vaccines that are administered to pets are valid for 1 or 3 years. The 3 year vaccine is accepted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Dogs that have not been in a high-risk country in the previous 6 months are not required by the CDC to present a rabies vaccination certificate or other paperwork, but vaccination against rabies is recommended.” Mexico is not considered a high-risk country for rabies.

That said, some states can require you to show a rabies vaccine certificate for your dog before you can enter. For example, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, “Dogs over four (4) months of age must have documentation proving current rabies vaccination.” 

Before your trip, you’ll want to check the rabies vaccine requirements in the state you plan to drive or fly into. When flying into the U.S., you will need to present a valid rabies vaccine certificate in most cases. When driving in, you probably won’t be asked for this document, even if it is listed as a requirement. Again, it is highly recommended that you bring your pet’s proof of rabies vaccine, just to be safe. 

I know of a couple of people who regularly drive between San Diego and Tijuana with their dogs. They have never been asked for a vaccine certificate. That said, the immigration official could ask you to prove that your dog has been vaccinated. It is within their rights. 

Many airlines also require you to show proof of rabies vaccine for your pet before they allow your pet to board. This is the case with Aeromexico. If you’re flying into Mexico, you’ll want to check the airline’s policy before your trip.

The rabies vaccine certificate should contain the following information:

  • Date of the vaccination
  • Date that the vaccination expires
  • Name and address of the dog’s owner
  • Identifying information about the dog- This could include breed, sex, color, age, distinctive markings, etc.
  • Information about the rabies vaccine- This could include the brand, name, and lot number of the vaccine. Both 1 and 3 year vaccines are accepted.
  • Information about the veterinarian who administered the rabies vaccine- This includes the name, business name and address, license number, and signature.

The vaccine must be administered at least 15 days before your pet’s arrival in Mexico in order for it to be valid. Puppies and kittens under 3 months old are exempt from the rabies vaccine requirement. 

Before your trip, make sure the vaccine certificate will still be valid when you return home. You don’t want it to expire during your trip.

If you are unable to prove that your dog is vaccinated for rabies, you could be turned away and told to return with a current rabies vaccine certificate. In this case, you would have to take your dog to a vet in Mexico to get the rabies vaccine.

Tip: when you get your dog vaccinated for rabies, ask the vet for a backup original vaccine certificate so you have a copy in case one gets lost or destroyed. Leave one at home and take the other with you. It’s also a good idea to scan or take a photo of the certificate and email it to yourself or store it in the cloud. This way, you can access it whenever you need. In most cases, a photo of the vaccine certificate will be valid.

Other Pet Vaccine Records

Chances are you won’t need vaccine records but it’s a good idea to bring them with you just in case, if you have them. 

The main dog vaccines include distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza. For a complete list of dog vaccines, check out this helpful guide from the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The main cat vaccines include Viral Rhinotracheitis, Panleukopenia virus (feline distemper), and Calicivirus.

Veterinarian Treatment Instructions

If your dog or cat is being treated for a sickness, parasite, lesion, or infection, you’ll need to bring a copy of the diagnosis and treatment instructions from your veterinarian. This document should include your veterinarian’s information such as their name, license number/registration number, address, phone number, etc.

This information proves that your pet is being properly treated for its medical condition. If you try to bring an obviously sick, injured, or unhealthy pet to Mexico, you could be denied entry.

If your pet is being treated for something, it is also a good idea to ask your vet if they’re healthy enough to travel. Travel can be extremely stressful for pets. You wouldn’t want their condition to worsen. If your pet isn’t in good health, it’s best to leave them at home.

Prescriptions for Medications

If your dog or cat is on any medications, you should bring the prescription with you. This proves that your pet is being properly treated. The prescription proves that the medication you’re carrying is legal and necessary. You don’t want to get caught carrying some strange drug while you’re in Mexico.

Your pet’s prescriptions can also come in handy if you have to buy new medication for your pet while you’re in Mexico. If the medication you brought with you gets lost, gets destroyed, or runs out, you could just buy more with your prescription.

You may want to buy more of your pet’s medication anyway while you’re in Mexico. Most pet medications are significantly cheaper in Mexico than in the U.S. or Canada.

Dog and Cat Food

Officially, you’re only allowed to bring enough dog or cat food into Mexico for the day of arrival. This rule isn’t usually strictly enforced. You could probably bring enough food for a few days without any trouble. There is a chance that customs confiscates the extra food at the border. Keep that in mind if you decide to bring a big bag of dog food with you.

You can buy dog food, treats, toys, and supplies at most major supermarkets in Mexico. If you need a more specialty item, you may need to go to a pet store. Several large chain pet stores exist in Mexico including Petco, Petland, and Petsy. You’ll find a location in most large cities. You’ll also find smaller independent pet stores all across the country. Mexicans love their pets. You’ll find all of your favorite brands of dog food in Mexico. 

A puppy sitting in a bowl

Can Dogs Drink the Tap Water in Mexico?

It is generally unsafe for humans to drink tap water in Mexico. Everyone drinks filtered water or bottled water instead. This is because the water is often contaminated with bacteria, parasites, protozoa, heavy metals, viruses, and other contaminants.

Dogs and cats can drink tap water in Mexico. Almost all pet owners in Mexico give their pets tap water. Dogs can handle the tap water because they have stronger stomach acids that can help fight off any bacteria that is present in the water. They won’t get sick.

For more info, check out my guide to tap water in Mexico.

How to Transport a Dog or Cat to Mexico: Crates and Kennels

A dog in a camper van

When you’re driving into Mexico, you should secure your dog or cat in a crate, pet carrier, or kennel during the border crossing. Even if your dog is friendly, this is a good practice. Immigration officials may ask to inspect your belongings. You don’t want your dog to get frightened and bite one of them. There may also be other dogs around, such as police dogs, that could get your dog riled up.

If you’re flying to Mexico, you’ll have to keep your pet in a kennel during the flight and while you’re passing through airports. Be sure to check your airline’s pet policy and pet carrier requirements before you buy a ticket.

Some airlines are stricter than others. Some have specific requirements for pets. For example, some airlines do not allow pets in the cabin of the aircraft. They can only fly as cargo. Some airlines don’t accept pets at all. There may also be flight time restrictions. Some airlines only allow pets in the cabin on flights that are 6 hours or less. Be sure to check the rules before you book your flight.

Most airlines also charge a fee to travel with a pet. The fee can vary depending on the size of your pet and whether they fly in the cabin or in the cargo area. On average, expect to spend $100-$200 each way to fly with a cat or dog.

Crates and Kennels

The ideal pet carrier or kennel for your flight depends on the size of your pet and whether your pet is traveling in the cabin or cargo area. Try to choose a carrier with the following characteristics:

  • Secure- The door must close securely so your pet can’t escape.
  • Good ventilation- The crate should have ventilation on at least 3 sides so your pet can breathe easily if one side gets blocked. 
  • Size- The carrier must be large enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down in. If your pet is riding in the cabin, the carrier must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Check with your airline for acceptable dimensions.
  • Material- If your pet is riding in the cargo area, the carrier must be rigid. It could be made from plastic, metal, fiberglass, or some other durable material. Soft carriers are acceptable if your pet is traveling in the cabin. 
  • Labeled ‘airline approved’- When buying a pet carrier only choose one that is designed to fly with. Airline-approved carriers are durable and are designed to the specifications of most major airlines. Carriers made from cardboard and homemade carriers are usually not accepted.

The base of the carrier must be lined with an absorbent material so the crate doesn’t leak if your pet has to go to the bathroom during the flight. You can buy absorbent dog crate liners at any pet store. If you don’t have any purpose-made liners, you can use shredded newspaper. The crate liner will need to be discarded when you enter Mexico.

Before you drive across the border or go to the airport, make sure the crate, bedding, toys, etc. are all clean. If they appear dirty, you may get hassled at the border. Particularly if you have to go to an OISA office. An official may confiscate any dirty items or apply disinfectant to your crate and other items. You must discard disposable bedding such as newspaper and rags at the border.

You must also properly label the crate or kennel with:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • A contact phone number
  • The address where you’re staying in Mexico
  • Arrows indicating which way is up
  • The words LIVE ANIMAL. This should be displayed prominently in capital letters. Consider writing this in Spanish as well as ‘ANIMAL VIVO’.
  • Your pet should also be wearing an ID tag on their collar with their name and your contact information.

Pet Food and Drink During Transit

If your pet is flying in the cabin with you, they must remain in the carrier for the duration of your flight. You are not supposed to provide food or water to your pet during the flight. You should ensure your pet has eaten and had plenty of water before boarding the plane. Empty your pet’s water dish before you board so it doesn’t spill.

If your pet is flying cargo, you should leave two empty dishes in the crate. These should be attached to the inside of the crate so they don’t spill. They should also be accessible from outside the crate so they can be filled without opening the crate. If there is a delay, airline staff will fill a dish with water for your pet. Some airlines even allow you to bring extra food for staff to feed your pet.

Some travelers freeze water in a bowl and place this bowl in the crate before heading to the airport. The ice melts during the flight and your pet can drink if they get thirsty. There won’t be any spills while your pet is being loaded because the water is frozen.  

You should avoid feeding your dog for two hours before a domestic flight or four hours before an international flight. If your dog has a full stomach, they can feel uncomfortable and bloated while they’re cooped up in their cage during the flight. Ideally, your pet should fly on an empty stomach. Feed them when you arrive at your destination. 

Mexico Entry Requirements for Humans

When you arrive at the port of entry, you’ll have to get an FMM visitor’s permit for yourself. The FMM is a travel document that allows citizens of the U.S., Canada, U.K, Australia, European Schengen countries, Japan, and a number of other countries to travel to Mexico without having to arrange a visa in advance. Everyone traveling to Mexico for tourism purposes has to get an FMM. 

If you’re driving to Mexico, you’ll have to park your car at the border and walk into the immigration office to obtain an FMM. If you’re walking across the border, you’ll fill out an FMM when passing through immigration. When flying to Mexico, you’ll get your FMM at immigration at the airport. 

If you’re staying in Mexico for more than 7 days, you’ll have to pay a fee of around 595 pesos or $30. If you’re staying in Mexico for less than 7 days, there is no fee. For more info, check out my guide to the FMM visitor’s permit.

If you’re driving to Mexico and you plan to drive outside of the border region or free zones, you’ll also need to arrange a Temporary Import Permit for your vehicle (TIP). This document allows you to legally drive your foreign-plated vehicle in Mexico. For more info on where you need this document and how to get it, check out my guide to the temporary import permit.

Arriving in Mexico With Your Dog or Cat

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Each person is permitted to bring two pets to Mexico. This could be two cats, two dogs, or a cat and a dog. This is a per-person limit. If you are traveling with your partner, you could bring 4 pets (2 each). Many airlines only allow one pet per person. If you’re flying, check with your airline first. 

When importing 1-3 pets, the health inspection and import process is free of charge. If you are bringing 4 or more pets to Mexico, there is an additional import and processing fee. I was not able to find the exact fee but I believe it is around 2000 pesos (around $100.) If you’re traveling with 4 or more pets, you should contact your nearest Mexican embassy or consulate before your trip to check for additional requirements. You may have to pay an additional fee. 

If you’re not arriving from the U.S. or Canada, you’ll need to present a health certificate for each pet. The health certificate must be issued by a licensed veterinarian. It should include proof of rabies and distemper vaccines.

If you arrive from outside of the U.S. or Canada without a valid health certificate, you will be offered the opportunity to hire a veterinarian in Mexico to come to the port of entry, inspect your pet, and issue you a health certificate. You will have to pay for this service out of pocket. If you can’t produce a health certificate, your pet may be denied entry.  

Pet Inspection When Arriving in Mexico

When you arrive in Mexico, an immigration official may ask you to take your dog or cat to the Mexican Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISA). This is a part of customs. At this office, an agent from Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria (SAGARPA/SENSAICA) will inspect your pet’s health. You will also need to present your pet’s health certificate to the official, if a health certificate is required.

The SENSAICA agent looks for:

  • Signs of infectious or contagious disease
  • Ectoparasites- including fleas, ticks, lice, and mites
  • Fresh wounds or healing wounds
  • A health certificate and up-to-date rabies vaccine certificate (if required)

This is just a quick inspection.

These inspections are not common when driving across the border. In fact, most smaller border crossings don’t even have an OISA office. In most cases, there is nobody at the border to inspect your pet. Immigration officials are not certified to perform this inspection. If there is no OISA office, you will just pass through customs normally with your pet. Your pet is more likely to be inspected at larger border crossings and sea ports. 

Pet inspections are common when flying into Mexico. Customs is more strict at airports. All international airports in Mexico have an OISA office.

If ectoparasites are found during the inspection, you will be asked to contact a veterinarian in Mexico to treat your pet. A sample of the parasite may be taken for lab testing. In this case, your pet will have to stay at the OISA office until the results come back and the treatment is complete.

If the results show that the parasites are not foreign to Mexico and the parasites are removed or treated by a vet, your dog will be allowed to enter. If not, the SENASICA agent will determine the best course of action. All costs incurred in this process will be your responsibility. 

For this reason, it’s best to make sure your pet is in good health and free of parasites before you travel to Mexico. If you’re in doubt, take your pet to the vet first to make sure they’re healthy. Even though this isn’t a requirement, it could end up saving you money.

Returning to Home from Mexico with Your Dog

Before returning home with your pet, you’ll have to find out which documents you’ll need in order to re-import your pet into your home country. Some countries require a health certificate. In this case, you’ll have to visit a licensed Mexican veterinarian and ask for a ‘Certificado Zoosanitario’ (zoosanitary certificate).

Many countries also require a rabies vaccine certificate. This is a requirement in many U.S. states. You’ll want to make sure the vaccine is still valid when you plan to return home.

Some countries also require a pet import permit or some other type of legal document. This is less common. You would only need this if you traveled to a country with a high risk of rabies.

In rare cases, your pet may need to be quarantined. This means your pet would need to stay in a quarantine facility for a predetermined period of time before you’re allowed to take them home. This would only happen if your pet was infected with a contagious disease or invasive parasite.

Regulations can vary by state or province as well. You will be responsible for all expenses involved in re-importing your pet.

For this reason, it’s important to check the import requirements before you leave your home country with your pet. If you find that the requirements are too strict or too expensive to comply with, you may not want to travel with your pet.

Generally, it’s pretty easy to bring your pet back to the U.S. or Canada after traveling to Mexico. In most cases, all you’ll need is a rabies vaccine certificate. 

Restriction on Pet Imports to the United States

(If you’re not planning to travel outside of the U.S. or Mexico with your dog, you don’t have to worry about this. You can skip this section.)

Starting June 14, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suspended dog imports from countries that are considered high risk for rabies. This includes dogs that originated in the U.S. that are returning to the U.S. after visiting a country that has a high for rabies. If you take your dog from the U.S to a country with a high risk for rabies, you won’t be able to bring them back without a permit or quarantine.

If you take your dog outside of Mexico to a country with a high risk of rabies, you have two options. You can apply for advance written approval from the CDC (CDC dog import permit) to return with your pet. These permits are only issued on a limited basis and require additional documentation. You will also need to fly into one of 18 approved airports with your dog and CDC import permit. The other option is to quarantine your dog outside of a high-risk country for 6 months.

If you try to fly to the U.S. with a dog from a country with a high risk for rabies, your dog will be denied entry and will be flown back to the origin country at your expense.

Mexico is NOT considered a high-risk country for rabies. If you only plan to take your dog to Mexico, you don’t have to worry about this new rule. You can view the complete list of countries with a high risk of rabies here.    

This rule can cause issues if you were planning on traveling to a third country outside of Mexico with your dog during your trip. You won’t be able to return home with your dog unless you obtain an import permit from the CDC or quarantine your dog for 6 months. These import permits are difficult to obtain. They are only issued if you have a good reason.

Maybe you plan to drive from the U.S. to Belize through Mexico. When you return to the U.S. with your dog, an immigration official may ask you where your dog has been during the past 6 months. If your dog traveled to a country that has a high risk for rabies, your dog will be denied entry.

You shouldn’t lie about this. The officer can look through your passport for proof that you’ve been to another country. If they see that you entered Mexico and then traveled to a country with a high risk for rabies, without returning to the U.S. in between, they will assume that your dog came with you and your dog won’t be allowed to return.

You can read more about this policy on the CDC’s website here.

Update: As of June 2022, you can now re-enter the U.S. from a country with a high risk of rabies with your dog as long as your dog was vaccinated against rabies by a U.S. licensed veterinarian in the United States. The vaccine must be up to date. The dog must also be microchipped. In addition, the dog must be older than 6 months and healthy. You still have to fly into one of the 18 approved airports.

Banned Breeds in Mexico

Mexico doesn’t ban any dog breeds. You can travel to Mexico with any breed of dog as long as you follow the rules outlined in this guide. 

Traveling to Mexico with Puppies or Kittens

The rules for traveling to Mexico with a puppy or kitten are the same as traveling with a fully grown dog or cat. There is one exception. If your puppy or kitten is less than 3 months old, it does not need a rabies vaccine certificate. They are exempt. Puppies and kittens that are younger than 3 months shouldn’t get a rabies shot. 

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Starting in 2021, emotional support animals are considered pets on most U.S. airlines. They are no longer considered service animals. Many airlines changed their rules because people were taking advantage of the more lenient ESA policy to fly with their pets.

This means your emotional support animal will need to follow the same rules as any other pet when flying. They can only fly in the cabin with you if they are permitted to under the airline’s pet policy.

Some airlines still recognize emotional support animals separate from pets but have more strict requirements for taking them in the cabin with you. For example, Aeromexico now requires a medical certificate from a psychiatric physician (not a psychologist) to prove that your emotional support animal is legitimate. There is also a form that you must fill out prior to your flight if you wish to bring your emotional support animal on the plane with you.

Be sure to check your airline’s policy regarding emotional support animals before your flight. You can find more info on Aeromexico’s policy on their website here.

Pet Insurance in Mexico

If you have pet insurance, chances are it isn’t valid in Mexico. You may want to consider buying a short-term policy to cover your pet during your trip. Just like you would buy travel insurance for yourself. Pet insurance can cover:

  • A visit to a veterinarian- If your pet gets sick or injured while in Mexico, insurance can help with the cost of treatment.
  • Civil liability- If your pet injures someone, injures another pet, or causes property damage while you’re in Mexico, insurance can help cover the cost.
  • Death of your pet- If your pet passes away in Mexico, insurance can help cover the cost of cremation.

Pet insurance is not required to enter Mexico with your dog or cat. It can bring peace of mind. It is important to note that veterinary care is much cheaper in Mexico than it is in the U.S. or Canada so you may not need insurance.

Traveling to Mexico for Veterinary Care

Veterinarian services are extremely expensive in the U.S. and Canada. These days, many people take their pets to Mexico for more affordable treatment. Just like many humans travel across the border for affordable dental and health care.

Taking your dog to the vet in Mexico can save you a ton of money. In many cases, the vet bill in Mexico will be 60-80% lower than it would be in the U.S for the same treatment and same quality of care. Traveling to Mexico for veterinary care can allow you to save your pet’s life if you can’t afford the treatment in your home country.

For example, maybe your regular vet quotes you $5,000 for a major procedure. The same procedure in Mexico might cost $1000. Even when factoring in the cost of travel it would be far cheaper to have the procedure done in Mexico.

Veterinary hospitals are common in Mexico. Even in small towns. Before you take your pet for treatment, do some research and read reviews online. Generally, the level of care is excellent. Mexican veterinarians have access to the same tools and technologies and use the same techniques as American vets. They have the same education. Of course, quality varies. Some vets are better than others. If you don’t speak Spanish, you can find English-speaking vets who cater to foreign pet owners.

If your pet is on any kind of medication, consider buying it in Mexico as well while you’re there. Pet medications are far cheaper in Mexico. You can save a good amount of money this way. Be sure to bring your prescriptions if you plan to do this.

Before bringing your pet to Mexico for a medical procedure, it’s a good idea to get a health certificate. Particularly if your pet appears unwell. This way, you can show the immigration official that you are bringing your pet to Mexico for medical care.

Tips for Traveling With Your Pet in Mexico

Manzanillo, Mexico
Manzanillo, Mexico

If you’re taking a road trip through Mexico with your pet, be sure to bring plenty of supplies. Particularly water. Mexico is a hot country. Your pet will need to drink more than usual to keep hydrated.

Never leave your pet alone in the car on a hot day. The heat can be fatal. Take your pet with you if you’re getting out of the car.

Also, take plenty of breaks. There are rest stops along Mexico’s highways. You’ll also pass through plenty of towns and villages where you and your pet can stretch your legs and go to the bathroom.

Taking a Long-Distance Bus with a Pet in Mexico

Most Mexican bus companies allow dogs and cats to travel in a kennel or crate in the cargo hold under the bus. Contact the bus company before you book your trip to check their policy and reserve a spot for your pet. During the trip, make sure your pet has plenty of food and water.

By Mexican law, certified service pets must be allowed on board the bus. You will need documentation to prove that your dog is a service pet. 

Ideally, your pet should be sedated for the bus journey. A bus trip can be extremely stressful for a pet. You should avoid taking bus journeys longer than 8 hours with your pet. If you have to take a longer trip, consider breaking it up and stopping somewhere mid-way to give your pet a break.

If you expect temperatures higher than 30℃ or 86℉, you should avoid taking the bus with your pet. The cargo hold on buses is not climate-controlled like the pet compartment on airplanes. It could get extremely hot and uncomfortable for your pet.

Mexico’s largest bus company, ADO, allows pets to travel in crates under the bus for no extra charge as long as they weigh less than 25 kg (55 lbs). Only two pets are permitted per bus so you should reserve a spot for your pet in advance to ensure there is room.

For more info, check out this guide to taking a pet on a bus from ADO.

Walking Your Dog in Mexico

In large cities, most local pet owners take their dogs to a public park for their daily walks. Larger Mexican cities have beautiful parks and plazas that are dog friendly. Some cities also have dog parks. Dog walking services are also available. In smaller towns and rural regions, you can walk your dog in town or in the countryside.

You can also walk your dog on most beaches in Mexico. It’s important to note that some beaches do prohibit dogs. This is common in touristy areas such as Riviera Maya, Cancun, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta. Before taking your dog for a walk on the beach, look for signs indicating that dogs are prohibited.

When walking your dog in Mexico, you should pick up their mess and properly dispose of it. You’ll find waste bins in public parks, plazas, tourist areas, and on walking streets.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye out for discarded food and other trash in the street while walking your dog. You don’t want your dog to eat something bad and get sick.

Stray Dogs in Mexico

Mexico has long been known for its stray dogs. They can be found roaming the streets and hanging around marketplaces looking for scraps of food to eat. In some parts of Mexico, strays are extremely common.

Stray dogs can be dangerous. You’ll want to be careful while walking your dog. You wouldn’t want your dog to get into a fight with a stray. Strays can carry parasites and diseases. It’s best to keep your distance. You’ll need to be particularly careful if your dog reacts to other dogs. If you’re worried about strays, consider taking your dog to a park for a walk. 

The population of stray dogs in Mexico has declined sharply in recent years. This is due in part to government initiatives that have sought to control the stray dog population. As a result of these efforts, the number of stray dogs in Mexico has decreased significantly. While there are still plenty of strays around, even though they are much less common than they once were. The government has also put in an effort to have every dog vaccinated for rabies. As a result, rabies is incredibly rare in Mexico. Even among street dogs. 

Pet Friendly Accommodation in Mexico

Most hotels and Airbnbs in Mexico do not allow pets. This makes it a bit harder to find a place to stay when traveling with a dog in Mexico. 

When searching for accommodation online, sort by pet-friendly properties. Most booking sites include this option in the advanced search settings. This allows you to filter out any hotels that don’t accept pets. Some larger hotels charge a pet deposit or an additional pet fee of $10-$20 per night.

If you have trouble finding accommodation that accepts pets, consider going camping. Campgrounds almost always welcome dogs to stay.

If your pet is a service animal, you don’t have to worry about this. All hotels must allow service animals to stay in by law. You may need documentation to prove that your pet is a service animal before a hotel will accept them.

Pet Friendly Restaurants in Mexico

Most restaurants in Mexico are not pet-friendly. They only accept service dogs. Some local restaurants in smaller towns may allow you to bring a well-behaved dog in with you. Some restaurants offer outdoor seating. Pets may be welcome there. You’ll have to check with each restaurant before you bring your dog in. It is less common for people to go out to eat with their pets in Mexico than it is in the U.S. To find a restaurant that accepts pets, you may have to go to a trendy neighborhood.

Driving to Mexico With Other Pets

In Mexico, only cats and dogs are classified as pets. The information in this guide only applies to cats and dogs. Other types of animals such as reptiles, birds, rodents, amphibians, etc. have different import rules.

Importing and exporting birds and reptiles can be a particularly complex process involving both import and export documents. These animals are highly regulated so people don’t transport endangered species or disease-carrying animals across borders.

If you want to bring your pet reptile, bird, rodent, fish, etc. into Mexico, you’ll have to check the import regulations for that particular animal. The regulations can vary by region so be sure to check the requirements for your specific destination. The best way to learn the requirements is to call your closest Mexican embassy or consulate. In most cases, you’ll at least need a health certificate from a vet.

To import a bird to Mexico, for example, you must obtain a health certificate from a Veterinary Services veterinarian. The health certificate must follow a strict set of guidelines in order to be considered valid. You cannot import any bird food or bedding into Mexico. You must also request a letter from DINESA if you plan to transport your bird through an area where avian influenza has been an issue. Other regulations may also apply.

You’ll also need to check your home country’s rules for exporting and re-importing animals. Some countries are more strict than others. You may have to get a health certificate for the return trip or apply for an import permit. Proof of various vaccines may be required. For rules on returning to the U.S. with a pet, check out this guide from the USDA.

If you’re flying to Mexico, it’s also important to check the airline’s policy for traveling with animals other than cats and dogs. The best way to learn the requirements is to call the airline directly. These rules sometimes aren’t posted online. 

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES is an international agreement between governments, enacted in 1975. Its goal is to ensure that international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora does not threaten the survival of these species. CITES lists more than 35,000 plant and animal species that are protected from over-exploitation through international trade. The United States and Mexico are both parties to CITES, meaning that they have agreed to enact laws and regulations to carry out the provisions of the treaty.

If you plan to bring a pet other than a dog or a cat, you should verify that it is not protected under CITES. Many species of turtles and birds are protected under CITES. If your pet is an endangered species, you will need additional permits to transport it across an international border.

Tijuana, Mexico
Tijuana, Mexico

Final Thoughts

Taking your dog to Mexico is pretty simple these days. As long as your dog is in good health, you don’t need any documentation. A health certificate is no longer required when traveling to Mexico from the U.S. or Canada.

If you’re flying into Mexico, your airline may require a health certificate and rabies vaccine certificate. You’ll also need to secure your pet in an appropriate airline-acceptable carrier or kennel. This makes flying to Mexico with a pet a bit more complicated.

It’s important to note that the rules for traveling with your pet to Mexico and bringing them back to your home country can change at any time and without notice. Airline rules can change as well. The rules also vary from airline to airline. Before your trip, you’ll want to check to make sure you know all of the rules and that you have all of your documents in order.

Some ports of entry are looser with the rules than others. When walking or driving into Mexico, there is a chance that nobody even mentions your dog. You might be able to walk across the border with your dog on a leash. Some ports of entry are much more strict. When flying into Mexico, customs may thoroughly inspect your dog. Customs may confiscate dog food and bedding.

To ensure your trip goes smoothly, it’s best to have all your documents in order. Make sure your pet is in good health before your travel. Also, be sure to clean your pet’s crate and toys before crossing the border.

Have you traveled to Mexico with a dog? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!

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