Taking your Dog to Mexico: Health Certificate and Vaccination Requirements

by Renee on August 27, 2012

One of the reasons we chose Mexico for our current, post-European adventure was because getting there is easy.

Flying Archie from Canada to the Netherlands and then back again was incredibly stressful. Between the vaccinations, regulations, health certificates, flight arrangements, and safety fears, there was a lot to arrange and then worry about. (FYI if you want to know how to fly your dog to Europe without stressing out, my new ebook tells you how.)

We’d briefly considered heading to SE Asia next, but after considering the paperwork, expense, and logistical headaches of flying a terrier from Vancouver to Bangkok, I’m sure it’s no surprise that an easy drive south of the border quickly won out.

If you’re thinking about driving to Mexico with your dog, here’s what you will have to do.

HOW TO DRIVE YOUR DOG TO MEXICO

First go to the USDA Plant & Animal Health Inspection Service website. Scroll down to the “Dogs & Cats” section, and click to download a PDF with current rules for driving your dog across the Mexican border.

Briefly, here’s what you’ll need.

1. An APHIS Form 7001 health certificate issued and signed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian within 10 days prior to export.

The certificate must include:

  • the importer/exporter (that’s you, the owner) name and address.  Also a destination address. If you haven’t made housing arrangements yet, just use a hotel address. No worries.
  • confirmation that the animal has been immunized for rabies (date and expiration of vaccination). Animals under three months are exempt of this requirement.
  • confirmation that a physical check-up showed no signs of disease.

Time/Money Saving Tip: If you get the health certificate done in the border zone (California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas), it won’t have to be signed by a government vet (which may require a pricey Fedex and takes valuable time). A licensed vet in the border zone only needs to use his/her letterhead and write his/her license number in the certificate. If you’re traveling from somewhere else and seeing the vet for the first time, remember to bring copies of your dog’s vaccination records.

2. Proof of vaccines against rabies and distemper, administered at least 15 days before the arrival of the pet in Mexico.

There. That’s all there is to it.

Archie was due for a distemper booster anyway, so I had that done in Vancouver before we left.

Because we took our time getting to the border, we couldn’t have our certificate done in Vancouver. It would have expired before we reached to Mexico. Instead, we got the health certificate in Phoenix, just before we crossed.

I’m so glad we did, because we lucked out and found an absolutely marvelous vet. (Dr. Foster of the Banfield Pet Hospital inside of Petsmart (yes, Petsmart!) — Metrotown/31st Ave. Click that link for their contact info AND a coupon for a free first-time visit, a savings of $50.)  Archie is terrified of vets. He’s sensitive and feisty, so he gets scared and snappy. But Dr. Foster had a wonderful bedside manner, unlike anything I’ve seen before. She didn’t rush Archie through the appointment. Instead she gave him time to smell the equipment, she spoke kindly to him, and she let me hold him (and feed him sausages) during the exam. She even taught me a special dog hold that prevented squirming and biting. Everything went smoothly. It makes me realize how impatient Archie’s Vancouver vet was!

If course when we crossed the Mexican border the next day, the border agents didn’t give a hoot about Archie or his paperwork. Since then I’ve spoken with dozens of people who’ve driven their dogs to Mexico, and no one else has been asked for paperwork either. So get it done, but don’t worry about it, because chances are no one is even going to look at it.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kirk August 28, 2012 at 11:52 pm

We’re gonna miss you guys. But next time will be in Mexico!

Best,

Kirk, Michelle and Zoe

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2 Kellen September 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I have two dogs, and I’ve often wondered if they will be an issue in my future world-travel plans. Here’s my question about driving the dog to Mexico though – what are the restrictions for bringing the dog BACK into the U.S.?
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3 Jen November 29, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Thanks again for having this…the best mexico dog info on the web! Seriously.
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4 mary December 10, 2012 at 7:41 am

I’m travelling from Phoenix to Melaque, via Lukeville, on 1/8 with my trusty golden-doodle in my toyota highlander. Pet-friendly accommodations were challenging last year – I’d appreciate any tips from fellow dog lovers! Thanks

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5 Renee December 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Hi, Mary. I don’t know if your route is the same as ours, but here’s where we stayed:

1. (Night before crossing) Ajo, AZ…Marine Motel (http://www.marinemotel.com/) They fill up, so a reservation is a good idea.

2. Hermasillo…Hotel San Martin (http://hotelsanmartin.net/). Very nice place, dog no problem (I didn’t mention him, but they saw him.) & a convenient buffet. We reserved a head of time but they’re fairly large.

3. Los Mochis…The Best Western in town doesn’t take dogs so we stayed at one of those adult motels outside of town. Weird, but safe and inexpensive.

4. Mazatlan…Bungalows Mar-Sol (http://www.booking.com/hotel/mx/bungalows-mar-sol.en.html) Friendly owner, no problem with the dog. We arrived late in the afternoon but lucked out with a room. While we were there, a seasonal visitor told us the place is full of long-stay regulars over the winter, so I’d call ahead and reserve if possible.

The next day we reached Guad.

Hope this helps!

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6 Liz King January 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm

We will be taking our 2 geriatric female black labs on a 2 month road trip Feb-April 2013. We plan on border crossing in AZ and understand the Health Cert/Vaccination issues, but are wondering about animal crates. Several web sites indicate they are necessary, but I am thinking that is for airline arrival, not by car. Any thoughts on this? Also, any rules on taking dry and canned food (old dogs, special needs food) into Mexico?

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7 Renee January 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi, Liz. Thanks for stopping by.

You’re right, driving is so much looser than flying. You don’t need a crate. In fact I’m in touch with a lot of people who cross with dogs, and only rarely are people even asked for paperwork. When we crossed, we got the red light at customs and they just waved us through without even stopping us! I’m not saying that will be your experience, but still. It’s loose. So skipping the crates is a good call, IMO.

As for food, as long as the bag/can is sealed, it’s not a problem. Theoretically they could confiscate extra bags, but this is SO unlikely. We bought a few big bags of Orijen (sealed), no problem. I did hear of one lady getting hassled and her food confiscated, but she had a bunch of meat for her dog’s raw-food diet.

Renee

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8 Jennifer March 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

My family and I are driving to Mexico for a couple weeks in July and we are taking my golden retriever, and tips?

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9 Renee March 31, 2013 at 9:53 am

Hi, Jennifer.

My main tip is to research dog-friendly hotels in advance. They’re much harder to find in Mexico than in the US or Canada. You’ll have better luck at the mom-and-pop hotels rather than the chains. And if you get stuck, the garage-door motels are always an option.

Where are you heading?

Cheers,
Renee

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10 RiCo April 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm

My wife and I drove from Vancouver to Panama last year with our two small pet dogs. We compiled a huge binder of all the essential documentation for border crossings, was never really an issue at the borders and most officials would not ask for it. The only time was crossing back through Belize and the dogs were spotted by an Agricultural official. We showed him the binders with all the requirements that were possible for them to travel. He told us that the binder was impressive and complete however we did not posses his required form so we had to peel off a couple of hundreds to have them obtain entry. He also picked the freshest looking fruits and vegetables from our camper and placed them in his small fridge in his office and bid adieu. It was difficult walking the dogs with us in most towns throughout Latin America gnarly pit bull guard dogs are everywhere and is quite unnerving .

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11 Renee April 16, 2013 at 8:31 am

Oh man, the guy pinched your best fruit? That sucks, though I’m not surprised. The dogs in Mexico have been okay for the most part, though they are all loud and barky. When we walk Archie, we have to pass these three rotties behind an old metal gate. When the rotties see Archie, they explode—lunging, snarling and trying to bust through the gate. I’m terrified that one day that gate will come down (it’s barely holding on), and if those dogs get out, Archie is dead. It’s definitely hard to travel with a dog in countries with large street-dog (or guard-dog) populations. I guess things won’t improve if we head further south. Honestly, I love Mexico, but as a dog owner, I really miss Europe. It’s dog heaven.

Thanks for commenting, Rico. Glad to have you here!

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12 Marilyn September 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

Just found your blog with all kinds of good info. We are travelling Oct 15 from Thunder Bay to La Cruz, Nayarit for the winter. For the first time we are driving instead of flying and bringing our dog. We have some of our papers from our local vet but I’m thinking we’ll still need more from a vet nearer the border closer to the time we leave? I’ve taken note of the motels etc I’ve read about here that are dog friendly..any other hints would be appreciated…Thanks so much!!Marilyn

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13 patty November 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

im taking my 1 year old lab to cancun mexico and she doesnt have papers. do i still need them to fly to cancun?

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14 Sally Dinny March 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I have crossed the border three times recently with my two lab-mix dogs….traveling from Phoenix to Puerto Penasco, MX (Rocky Point)…..border crossing is Lukeville. Every time I go, my car is pulled into the “red light” lane. They take the dogs’ vaccination records and my passport to make copies. They also photograph my license plate. Then they have the dogs get out of the car and actually photograph them. I can’t figure out why. Any thoughts? They are always really nice, but it is such a process…and Puerto Penasco is only an hour over the border. With all the stray dogs running around in Mexico, I’m not sure why they’re so worried. Would love to know if anyone has the answer. Thanks!

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15 Renee March 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Wow, interesting. I have no idea what that’s about. Do the dogs resemble any typical banned breeds…pit bulls, etc? We’ve crossed twice at Lukeville and gotten the red each time, but one has cared about Archie or asked about his paperwork.

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16 Sally Dinny March 7, 2014 at 9:35 am

Didn’t know about the banned breeds. One is a lab -Rottweiler mix and one is a lab-pit bull mix….that might be the issue. At any rate, they’ve made it through each time. Archie looks much easier to get along with! Thanks for your thoughts.

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17 Renee March 7, 2014 at 11:36 am

Sure thing, Sally. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. The breed issue is all I can think of.

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18 Vivien June 5, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Hi Renee,
We are planning to spend this winter in Lake Chapala and travel with our two wheaten terriers. A friend suggested crossing the border at Columbia north of Laredo. We hoped to stay the first night in Mexico in Saltillo. Do you have any hints for hotels that would take dogs in that area? Our dogs also eat Orijin. Were you able to find it in Mexico or did you find an alternative?

Many thanks,
Vivien

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19 Renee June 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Hi, Vivien. In Saltillo we always stay at the American Business Hotel. It’s about 700 pesos/night and they take dogs. The place has been undergoing renovations forever, and the last two times we’ve stayed they’ve been almost empty. But it’s comfortable, secure, and guarded. If you stay there, note that the restaurant might not be open (it’s not great anyway) and even the ice machines might not be working, so stop beforehand for food and to buy ice if you need it. Also note that the sign says “AB” and is half hidden behind a tree, so it can be hard to spot. Map the hotel beforehand.

It’s difficult to find premium dog food here. Some vets have Royal Canin (for twice the price as in the US), but I haven’t seen Orijen. You’ll want to bring your own.

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20 Vivien June 13, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Hello Renee,

My husband is in Lake Chapala checking out pet friendly rentals. Several people have told him to expect to pay approximately $700 in tolls to drive to our destination. Do you have any information about tolls?

Many thanks,

Vivien

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21 Renee June 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Hi, Vivien. No, it’s not that high, at least for a car. I’d guess more like $200 to $300. If you’re in an RV though, $700 could be right. Are you in the “On the Road in Mexico” facebook group? If not, you might want to join and ask about tolls there. Or search the group, because it’s been discussed before. I’m an admin, it’s a good group. :-)

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22 Vivien June 15, 2014 at 6:58 am

Thanks Renee,
How do you join their facebook page? I can find their site but not a spot to join.

Thanks again,

Vivien

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23 Renee June 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm

There should be a “join group” button on the top right, just under the photo.

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