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How to Bring Your Pet to Mexico

by Kris Broderick

More people are traveling with their family pets than ever before. Although it’s not a difficult process, as of January 1, 2017, it is especially important to make sure your paperwork is in order. The Mexican government is now enforcing some new rules at the border.

The Mexican Agriculture Department (SAGARPA) will not allow you to bring a cat or dog into Mexico without obtaining a valid Health Certificate. In addition to the Rabies and Distemper Vaccination Certification, the vet must also certify that your dog or cat is free from internal and external parasites (worms, fleas, ticks) and has been treated for these within 6 months of the date of travel. The products used must be reflected on the Health Certificate and the Certificate must have been issued within 10 days of export.

The first and most important step is: talk to your veterinarian. They will get the required forms, fill them out and properly date them.  Here are websites you need to share with your veterinarian. You should also read thru the information carefully to avoid any last minute surprises at customs.

From Canada to Mexico

From the U.S. to Mexico

Make sure you have the original and 2-3 copies of any documents. Always keep a separate copy for your files. Please also be aware that if your pet does not look healthy to the customs officer they may not allow entry or they may require quarantine. Your veterinarian will be your best resource for ensuring you can cross the border easily and without delays.

If you are driving…

Be sure to have your papers handy for the customs agents. I have heard that most agents are polite and often don’t even ask for papers. But they can request to see your pet and all the documents and may ask to keep a copy so have extras on hand. There are few stories of border problems but those usually involve bad paperwork not completed by qualified vets so be sure your vet is knowledgeable about customs requirements.

If you are flying…

Call your airline to see what they require for travel, make sure you have a reserved spot for your pet and that the cost is covered. Some breeds may be restricted for safety reasons. There are dogs who have breathing issues because of their facial structure and do not tolerate altitudes well. 

Small animals may usually travel in the cabin with you in an approved carrier that fits under the seat. It can be helpful to bring along a couple of extra puppy pads that fit in the bottom of the carrier. If puppy or kitty does have an accident your neighbors will appreciate that you can quickly change the bedding and dispose of the soiled one in the restroom.

Larger animals will need to travel in an approved carrier in the baggage department. Please note that Cargo and Baggage are different things. Do not send the dog as Cargo. By sending him as Baggage you will be able to keep control of your pet and pick them up where you retrieve your suitcases. As Baggage your pet will also be in a climate controlled area of the plane. When you board the aircraft, you should let the staff know that you have a pet in baggage and to please be sure the climate control is appropriate. They will do this anyway but I like to let them know I am the “mom” and I am concerned. Note that animals are the LAST to be put on the plane and the FIRST ones off… so they should be first on the luggage carousel.

Be sure to ask your veterinarian about food and water restrictions before and during air travel. It is NOT cruel to withhold water or food from them, it is kind – if they have food and water in their system, it can make them very uncomfortable. If you consider that your dog or cat can go 12 hours overnight without food or water, you will see that this is not asking too much. As soon as you land you can get a water bottle and a treat for them. In case they have an accident, it is helpful to take along a wet rag in a plastic bag. But if you follow your vet’s instructions, you and your pet will arrive in good shape.

I check in with the airline desk first to see how long until the animal is going to be boarded and I like to walk them so they can have a last potty break and relax. It’s not a good idea to medicate your pet but some lavender essential oil in their kennel can help them relax. Toys are dangerous during flight but some bedding is a good idea for comfort and if the dog does have an accident the bedding will absorb it.

When you arrive, someone will guide you to the customs area for animals. There will be an official who will review your papers, keep copies and guide you to your connecting flight or exit.

When you get to Huatulco…

Line up a veterinarian – there are two very good ones in La Crucecita. This will be valuable for any medical needs and for the paperwork to return to Canada or the U.S.

While you are here be sure your dog or cat is on flea, tick, heartworm and other parasite preventative including intestinal worms. This is a tropical climate and you will want to keep your furry friends safe from local parasite diseases.

Keep in mind that it is hot and humid here. During your travels and after you arrive be sure they have shade and lots of water. Like us, they have to adjust to the different climate. It usually doesn’t take long but be aware that they are experiencing new food and different water as well as climate changes.

I flew into Mexico with two Basset Hounds – one was 14 and the other was 5. They were large dogs so they were in kennels and went as baggage. The older one had a little rougher time flying over the mountains but after he was on the ground and out of the kennel he was fine in a very short time. The younger girl was totally great. You would not have known she had flown from Wisconsin to Huatulco! 

Finally, make sure you have permission from your landlord or hotel manager… some establishments do not accept pets. We want you and your loved ones to have a safe and wonderful time in Huatulco!

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