Travel between the U.S. and Canada with pets is about to get more complicated. The United States (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently made changes to the import requirements for dogs entering the U.S. These changes will take effect on August 1, 2024 and will impact all dogs entering the U.S. 

But there’s no need to worry! We’re sharing the information you’ll need to ensure that traveling between the U.S. & Canada with your pets goes smoothly.

Travel Between the U.S. & Canada With Pets For Commercial Reasons

Please note that this article is for people traveling between the U.S. and Canada with their pets for personal reasons, like a vacation or to visit friends and family. If your trip is for pet breeding, sale, or adoption purposes, please refer to the rules regarding the commercial transportation of animals.

If you’re planning to travel to or through Ontario with a bully breed, please pay special attention to the “Breed Specific Legislation” section of this post.

Woman and dog on a Canadian mountaintop at sunset
 

Documents People Need To Travel Between The U.S. & Canada By Car

Most U.S. citizens can visit Canada for up to six months, as long as the right paperwork is presented at the border. When entering Canada or the U.S., all travelers must provide acceptable identification and proof of citizenship. A passport is recommended because it proves both citizenship and identification.

These forms of identification may also be acceptable:

  • U.S. Passport Cards
  • Enhanced Driver’s Licenses
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry*, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • Military Identification Cards (for members of the U.S. armed forces on official orders)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document (for U.S. citizens on official maritime business)

Those who meet certain requirements can apply for Trusted Traveler Programs. Acceptance into these programs allows members to use expedited lanes at U.S. airports and when crossing international borders.

People traveling to Canada for work, school, or who are planning to move permanently will likely need a Canadian visa.

 The Canadian and U.S. flags flying side-by-side
 

Traveling With Children

All minors traveling between Canada and the U.S. must present evidence of citizenship, such as a passport or passport card, at the border. Children younger than 16 who are traveling with both parents by land (not flying) can use their government-issued birth certificate as identification.

If you’re traveling with a child for whom you share custody, or you’re not the child’s parent or legal guardian, additional documents will be needed. You can learn more about those requirements on the US Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency websites.

Dog and kids in car on pet friendly vacation to a theme park with kennels

Pet Friendly Hotels In Canada

If you’ll be spending the night in Canada, you’ll also need to find a great pet friendly hotel! Canada has many hotels that welcome pets, and it’s easy to find the perfect accommodations by searching online.

Travel Like a Pro: 8 Questions to Ask When Booking a Pet Friendly Hotel | GoPetFriendly.com
 


Requirements To Enter The U.S. With Cats And Dogs

Cats Traveling From Canada To The United States

All cats must appear healthy, but don’t need proof of rabies vaccination or certificate of health to enter the United States. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.

Keep in mind that some states require cats to be vaccinated for rabies. So it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.

Things are more complicated for dogs.

Cat and dog resting on bed in a pet friendly hotel

Dogs Traveling From Canada To The United States

The CDC issues regulations to control the entry of dogs into the United States from other countries. These rules apply to all dogs, including puppies, service animals, and dogs that left the United States and are returning. They also apply whether you are a U.S. citizen, legal U.S. resident, or foreign national.

If you don’t comply with the CDC’s rules, your dog won’t be allowed to enter the United States. If denied entry, your dog would be sent back to the country of departure — not where the dog was born or where it lives — at your expense.

Jack Russell Terrier dog looks out of the car window. Traveling with a pet.
 

All dogs must:

  • be at least 6 months of age at time of entry
  • appear healthy
  • have an implanted International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-compatible microchip. The microchip must be implanted prior to their required rabies vaccination, so the chip number can be documented on all required forms and accompanying veterinary records.
  • Each dog also needs a CDC Dog Import Form receipt. This form can be completed online, and the receipt is sent to your email. There is no charge to submit it, and the information collected is straight-forward. Keep in mind that all the information, including port of entry where the dog is arriving, must be correct at time of arrival.
  • Lastly, dogs who were vaccinated in the U.S. and are returning home from a trip to Canada need either a Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccine form that was endorsed by USDA before the dog departed the United States, or a USDA endorsed export health certificate.
    • The Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccine form requires that your pet has an implanted microchip prior to being vaccinated for rabies. In addition, if your dog is receiving his first ever rabies vaccination, your vet won’t be able to issue this form for 28 days. For dogs receiving booster vaccines, the form can be issued immediately.
    • For dogs that were recently microchipped, the USDA endorsed export health certificate is the better option. It can be used to provide details of an unexpired rabies vaccination administered in the United States. This form is valid the duration of the rabies vaccination (1 or 3 years).
    • If the export health certificate is used for travel, but no rabies vaccination information is provided, the form is only valid for 30 days and one U.S. entry.

The CDC has also created DogBot, an online tool to help dog owners and veterinary professionals determine which documents are required to import a dog into the U.S. based on their history of vaccination, age, and geographical location prior to travel to the U.S.  

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Small dog being held by a veterinarian
 

Health Certificate For Pets Entering The United States

Like in Canada, if your dog or cat is healthy he might not need need a health certificate to enter the U.S. However, if there could be any question about your pet’s wellness, we recommend getting a health certificate from a veterinarian that states his condition is not contagious.

Taking Pet Food And Treats Into The United States

When driving from Canada to the United States, you can bring up to 50 pounds of pet food purchased in Canada. The food must meet the following requirements:

  • Items must be in unopened retail packaging.
  • Raw (not shelf-stable without refrigeration), dehydrated, freeze-dried, or sun-dried items require labels showing they are products of Canada or the United States.


Requirements To Enter Canada With Dogs And Cats

There is no limit on the number of pets that can travel with you to Canada, as long as they are your personal pets. Before heading to the border with an animal, make sure you understand the Canadian import and travel requirements.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency sets the policies for entering Canada with pets. Their officers inspect and can refuse entry, confiscate, or detain an animal if:

  • it is undeclared, including family pets
  • you do not have the necessary permits/certificates
  • it is suspected of being sick or infected with a pest or disease
  • the animal is transported in a non-humane way and not kept safe from harm and injury

Proof Of Rabies Vaccination

All pets traveling to Canada from the United States must appear healthy and be transported humanely. In addition, if your cat or dog is less than three months old, you must provide proof of your pet’s age upon request. For cats and dogs three months or older, a rabies vaccination certificate must be provided.

The rabies vaccination certificate must meet these requirements:

  • be legibly written in English or French
  • be issued, signed and dated by a licensed veterinarian
  • identify the animal by age (dogs must be at least 3 months old), breed, sex, color/markings, weight, and microchip/tattoo number, if applicable
  • state that the animal is vaccinated against rabies
  • indicate the date of vaccination
  • indicate the trade name and the serial number of the licensed vaccine
  • specify the duration of immunity (otherwise, it will be considered valid for 1 year from the date of vaccination)
Honey the golden retriever looks lovingly at her veterinarian, Dr Armao.
 

Canada does not require a vaccination waiting period. So, pets can travel to Canada immediately after he or she receives the rabies vaccination.

A hard copy of all required original documentation may be requested during the inspection, and the importer must be able to provide such records if asked. So, it is strongly recommended to travel with a physical original copy of all required documentation.

Note: If the pet is traveling with a person other than its owner, other departments or agencies (for example, Canada Border Services Agency) may have additional requirements. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to comply with all requirements.

What if you don’t have a valid rabies certificate?

Arriving at the Canadian border without a proper rabies certificate likely means you’ll be jumping through some additional hoops.

First, you’ll have to have your dog or cat vaccinated for rabies within two weeks of your arrival. Then you’ll have to take the vaccination record to a Canadian Food Inspection Agency office.

In addition to the vaccination cost, you’ll incur administrative fees for each animal. These fees are due when you cross the border.

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Vacation Planning Tips for Dogs Who Get Sick in the Car
 

What if your pet can’t be vaccinated for rabies?

If you are planning to travel between the U.S. & Canada with pets that can’t be vaccinated for rabies for health reasons, you can apply for an exemption to the rabies certificate requirement. Applications, submitted in writing to the National Centre for Permissions, must include a signed letter from your veterinarian stating the medical condition preventing the vaccination of your pet. (It is not sufficient to state that your animal is too old.)

You must also include the results of a Rabies Neutralising Antibody Titre Test showing that your pet meets the minimum titre requirements.

Upon approval, your pet will require an inspection by a CFIA veterinarian when you arrive in Canada.  You’re responsible for making arrangements for the inspection at your port of entry before the animal travels.

 

Health Certificate When Entering Canada

The Canada Border Services Agency inspects all pets traveling to Canada to ensure the animal’s rabies vaccination is current and the animal description matches. The agents also visually inspect the animal to ensure that there are no visible signs of illness or injury.

It is possible for the border agents to refer any animal crossing the border for secondary inspection. But as long as your dog or cat appears healthy, this is unlikely to happen.

Generally, health certificates are not necessary when you travel between the U.S. & Canada with pets. But, if a pet appears to be ill or injured, the border agents can request a health certificate from a veterinarian. Their primary concern is that the pet’s condition is not contagious.

If you’re traveling with a pet with an obvious health condition, we recommend getting a health certificate from their vet prior to your trip. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it could help you avoid a delay border!

Pets flying to Canada must also meet the requirements of the airline on which they’ll be traveling. Most airlines require that all pets have a current health certificate.

READ MORE ⇒  US Airline Pet Policies

Fluffy white dog waiting at the airport with airline cargo pet carrier and luggage in the background
 

Transport Pets Safely

Canada has strong regulations in place to help protect all animals from injury and suffering during transport. To ensure your pets are safe while traveling, follow these suggestions:

Contain your pet – Buckle up animals that could distract the driver in a seat belt harness or secured carrier. In addition, pets should not roam freely in the back of pick-up trucks, and must not be exposed in any way to flying debris.

Watch the weather – Don’t leave animals in parked vehicles for long periods of time, especially in hot or cold weather. If you must leave your pet unattended in a vehicle for a short period of time, ensure it has fresh water and leave windows open a little on either side of the vehicle to create a cross-breeze.

Provide food, water, and rest – On long trips, make sure your pet has food and water and that you make regular stops so it can rest or get out and walk around.

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Black and golden Cocker Spaniel dogs in back of car
 

Taking Pet Food And Treats Into Canada

Visitors who travel from the U.S. to Canada with pets can bring up to 20 kg (44 pounds) of pet food and treats for their personal use. This is the total amount of pet food and treats allowed, regardless of the number of pets traveling with you. In addition, the pet food and treats must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Pet food and treats must be from the United States, commercially packaged, and unopened.
  • All pet food and treats must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry.
  • The animal that will eat the products must accompany the traveler at the time of entry.
  • Any pet food and treats imported into Canada by the traveler must be fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into the country.

For longer trips, or if you’re traveling through Canada to or from Alaska, consider taking a dehydrated pet food with you. We love The Honest Kitchen dog food and it’s great for traveling because a 10 pound box makes 40 pounds of food!

Ty and Buster from GoPetFriendly.com eating dehydrated dog food from The Honest Kitchen
 

No Requirement For Microchips or Tattoos

Canada does not require a microchip or tattoo identification for pet dogs and cats. However, some type of permanent identification can help your pet get home if they get lost.

Requirements To Enter Canada With Other Types Of Pets

Not everyone travels with cats and dogs. Here are the rules for those planning to travel between the U.S. and Canada with less common pets:

Amphibians and Reptiles

Imports of amphibians and reptiles (other than turtles and tortoises) are controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and/or other restrictions under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulations of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, which are administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service. If you plan to bring an amphibian or reptile to Canada, you should contact the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Birds

Birds are considered pets for Canadian import purposes if they are personally owned and cared for, and are a species commonly known as caged birds such as psittacines (birds in the parrot family), song birds, toucans, canaries, finches, cardinals, etc.

To travel with your pet bird to Canada, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Your bird must accompany you or a member of your immediate family.
  • The bird must appear healthy when inspected at the port of entry.
  • You must sign a declaration stating that:
    • the bird was in your possession for the 90 day period preceding the date of importation and wasn’t in contact with any other birds during that time
    • the bird is your personal pet and won’t be sold
  • You or any member of your family must not have imported birds into Canada under the pet bird provision in the past 90 days.

In cases of a disease outbreak, an Export Veterinary Certificate from the United States might be required. Check the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for more information.

Closeup of a peach-faces lovebird sitting on a tree branch
 

Ferrets

Ferrets can cross the border without an import permit if they are less than three months old or have a valid rabies vaccination certificate. The ferret must have received the rabies vaccination in the 12-month period preceding the date of import. 

Rabbits

Pet rabbits from the United States do not require an import permit or health certificate to enter Canada. When you arrive at the border, present your rabbit to Canada Border Services Agency staff for inspection. Also provide proof that the rabbit has lived in the United States for the 60 days prior to entering Canada.

Rodents

Most pet rodents, including chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, and rats can travel to Canada without an import permit or health certificate. Border agents may inspection your pets related to the humane transport of animals regulations.

There are import restrictions for certain (or specific) pet rodents, including prairie dogs, gambian pouch rats, or squirrels from most countries; and all rodents from Africa.

Gray hamster in wood shavings

Turtles and Tortoises

Only zoos and research laboratories are permitted to import turtle and tortoise eggs, and an import permit is required.

 

Breed Specific Legislation In Canada

If your Canadian road trip will take you to or through the Province of Ontario, and you’re planning to take a bully breed dog, please read this information carefully. You’ll need to modify your plans.

Province of Ontario

Ontario has an ugly Breed Specific Law that bans “pitbull-type” dogs from the province. Police and animal control officers can search for and seize any dog deemed to be a “pit bull-type” based on visual inspection.

If the authorities determine the dog is a “pit bull-type,” the dog is euthanized, even if it didn’t break any other law. Here is a summary of the law from Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

There are no exceptions to this law for tourists traveling with their pets. So, if you have a pit bull, please avoid Ontario. And if you have a dog that could be mistaken for a pit bull, carry documents proving your dog’s pedigree when traveling in Ontario.

Throughout the rest of Canada, there are municipalities with breed restrictions and bans. Plan to avoid them. Visit the Justice for Bullies website for a map of locations with breed specific laws.

READ MORE ⇒  Tips for Traveling with Pit Bulls

Cool Whip and Hercules, two pitbulls, sitting on the bed at a pet-friendly hotel
 

Pet Friendly Destinations In Canada

Canada has some gorgeous pet friendly vacation destinations! If your’re planning to travel between the U.S. & Canada with pets, here are a few of our favorites!

The Complete Pet Friendly Guide To Jasper National Park

Woman and her dog hiking at Five Lakes in pet friendly Jasper. View from the back of their heads looking out over a blue lake and mountains.

Dog Friendly Hike at Lake Louise

Ty and Buster at Lake Agnes - Lake Louise, AB

A Pet Friendly Guide To Banff National Park

Smiling dog in a red bandana with snow dappled mountain in the background in Banff National Park, AB

Dog Friendly Road Trip In British Columbia: Vancouver To Kamloops And Back

Cattle dog enjoying the view at Buse Hill Park in Kamloops, BC

Vancouver’s Top 5 Dog Friendly Things To Do

German Shepherd Dog and Shar-pei at Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC
 

Real Life Travel Between The U.S. & Canada With Pets

The new rules give us a few more hurdles to clear, but the requirements to travel between the U.S. and Canada with your pets are still pretty straight forward. That being said, we don’t want you losing any sleep over your travel plans. So, here’s what it’s really like to cross the border with dogs.

Ty's 12th Birthday - Vancouver, BC
 

We hope this summary makes it easier for your to plan your pet friendly trip Canada! For more ideas on places to visit, be sure to check our pet friendly destination guides.

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