The rules for traveling to Mexico from the U.S. with a dog changed in 2019. If you’re planning to head south of the border with your pup, these tips will help make your trip a success!

Brindle dog sitting on a stairway with colorful tiles and yellow walls in Naco, Senora, Mexico

Whether you’re walking across the border for the day or planning a longer trip to Mexico, there’s no reason to leave your pup behind! The rules for traveling to Mexico with a dog changed in 2019, and it’s now easier than ever to take your furry travel buddy along.

But remember, it’s just as important to get back into the United States as it is to get into Mexico! So be sure you’re prepared for crossing the border in both directions.

Brindle dog in a green harness sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Customs and Immigration building in Naco, AZ

Traveling To Mexico With A Dog

Your experience crossing the border will be very different depending on how and where you travel. More scrutiny and inspections are common at busy crossing like San Diego and El Paso. If you’re flying in, your documents will also be reviewed more thoroughly.

In contrast, if you’re walking across the border, the process could be very casual – especially if you’re visiting a small town. Driving across the border will likely be somewhere in between, with where you choose to cross having the biggest impact.

Brindle dog sitting in front of a sign that reads "Pedestrian To Mexico" with an arrow pointing left

What People Need

Mexico requires all foreign citizens visiting the country to fill out an Official Entry Immigration Form, also called a tourist card, prior to their arrival. Tourist cards are free and you can fill out and print the form at home.

When you arrive at the border, present the immigration officer with your printed tourist card and your passport. Since your information will already be in their system, once your tourist card is stamped, you’ll be off to enjoy Mexico!

If you are walking across the border into Mexico, you might find the immigration officer doesn’t request your tourist card. Still, it’s better to have it prepared – just in case.

Auto Insurance

If you are driving in Mexico, you will also need to purchase Mexican car insurance. Even if your U.S. auto insurance policy covers you in Mexico, it cannot pay damages that you would legally owe to others if you were in an accident. Mexican law is very clear—in order to drive in Mexico, you must at least have Mexican liability coverage, underwritten by a Mexican carrier.

Traveling to Mexico

What Dogs Need

On December 16, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that cats and dogs traveling to Mexico from the U.S. no longer need a health certificate.

The rules now state that travelers with the pet dogs and/or cats must visit the Mexican Animal and Plant Health Inspection Office (OISA), and see the person working with SENASICA upon arriving in Mexico.

If you travel regularly between the U.S. and Mexico with your dog, you can request to register in the “Pet Program – Frequent Traveler.” For further information, refer to the USDA website.

Brindle dog sitting in front of a sculpture spelling Naco in Naco, Senora, Mexico

Pet Inspections When Entering Mexico

SENASICA inspectors aren’t present at every crossing. When we walked into Mexico from Naco, Arizona near Bisbee, there was no pet inspection. Myles simply strolled across the border with us.

READ MORE ⇒ Travel Guide: Pet Friendly Bisbee, Arizona

If there is a SENASICA inspector at your crossing, the rules state that pets must be presented clean cages or carriers. Though, we’ve heard this rules is not always enforced – especially for larger pets. If you cannot easily carry your pet in a carrier, presenting your dog on leash should be fine.

Pet Travel Preparation

The SENASICA agent will perform a physical inspection of your pet to determine the following:

  1. Your pet shows no sign of infectious and contagious diseases,
  2. is free of ectoparasites (ticks), and
  3. has no fresh wounds or wounds in the process of healing.

If ticks are detected, your pet cannot cross the border. You’ll either need to return to the U.S., or the SENASICA agent will send a sample of the tick for diagnostic testing at the official laboratory. Your pet would have to remain at the OISA (Mexican official office) until confirmation is received that the parasites are not exotic/foreign to Mexico. 

What If Your Pet Has Health Issues?

If your pet is being treated for lesions and/or infections due to a skin condition, present the SENASICA agent with the diagnosis and treatment instructions from your veterinarian. This information should be presented on letterhead, including the veterinarian’s professional registration number (or equivalent).

Can You Bring Pet Food Into Mexico?

When traveling to Mexico with a dog, the rules state you can only bring enough food to feed your pet that day. If you’re staying longer than a day, you could purchase pet food in Mexico. Or, consider shipping your dog’s food to your destination so it’s there when you arrive. Otherwise, you might be sharing your meals!

Dog Friendly Restaurants in Chicago

Something To Consider Before Traveling To Mexico With a Dog

In Mexico, we’ve found people to be very friendly toward Myles. Shopkeepers are generally less fussy about letting animals in stores, so traveling with a dog is pretty easy.

However, in Mexico and other Latin countries, you will often see dogs running loose in the streets. Generally, these dogs keep their distance. But if you have a reactive dog, this can be a stressful experience. 

READ MORE ⇒   Tips For Traveling With A Reactive Dog

Nogales Mexico Market

Returning To The United States

When you return to the United States from Mexico, U.S. citizens need to show a valid passport. If you are traveling by foot or car, you can provide a U.S. Passport card. This is a less expensive alternative to a full passport. But it only works for land and sea travel from Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.

Your dog needs less documentation to return to the U.S. than you! The CDC does not include Mexico among the list of countries considered high-risk for rabies.

So proof of vaccination is not required for dogs coming to the U.S. from Mexico, as long as your dog has not traveled to a high-risk country in the past six months. You’ll just need to provide a written or verbal statement your dog has only been in a country NOT at high risk for rabies for at least 6 months or since birth for puppies less than 6 months of age. And there is no limit to the number of dogs you can bring, as long as they are your personal pets.

Traveling with Your Dog to Mexico |

Have you taken your dog to Mexico? How was your experience?

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  • I’m flying with my dog as carry on. Taking two different airlines. Both airlines United and American require heath certificate and vaccination certificate to Mexico and returning to California. The carrier that goes under the seat for United is 17” long, 11” wide. 10.5”high for soft carrier. American Airlines lines is 18” long, 11”wide, 11”high. Different size requirements for hard carrier. Both airlines charge a Fee of $125.00. United allows the pet carrier and one personal carrier on bag. AA said the pet carrier is the only carry on allowed. I bought one of the cross bags that that I can keep my personal items in. My dog carrier converts to a backpack and standard carrier.

    • Hi Lori! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I hope you have a fantastic trip – safe travels!

    • Hi thanks for sharing your experinec. Could you please share you carrier ? I have a medium size dog 22-25 lbs

  • Category: Travel Resources / Tagged with: International Pet Travel