Crossing the Border with Your Dog: What You Need to Know

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7 Minute Read
Updated June 21, 2024

Planning a summer vacation and wondering, "Can I bring my dog across the border?" The answer is yes your furry friend can accompany you!

Whether you're travelling by car or plane, bringing a dog into the U.S. from Canada does require some preparations. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you understand the US border crossing requirements for pets.

Our goal is to ensure that you can enjoy a smooth, worry-free trip to the United States with your furry friend by your side.

 

Requirements for Bringing a Dog into the U.S. from Canada by Car

Wondering, “What documents do I need to bring my dog into the USA?”

When crossing the border with your dog, you’ll need to have all of the necessary documents and ensure that you meet specific requirements. Luckily a dog passport Canada issued is not required for canines entering the United States.

Here are the key things that you’ll need when crossing the border with dogs:

1. Rabies Vaccination Certificate:

Your dog must have a valid rabies vaccination certificate. The vaccination must be administered at least 30 days before entering the U.S. Puppies under three months old are generally exempt from this requirement.

The certificate must include the date of vaccination, the vaccine product information, and the vet's signature.

2. Health Certificate:

Although not always mandatory, it's a good idea to have a health certificate from your vet with you when you cross the border. The health certificate verifies that your dog is in good health and free from any contagious diseases that could be a concern at the border crossing.

3. Identification Tags:

Ensure your dog wears a collar with identification tags, including your contact information. Microchipping is also recommended for added security. A collar and ID tag can be damaged or lost, but a microchip is forever.

 

Can Dogs Cross the US-Canada Border by Plane?

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Wondering, can dogs cross the US Canada border by air? Yes, dogs can cross the US-Canada border by plane. However, airlines have their own set of requirements and restrictions that you’ll need to follow. Ideally, you’ll want to check on the airline’s requirements before booking the fight for you and your four-legged companion.

Here's what you need to know:

1. Airline Requirements:

    • Check with your airline for specific pet travel policies. Some airlines allow small dogs in the cabin when confined to a small airline-approved pet carrier that fits under the seat, while larger dogs may need to travel in the pressurized cargo hold.
    • Some airlines require a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel or proof of vaccination when crossing the border.
    • Don't just check the rules for your flight out of the country. You'll be dealing with a completely different airline for your return flight and their rules may be different. 

2. Carrier Guidelines:

    • Ensure your dog's carrier meets the airline's size and ventilation requirements. The carrier should be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Most carriers will be marked as airline-approved but always check with the airline to ensure that the one you have meets the requirements.
    • If your small dog is travelling in the cabin, the carrier needs to fit comfortably under the seat. This means that every airline will have slightly different rules because the seats may have different dimensions.

3. Booking in Advance:

    • Book your dog's spot in advance, as airlines have limited space for pets. It's best to let the airline know when you book your ticket.
    • If you are booking last-minute flights, confirm there is space for your pet before completing your purchase. 
    • Even if you follow all the rules and have all the right equipment, if you wait too long to let the airline know you are travelling with a pet, they can deny you boarding with your pet.

 

Check out Flying with Dogs: Tips for Vacationing Safely with Pets to find out more about safe airline travel with dogs, including what supplies you'll need, what to expect on the flight and in the airport, and get a better understanding of how dogs experience flying.

 

Bringing Pet Supplies Across the Border

When travelling with your dog, you’ll need to bring along pet supplies so that Fido has all the comforts of home. However, there are restrictions you should be aware of about what you can and cannot bring into the United States when crossing the border. 

Food and Treats:

You can bring pet food from Canada into the U.S., but it must be unopened, commercially packaged, and made in the U.S. or Canada. Homemade pet food is typically not allowed, neither is food that has been transferred to another storage container.

This means that you should not plan on bringing that same bag or container of dog food back with you. You are allowed a maximum of 50 lbs if travelling by car, and only 20 lbs if travelling by air. 

When travelling from the U.S. into Canada, you can bring commercial pet food and treats, but they must be in original packaging, and the amount should not exceed 20 kg (total, not each).

No matter which direction you are crossing the border, stick to unopened, shelf-stable, and North American-made pet food to make your experience crossing the border simple and stress-free.

Medications:

You are allowed to cross the border with prescription drugs and medications for your pet if they are necessary. Carry a copy of your dog's prescription and ensure that all medications are clearly labelled in their original pill bottles. It’s advisable to bring only the amount of medication needed for the trip to avoid any issues at the border.

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Tips for a Smooth Border Crossing with Your Dog

If you know what to expect, crossing the border with pets isn't hard. If you keep the following tips in mind, the process will be quick and painless:

    • Prepare in Advance: Gather all required documents well before your trip. Double-check the expiration dates on vaccinations and health certificates. Ensure all of the phone numbers and addresses on the paperwork are current. 
    • Stay Updated: Border regulations can change, so check the latest requirements on official government websites before you travel.
    • Keep Your Dog Comfortable: Bring familiar items like a favourite blanket or toy to help reduce your dog's stress during travel. Ensure they have access to water and make frequent stops if travelling by car.
    • Plan for Potty Breaks: Identify pet-friendly rest areas along the way if you're travelling by car. If flying, check the airport's pet relief areas. Always hook your dog to a leash and never let Fido run loose during a potty break. 
    • Check Re-Entry Requirements: Ensure you understand the requirements for bringing your dog back into Canada after your trip to the U.S. Generally, the same documents needed for entry into the U.S. will be required for re-entry into Canada.

With or without your pet, be prepared to answer some questions so that the border guards or TSA agents can determine it's safe and legal for your pet to enter, or re-enter the country.

If travelling by car, you will need to roll down your window so that your dog can be seen. It's best to make sure your dog is properly secured so that they don't make a break for it or react fearfully to a stranger walking up to the window.

Bringing a dog to the U.S. from Canada by car or plane for a summer vacation can be a hassle-free experience if you're well-prepared. Familiarize yourself with the US border crossing requirements for pets before your departure. Take the time to go over all of your necessary documents and have them on hand and ready to present to the border agent. Also, don’t forget to pack pet supplies.

The goal when crossing the border with your dog is to ensure it's a smooth and enjoyable trip for both you and your furry friend. Safe travels and happy vacationing!

 

Crossing the Border with Dogs FAQs

Do animals have to go through customs?

Yes. When travelling through any border crossing with your pet, you will need to declare your pet and any potentially regulated pet items, like food or medications.

Does my dog need a passport to go into the USA?

No pet passports are needed for travelling into the US with dogs for the purpose of leisure. Just make sure your pet has the appropriate vaccination records on hand.

How much does it cost to bring a dog from the USA to Canada or vice versa?

Crossing the Canada/US border with dogs does not cost anything. There are no import fees associated with travelling with personal pets.

Written by

Homes Alive Pets

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