Nov 22

What Every Dog Owner Ought to Know About the Canada/U.S. Border Crossing

Montecristo's Voice by in Canada, Good To Know, USA

My 1st ever flight! under three months. No rabies vaccine needed!

Cross border travel between Canada and the USA is relatively painless for the citizens of these countries and their pooches. Especially small “carry on” dogs like me!

Note regarding air travel: I admit right now I have no idea how it works for larger dogs. I write only about what I know. Sorry.

The one thing that makes dog travel scary for a host country is the fear of spreading rabies.  And well – it’s something that Canada and the USA already share.  So the rules are rather straight forward and similar; in two words: rabies vaccine.

I was born in North Carolina, USA.  My bipeds are from Canada.  So I crossed that particular border for the first time when I was just shy of 3 months.

There are rules for puppies that can get a little tricky. Puppies younger than three months old don’t need to be vaccinated against rabies. Proof of age will be needed.  A health certificate or vaccine certificate (obviously, not including rabies for under three month puppies) that is dated and includes the pup’s age should be fine.

These regulations can present a logistical problem. Based on rabies-vaccine label directions, puppies can’t have a rabies vaccination until they are three months old, yet they need to have the vaccine a month before they travel and cross the Canada/USA border.  If you happen to be 3.5 months old … you have a problem.  The only solution is to wait the two weeks out.  In my case, I wasn’t three months yet (just a week under) so I managed to get in without a rabies vaccine.

A visit to my vet for travel paperwork (and dental stuff).

This trip to Florida is easier logistically.  I am now seven months old, and have had my rabies shots for two months already.  I only got the one year shot (versus 3 year), because I am so darn small (2.38 pounds) that the vet worried that a three year dose may be harmful.   My biped keeps the paper with her passport to show at the border.

Though permanent identification is not essential for travel between the U.S. and Canada, it is a good idea. If your dog gets away from you while you’re far from home, you won’t get him back without ID. A microchip is the best form of permanent ID for Canada/U.S. travel.  You should also attach a tag on the harness/collar, with the dogs name as well as your own name and phone number.  I have the ISO Conformant Full Duplex chip.  This is important for when I travel to Europe or Asia since it is the only one they recognize and is required for entry.  But I digress.

What will you need to cross the Canada/U.S. border?

When travelling across the Canada/U.S. border by land, air or sea/lake make sure you have:

  • Proof that your dog was vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
  • American authorities:  A signed, dated certificate showing the vaccine was given at least 30 days prior to entering the U.S.
  • Canadian authorities:  A rabies vaccination is valid from the day it is given. In other words, you can have your dog vaccinated, then cross the border into Canada a few minutes later.
  • Information on the brand of rabies vaccine, the vaccine lot number, and the expiry date of the vaccine must be written on the certificate.
  • The certificate must list you (yes you, the human) as the owner (careful if someone else is travelling with the dog!) and contain a clear, detailed description of the dog, outlining his/her color, breed, gender, age and specific markings.

When flying, you may or may not need an additional airline approved health certificate, depending on your carrier. The required duration of a health certificate’s validity also varies from airline to airline. It’s best to ask whomever you are flying with for their current requirements for documentation.

That fat envelope? My paperwork.

In my case we were flying US Airways – no health Certificate needed.  Crossing the border in Ottawa into the US was really easy (yes we have a US border INSIDE the Ottawa airport – very handy).  The man working there was lovely, chatty and a ham! We had a good laugh and he even gave me a little head rub and wished us a pleasant vacation in sunny Florida.

On the way home, the story was a little different (by this I mean longer).  We had to stand in line with the “something to declare” people (ahmmm that would be me just coming home folks!).  The gentleman was super nice, even waved some administrative fee. Mom is kicking herself because she can’t remember what it was for.  It wasn’t unpleasant but it did add a lot of time and it was a little stressful in terms of making that connecting flight out of Toronto back to Ottawa.  So keep that in mind when you book your flights.

What has your experience been crossing the Canada/USA border?  share in the comments below.

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18 Responses to “What Every Dog Owner Ought to Know About the Canada/U.S. Border Crossing”

  1. From Barb Jackson:

    Monte! I love hearing about your adventures! You travel more than I can ever dream of doing!!! You are so well educated with your travels and I’m glad you take the time to inform the rest of us. I love that you share your adventures with us! Makes my world bigger!!!!

    Posted on June 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm #
    • From Montecristo:

      Thank you Barb for taking the time to comment! I don’t know if I am educated – I am … working on it! I love to travel and I am just really fortunate that I have bipeds that are willing to do the leg work to bring me along. If you could choose just one place to go – your dream place where would it be?

      Posted on June 15, 2011 at 11:28 am #
  2. From Leigh:

    Is a rabies vaccine certificate all you need? They don’t care about parvo or distemper? Just proof of rabies?

    Posted on August 24, 2012 at 3:30 am #
    • From Montecristo:

      Just proof of Rabies and any “puppy” shots a dog should have is useful. Especially kennel cough and so on … All they need is a list from your vet of what vaccines your dog has had.

      Posted on August 24, 2012 at 8:47 pm #
  3. From Jessica:

    Hi there, loved your post, very informative! I have a question. Me & my chi are travelling to Miami next week from Toronto, and I have been researching everywhere about the health certificate. A lot of websites state the certificate should be dated at least 10 days before you travel. I have a health certificate for my girl, signed and dated Nov. 1 2013 for a rabies shot she received in August 2013. I called my vet and they are going to charge me almost $100 to get an updated health certificate. I called the U.S. border patrol and he said the date doesn’t matter, as long as it’s been within the year of the shot. What do you think? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you. :)

    Posted on February 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm #
    • From Montecristo:

      You should be alright. Having said that – we have always been cautious and gotten a new certificate from the vet. but our vet doesn’t charge. It is important to note that legally the document may be considered null and void after a 30 day period. So it will depend on how picky the border guard is. As a rule, the ones on land are more lenient than air. BUT in Toronto you are going to go through US customs IN Toronto. I know them well and they are a good bunch. When the vaccine was given will be more important than when the paperwork was filled out. Now, where you may have issues will be on your return to Canada. Your paperwork i believe is too old for re-entry into Canada.

      Long story short – I would get a new certificate.

      Posted on February 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm #
  4. From Jessica @ YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner:

    Hi Sonja. I wanted to clarify something. You say that “A dog does not need a health certificate when travelling across the Canada/U.S. border by car”. Everything I have read says that you do need one though. Could you help clarify?

    Posted on June 20, 2014 at 2:51 pm #
    • From Montecristo:

      Thank you so very much Jessica for the question! You made me look into it further with CFIA and thus allowed me to keep this now 4 year old post, up-to-date. You reminded me that from time to time I should look at older material and see if new information or changes have occurred and keep things current. So thank you!!

      Posted on June 21, 2014 at 6:29 am #
  5. From Michaela:

    Hi Monte and bipeds,

    According to my last air travel experience outside of the States, which was in August, 2013, one needs a health certificate that is not older than 30 days. And yes the Vets charge a lot of money around here for filling out those travel documents! It’s sad. I wish we had a Vet like you, Monte! :-)


    Michaela, Oliver & Chloe

    Posted on June 21, 2014 at 9:29 am #
    • From Montecristo:

      Even for the US and Canada border? that is basic paperwork they should give you when you get your vaccines in the first place!

      Posted on June 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm #
  6. From Ada Hernandez:

    I am so concerned. I am bring a puppy to Florida from canada. It seems the puppy has to be at least 4months to cross the border due to rabies shot. By this time I am worry he might be too big to carry on board. I want him on board with me, not underneath the plane. Does your pet needs to be four month to come from canada? He he come at eight weeks or 10 weeks??

    Posted on August 5, 2014 at 1:06 am #
    • From Montecristo:

      He can come into Canada. There is no need for rabbies vaccination if under 3 months. But he will need an international health certificate from his vet to prove he is not sick.

      Posted on August 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm #
      • From Ada Hernandez:

        So he can come into canada, but how about U.S ( Florida)?? I was told he needs to be four months with rabies shots. Is this true???I really would like to bring him at 8-10 weeks so he can fit in the cabin.

        Posted on August 9, 2014 at 11:16 pm #
        • From Montecristo:

          Dogs who have never been vaccinated against rabies, must be vaccinated at least 30 days before entering the United States. This requirement does not apply, however, to puppies less than three months of age or to dogs originating or located for at least six months in areas designated by the U.S. as rabies free countries.

          EDIT: As of August 2014 puppies entering the US must be 4 months and have a rabies vaccine. Absolutely ridiculous.

          Posted on August 11, 2014 at 10:26 am #
  7. From cavalier telephone:

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for diploma plus

    Posted on October 19, 2014 at 1:24 am #
  8. From Sharon will:

    My daughter is on a plane right now with a puppy just over 3 months and no rabies shot. What will happen to the dog once they get to Canada? From us

    Posted on October 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm #
    • From Montecristo:

      I am not certain. Laws have changed and she should have confirmed her paperwork before leaving.
      At worst there may be a quarantine.

      Posted on October 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm #


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