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Ask Dr. Jenn: What Are the Rabies Vaccine Travel Requirements for Dogs?

The CDC has new rules about returning to the US when traveling with your dog. They now require more than just a hand-signed rabies certificate.

July 3, 2024 4 min read
Ask Dr. Jenn: What Are the Rabies Vaccine Travel Requirements for Dogs?

I grew up in North Dakota, in a city about an hour from the Canadian border. My mom hailed from Canada, and we often visited our grandparents at their lake home in Manitoba. The lake trips were always so much more fun when we brought our dog. “Fritz the Surfin’ Dog” stood on a Styrofoam board while we swam around and gave him a ride on the waves. My hound dog Annie learned to swim in the lake. Sebastian embarrassed us all when he marked his territory by peeing on our lake neighbor’s beach chair. 

Taking our dogs back and forth across the border was easy – all we needed was an up-to-date Rabies certificate, signed in blue pen by our veterinarian. We traveled back and forth so many times in the summer that we always asked for two rabies certificates – one to keep in the car and another to keep in the dog file at home.

However, beginning August 1st, 2024, taking your canine companion across the border will require a lot more planning and preparation. I don’t think the rules have changed when entering Canada (please check requirements for all countries you plan to visit with your dog before you travel), but returning to the US with your dog will require more than just a hand-signed rabies certificate.

Vaccine Travel Regulations for Your Dog

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have changed the requirements in an effort to prevent Dog Rabies from being re-introduced in the United States. According to the CDC, dog rabies was eliminated from the US in 2007 and they would like to keep it that way.

The requirements vary depending on which country your dog was in and what border you are crossing over. Countries are considered either high-risk or low-risk. Requirements also depend on if your dog received their rabies vaccine in the United States, in a low-risk country, or in a high-risk country. 

  • All dogs traveling to the United States are required to be at least six months of age.
  • They must be healthy and are required to have an ISO-compatible microchip implanted for identification.
  • The microchip must be implanted before they receive their rabies vaccine in order for the rabies vaccine to be considered valid.
  • Dog owners must fill out an online CDC Dog Import form within 10 days of traveling to the US. The import form requires photos of your dog’s face and body.

Dog Vaccine Travel Requirements by Country

United States

If your dog was vaccinated in the United States and you plan to travel, the Rabies vaccine must be administered by a USDA-accredited veterinarian and your dog must have a microchip at the time of the vaccine. Your veterinarian then will submit a form online. Once validated, you will receive a Certification of US-issued Rabies Vaccination form.

Canada and Mexico

If your dog was vaccinated in a low-risk country, such as Canada or Mexico, you will need a special certification form and either six months of veterinary records or a Rabies titer test result.

Other High-Risk Countries

If your dog was vaccinated in a high-risk country, you need all of the above plus a valid rabies titer. You must enter the US through a port of entry that has a CDC-registered animal care facility.

 These new rules and regulations may seem a bit overwhelming. To help with this, the CDC has created a “Dog Bot” on their website that will help you determine if your travel is to a high-risk or low-risk country and what documentation is required. You can find the Dog Bot at www.cdc.gov/dogtravel.

Start Planning Early

I remember one trip during my childhood, my parents hadn’t noticed that our dog’s rabies vaccine was a week overdue, and they were told our dog could not cross the border. They turned around and drove to a local veterinarian a few miles from the border crossing to get an up-to-date rabies vaccine and certificate.  With the new regulations, you can’t be this lackadaisical about traveling with your dog. Start planning at least two weeks to a month before you travel outside the US. Even if you aren’t sure if you will take your dog across the border, but maybe you will, have your dog microchipped and request the “Certification of US-issued Rabies Vaccination Form”. It’s better to be prepared.

Good news for all the cat parents out there – as of right now, there are no requirements for bringing a cat into the United States.

Safe travels, everyone!

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