What You Must Know Before Driving Across the Mexican Border With Your Dog

If you are planning a road trip to Mexico, you may be wondering – Can I take my dog to Mexico by car? What documentation will I need to drive across the border?

I love Mexico and have visited several times myself.

While I have considered taking my Dachshunds Summit and Gretel to Mexico, I have always flown, and they stayed home in the US.

But I do know people that have driven across the border both with and without their dog.  

IMPORTANT: New requirements for dogs to enter the US from Mexico will go into effect August 1, 2024. Until then, information in this article is accurate. If you want to prepare yourself for the upcoming changes, please READ THIS.

Photo Credit: Depositphoto/antmos

While I haven’t taken this trip myself, someday I do hope to take a road trip to Mexico with my dogs so I decided to do some research so I’m prepared.

So you don’t have to comb through all of the rules and regulations yourself, I thought I would share what I found with you here.

Can I Take My Dog to Mexico By Car?

Yes! Mexico does allow US travelers to cross with their pets (cats and dogs) as long as they are healthy. 

If you do have a dog living with a long-term medical condition, you may still be able to cross with proper documentation, depending on their diagnosis.  

You are allowed to cross with up to 2 dogs per person. This means that a couple traveling could cross with up to 4 pets in total.

Note: These rules apply to companion dogs, not dogs that are being imported for sale in Mexico.

What Paperwork is Required to Travel Across the US-Mexican Border with Your Dog?

Americans crossing the border do not need to provide a Dog Health Certificate for Mexico. 

However, your dog may be inspected by an official from SENASICA (the Mexican National Service for Agrifood Health, Safety, and Quality) before you are allowed to cross.

At this time, you may be asked to provide an up-to-date rabies certificate so make sure to have one on hand when crossing.

During this inspection, they will be looking to confirm that your pet:

1.      Has no sign of infectious or contagious disease

2.      Is free from parasites (like ticks)

3.      Has no fresh wounds or open wounds still in the process of healing

I suggest checking your dog over carefully at home before heading to the border. 

If the inspector finds any parasites, wounds, skin lesions, or other areas of concern, your dog may be held at the border while you contact a local veterinarian to come and treat them.

Dogs with Pre-Existing Injuries and Health Conditions

If you have a dog with wounds, infections, lesions, or pre-existing health conditions that will be identified during the inspection, you may still be able to cross the border. 

But you will need to provide a letter from your veterinarian on letterhead with the diagnosis and treatment instructions.

The documentation will need to clearly state your veterinarian’s professional registration number.

Border officials are focused on keeping any illness that could be transmitted out of Mexico. 

So, documentation from your veterinarian addressing these concerns, while not required, can also help. 

Especially if it’s a less common medical condition that they may not be familiar with.

Regular Travelers Can Apply for the “Pet Program – Frequent Traveler”

If you live near the border and plan on traveling back and forth over the border frequently, you can register in the “Pet Program – Frequent Traveler”

This is a free program that will allow you to speed up the process when crossing the border.

The application will require you to submit the following documentation, less than 6 months old:

  • A valid health certificate from a professionally licensed veterinarian
  • Proof of current rabies vaccination
  • Proof of treatment against ectoparasites (parasites that live on the external surface of hosts) and endoparasites (parasites that live inside of them)

The Pet Passport will be valid for 6 months at which time you can submit your documentation to have it renewed once again.

Are the Rules the Same if I’m Traveling with a Puppy?

Since puppies less than three months old are too young to have been properly vaccinated, there is no vaccination requirement. 

But you may need to prove your puppy’s age if asked for proof of rabies vaccination.

The rules of crossing the Mexicvan border with a puppy are different than for an adult dog.

An easy way to confirm your puppy’s age and avoid any complications during travel is to bring a valid health certificate from a licensed veterinarian with you.

Yes, I previously said one wasn’t required to bring your dog into Mexico but I was referring to adult dogs then.

Traveling to Mexico from the US with a Service Dog

Service dogs may still be inspected by a SENASICA official to ensure that they are healthy and free of diseases and parasites at the border crossing of your choice. 

During this inspection, the official may ask for a copy of an up-to-date rabies vaccination certificate.

Unlike in the US where the Americans with Disabilities Act protects service dog owners from having to provide certification, resorts and businesses in Mexico may require proper documentation from a recognized service dog organization.

Some areas of Mexico do not recognize the concept of service dogs as they are seen in the US. 

Be prepared for the fact that there could be some confusion or limitations on where you can go with your dog when you are there.

Dog Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Returning to the US

The good news is that Mexico is not considered to be a “high risk” rabies country by the Centers for Disease Control, which means that the federal government will not restrict the entry of a healthy, vaccinated dog. 

You will need to confirm at the border that your dog has not been in a country that is considered high risk for rabies in the 6 months before crossing.

Your state may have its own requirements. 

For example, the state of California requires that all dogs over the age of 4 months old have proof of current rabies vaccination. 

Meanwhile, Michigan has no specific rules regarding international entry for dogs. 

Be sure to check your state requirements before crossing.

Dogs crossing into the US that have been to a high-risk country are required to have proof that they received a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before arriving at the border. 

If your dog’s most recent vaccination was a booster, this waiting period is waived.

Can You Transport Dog Food and Treats Across the Border?

If you are planning a dog-friendly vacation in Mexico with your dog, you are likely searching for the answer to some important questions related to the supplies that your dog needs. 

The most popular question that I hear is “Can you bring dog food into Mexico?”

The quick answer is yes, you can bring dog food with you. 

But there are rules about how much food can cross (and it’s not a lot).   

Bringing Dog Food and Treats into Mexico from the US

When crossing the Mexican border with a dog, you are allowed to travel with enough food for a single day. 

Of course, this means that you will need to find your dog’s food after you have crossed so that you can purchase enough for the rest of your trip.

Many of the kibble diets available in the US are also available in Mexico.

If you plan ahead, you may also be able to purchase your dog’s food online and have it delivered to your hotel or a P.O. box so that you can pick it up after you have crossed. 

But, be prepared for the fact that dog food costs in Mexico are often much higher.

Bringing Dog Food and Treats into the US from Mexico

Much like crossing the border from Canada into the US with your dog, if you cross the border into the US with dog food, it will need to be unopened and in its original packaging. 

The package needs to clearly display a list of ingredients and where the food was produced.

There are some restrictions in terms of ingredients. 

For example, products containing sheep, goats, and lamb are prohibited. 

Any food must also be “shelf-stable” when crossing, meaning that it doesn’t require refrigeration. 

This means that raw pet foods are not permitted without receiving an import permit.

You are restricted to a total of 50lbs of pet food per vehicle when crossing a land border.

Any foods that are dehydrated, freeze-dried, or sun-dried must have a label clearly showing that they are a product of Canada or the US to be allowed in the country.

Traveling to Mexico with a Reactive Dog

One thing that you may want to consider when bringing your dog to Mexico is the large number of stray dogs that you will often see in the area. 

While these dogs will usually keep their distance, they may cause a lot of anxiety for a reactive dog.

If your dog is reactive to others, even if they aren’t actively moving into his personal bubble, Mexico may not be the best vacation destination to choose.

Final Thoughts

The easy answer to the question “Can I take my dog to Mexico by car?” is YES! But, you will need to be sure that you have any required documentation before crossing. 

There are many beautiful and interesting areas of Mexico to explore, and who doesn’t love traveling with their dog?

Plan a veterinary visit before heading out to make sure that your dog is safe for travel. 

Pack only the allowed one day of food and plan to get more after you have crossed safely. 

Try to be calm when speaking with the officials at the border and answer their questions honestly. They are trained to spot travelers that are nervous or hiding the truth.

While crossing the Mexican border with a dog can be an anxiety-producing experience for some, a little preparation can make the whole process easier.

While driving across the Mexican border with a dog can be an anxiety-producing experience for some, a little preparation can make the whole process easier.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


    1. I’m not sure what you are asking. That is what my article is about, so yes. If you clarify your question, I will be better able to help.

        1. Hi Sarah. I’m not positive because I didn’t research cats specifically. As far as I know, crossing on foot or car has the same requirements for pets, which generally include both cats and dogs. I’m sorry I can’t give you a verified answer though.

    1. If you are walking, I imagine that they do. This article is about driving across the border though and they do not have to be leashed inside your vehicle.

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