Taking pets to Canada

Ask the RV Vet

With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
 YourRVvet@gmail.com

Dear Dr. Deanna–We’re planning a trip to Canada this summer, and are wondering if we need any kind of permits to bring our pets (our dog Sissy and cat Murphy) with us. Thank you.—Grace H.

Hi Grace,

The short answer to your question is “no permits needed.” But, as with all things having to do with government legislation, the better answer is “it all depends.”

First, Canada makes a distinction between personal pets and those pets brought into their country for commercial purposes, i.e., to sell. The following discussion is limited to personal pets.

The requirements for both dogs and cats are that:

• they have a current rabies vaccination
• are personal pets
• are with their owners at the border crossing

For both dogs and cats:

• there is no quarantine period
• a health certificate is NOT required
• a microchip is NOT required

I found the above to be interesting because taking dogs and cats to Hawaii requires all of them!

Service dogs must be accompanied by the person they assist, and they must show service dog certification by a recognized organization (no specifics are given in the rules).

Puppies and kittens less than three months old are not required to have a rabies certificate (because they are too young for the vaccination) but they must show proof of age. However, if your puppy or kitten is over three months old when you return to the U.S., it must be vaccinated in Canada before it will be allowed back into the country. BUT! The U.S. requires that a rabies vaccination is given at least 30 days prior to entering the county.

This could be problematic if you take a puppy or kitten with you into Canada that is younger than 3 months. If you have the puppy/kitten vaccinated in Canada after it turns 3 months old, you cannot bring it back into the U.S. for 30 days after that. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has control over the regulations regarding animal importation into the U.S.

“Under limited circumstances, the CDC may issue an unimmunized dog permit. This permit allows unimmunized dogs into the U.S. when requested in advance and when certain conditions are met.” Seems to me it would be a lot easier to wait until the puppy received its first rabies vaccination at 3 months of age before you leave the country! Here’s the link to the CDC website. 

HEADS UP! You cannot take a pit bull into Ontario; no exceptions are made for tourists, people moving to Ontario or military personnel, even those being transferred there. This law has been in effect since 2005. Under very limited circumstances, pit bulls may be allowed for dog shows and tournaments. CLICK HERE for the full regulations from Ontario.

All rabies certificates must contain the following information:

• name and address of the owner
• breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information of the pet
• date of the rabies vaccination
• vaccine product information (brand, serial #)
• date the vaccination expires
• name, license number, address, and signature of the veterinarian who administered the vaccine

Interestingly enough, cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination to return to the U.S. They are, however, subject to inspection at ports of entry and, if suspected to be ill, the owner will be required to pay for a veterinary examination (the same rule applies to dogs).


I use one of these dog “playpens” when we all need to be out of the RV for a few hours (for service, carpet cleaning, etc.). I really like that it folds up so small I can keep it behind the seat of my truck. There’s a removable mesh top that zippers on and off. The large size (48″ x 48″) easily holds my four little dogs, even with a couple of dog beds inside. There are two smaller sizes, as well. And it’s made of a “tent-like” material that easily wipes clean. Find it on Amazon HERE.


Pet Food

Canada also has regulations regarding taking pet food and treats with you across the northern border. Visitors may bring into Canada a personal import of pet food (limit of 20 kg) if the import meets all of the following requirements:

• The pet food or product must be of United States origin and be commercially packaged.
• The pet food or product must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the U.S.
• The animal that will eat the imported product must accompany the traveler at the time of entry.
• The imported product is fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada.

Pet birds can also be taken into Canada under the following conditions:

• The bird must be with the owner or a member of the immediate family at the border crossing.
• The bird must be healthy and may be inspected at the port of entry.
• The owner must sign a declaration stating he/she has owned the bird for at least 90 days, as well as that the bird is a personal pet.

Because statutes, laws and other regulations can change, please be sure to check with your veterinarian, the CDC and the Canadian government before taking your pet to Canada. You don’t want your trip to the north to end at a border crossing.

Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com 

Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for over 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She travels with a fifth wheel and a 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner. 

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5 Thoughts to “Taking pets to Canada”

  1. Jillie

    We do Canada with pets all the time. You need the rabies vacc papers, we also include brief info on pet history, this includes medical history, also make sure you have a note from the vet if you take pills, like xanax with you for the pet, they will ask if they know its there and any other pertinent information on the pet. This includes the chip numbers squirreled away somewhere like the glove box. Tammy got spooked and the police came and helped us look. We gave them everything we had on her. We found her hidden under a trailer but it scared me. Good luck and keep the leashes close buy. Also keep the dogs in the trailer on hot days. If in a car? The police will go wonkie on you. Trust me I know. Long story on that one. But it was only a stop to go use the restroom.

  2. Dave

    We are on vacation in Alaska & when we crossed into Canada they didn’t even ask about our dog. We had everything they could ask for in quadruplicate. We had done our homework, but with so many different answers we got everything. Even the proper amount of food about 44# US. They (internet) use the here’s my openion approach. We are all enjoying awesomeness of the wilderness.

    1. Dr. Deanna

      Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your input. I went right to the Canadian/US government websites to get my info…and some of it was still a little confusing! Alaska sounds wonderful…don’t need to tell you to have a great trip!

  3. Paul

    Having crossed the border numerous times with our pets, let me make one slight correction – pet food must be of US or Canadian origin and needs to be in its original packaging. Also, pet food brought back into the US cannot contain lamb or goat meat. You can get an “International Health Certificate” from your vet that covers all of the requirements for bringing your pet across the border.

    1. Jillie

      That happened to us too. The border crosser was a jerk. We thought we were going to get stripped search the way he was at it. We brought a small bag of the stuff but nothing said on what type of dog food. Just that we can’t put it into zip lock bags. So yes, small bag into the country, original packaging and if they say anything? Dump it. Not worth the hassle. Good luck.

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