Traveling With a Dog in The Car – Yay, Road Trip!

Important Update:  November 3, 2019

There are now new rules for importing pets into Mexico.  You can click on this link to find out all the updates.

Please remember that these new rules are just for importing your dog/cat into Mexico from Canada and the USA.  You must still check the Department of Agriculture for your own country for export requirements for your pet.  Also, each airline has their own criteria as well.


There are few things in this world more wonderful than sharing a road trip with your best friend and if you are reading this I am sure you agree! There are, however, a few things to consider before you set off and I have listed them below. Having traveled cross-country numerous times with multiple dogs myself, I hope to help you plan a hassle-free and happy event so that you have a smooth, safe experience with your pet.

Importance of Preparation

Traveling with a dog in the car is kind of like traveling with the kids (who may well be in the car too). Preparation is key so that you will be ready for any situation. You want it to be fun for the dog and for yourself and the family, but, just as with kids, emergencies can happen and/or boredom could set in on long journeys.

There are a couple of extra considerations for those of us living here in Mexico and which I shall mention shortly.

A few weeks before travel

Here, if you haven’t already done so, is where you plan your overnight stays, if you are not staying in your own RV or trailer. There are many hotels/motels that take dogs, but it’s always best to contact them directly in case they have breed, weight or size restrictions or any other requirements, for instance they may require the dog to be crated and/or not left unattended in the room.

Traveling with your fur-buddy is becoming more and more popular and the hospitality industry has picked up on this.  The holds true with Mexico as well because

The way we have done it ourselves here in Mexico is to do a filter search of whatever booking company we are using, then follow that up with an email or phone call (and be sure to have that email or person’s name with you on the trip) to be absolutely sure they will take our little dog in the hotel.  Usually, we are house and pet-sitting and the homeowners know in advance of course that we are bringing our own pet and we don’t have to worry about whether the hotel will accept her or not, but this may not always be the case if you are traveling by road in Mexico yourself.

Next, and very importantly, I was told quite clearly, when I brought our dog into Mexico from Ecuador, that she has to have the document I was given by SENASICA in order to travel around the country.  Here is the document I was given (I blocked out the address for privacy reasons):

SENASICA document for dog

The agent at SENASICA assured me that with this document in hand, I was fine to travel anywhere in Mexico.  He did advise that I also carry her current health certificate to show that she is up to date on vaccinations and parasite treatment (taken very seriously here). Note:  Please read the updated information through the link at the beginning of this article to see new guidelines.  

Now, it may be that you are never asked to show any of these documents when you are traveling here, but I think it is crucial to have everything anyway, just in case you are asked to show it.  Also, have copies of everything.

It may be that you have been told something different, especially if your dog is a Mexican national him/herself.  Just check with your local vet to be certain you have all the required documents, even if your pet is originally from this country.

Our dog originally did the road trip from Phoenix to Miami back in 2017 when we moved to Ecuador.  She traveled in the car from Quito, the capital, to Manta on the coast and nobody ever asked for anything.

In fact, we were not asked to show any documents whatsoever landing in Quito from Miami and I just walked on through with her.  I saw a young lady at an ‘Agrocalidad’ stand and approached her and she just smiled and gave me some written information about taking the dog out of Ecuador, still without checking any documents.

So, my advice would be to bring with you:

  • Document from SENASICA government body
  • Documentation proving that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations. Rabies is, of course, the major concern but just have all your records with you so there can be no doubt that your pet is vaccinated.
  • Proof that the dog is up-to-date on internal and external parasite treatment  Note: according to the update above this is no longer required, but I carry it anyway

Regarding the health certificate, it is probably a good idea for your pup to have a medical check-up anyway before you make any extended trips so that you know he/she is in tip-top shape before you set off, wouldn’t you agree? You may also want to ask the vet about any recommendations should your dog get a little carsick or is extremely anxious when traveling. If your dog takes regular, prescribed medication, make sure you have a supply. You don’t want to have to visit an unknown vet on your journey and have to go through the hassle of getting the medication you could have got at home.

You may think me a bit excessive, but I personally take all veterinary records for our dogs in a large envelope so that, if the need should arise, I can provide a full medical history, microchip number, vaccination records and health certificates (starting from way back when when I adopted her from the Arizona Animal Welfare League as a puppy) so that I have one hundred percent peace of mind should I need to show any proof of anything. I don’t want my dog, for whatever reason, put into quarantine, nor do I want to incur fines for not having the correct documentation.

I personally would not incur the expense of pet insurance, though this may be something you might want for yourself.  Here in Mexico, the fees for Veterinary services are much less than we are used to, so I would suggest bringing some extra cash in the event you need to take the dog to a vet on your trip.

A week or so before your journey

As the big day draws near, you’ll want to be sure you have everything you may need for your fur-kid. You don’t want your departure day to turn into a hectic, last-minute shopping spree! This is my checklist:

  • Medical records and health certificate and any medications
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Some kind of liner or protection for the inside of your car.
  • Ample supply of food/treats
  • Food/water bowls
  • Appropriate containers for storing food, you can use a cooler or purchase a ready-made travel kit
  • Crate if your pup is crate-trained
  • The all-important Poop bags
  • Pet wipes for any residue on paws or other body parts
  • Favorite toys
  • Familiar bedding for reassurance in strange, new places
  • Extra leash and collar/harness is a good idea in case of damage or loss. This happened to us so I recommend it
  • Dogs shampoo/towels. A quick sponge bath at a freeway stop is possible if the dog rolls around in something awful

Road Trip-the big day

This part should be easy because you have already done your shopping and preparation, including checking for pet-friendly hotels/motels along your route.

Just a final point to mention on your departure day that I think is enormously helpful. To help your best friend be relaxed on your journey, it’s a great idea to get him/her out for a nice long walk. A tired pup is a more happy and relaxed pup.

A Cautionary tail

All the Carretera’s we have traveled across this country so far had rest areas that included a ‘pet-friendly’ section.  You may have traveled or plan to travel some scenic back roads  Regardless of which type of road you take, I strongly recommend keeping your dog on a leash rather than letting him/her run loose, even if the area seems to be enclosed.

Remember, your pet is in a completely unfamiliar environment and that busy freeway or road is so dangerously close. So many times we have seen people allowing their dogs to run free while they are completely distracted on their cellphone. This is an accident waiting to happen.

Good dog!

If I could give you a treat, I would! I will praise you anyway because if you have followed my advice, you have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that, to the best of your ability, you are prepared for you and your pack to have a safe, happy, worry-free road trip. So, bon voyage and hope to see you and your best friend on the road!

Your thoughts/experience

Being new to Mexico, I would love to know what kind of experiences you have had when traveling with a dog in the car.

Have you encountered anything unusual or different that could help our readers?  Please, if you have, or if you would like to add anything to what I  have written here, please do so in the comments section below.  I really value your input.

Thanks for taking the time to read my article here and I wish you happy trails with tails!

Don’t forget too, if you would rather leave your pets at home and want them safe and secure, that is what we do!  Our service is free!

Your friend and neighbor,

Colette

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