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How to bring your pets to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known as a pet-friendly country. Your pets are welcomed in many places depending on the size and breed. There are dog parks everywhere, many groups dedicated to animals that you can join on Facebook and other social media. As pets are not only our life companions but indeed family members, the question of how to bring your pet to Costa Rica while moving there is fundamental. 


 How can my pets travel?

Your pets can travel with you in two ways – in a crate inside the cabin (if they are small enough to fit a carrier under the seat in front of you) or in cargo. Size, breed, and age are additional factors to consider. Certain airlines will not transport animals in cargo during the summer, and particular breeds may be prohibited. We strongly recommend you double-check with your airline company about the requirements, including crates standards. The transportation rules may vary from airline to airline.


Can my dog sit on my lap during a flight?

No, pets must remain in their kennel, stowed under the seat in front of you throughout the whole flight.


 Can I ship a pet alone?

Yes, you can. But again, policies vary from carrier to carrier. Either way, it will require some legwork and additional expenses on the pet owner’s part. Most major carriers operate separate cargo services alongside their passenger business.


Can I bring an emotional support dog on a plane?

Emotional support dogs will require an ESA letter from a licensed medical health expert who can allow them on the aircraft. However, your ESA must be small enough to fit a carrier beneath the seat.


How do dogs go to the bathroom on a plane?

For a dog who needs to go on a flight, pee pads in the kennel are your only option. It would help if you took advantage of the airport’s animal relief station shortly before boarding. However, you will need to check if there is one. Please do not give them water a couple of hours before the trip.


What about food and water for my pets?

Take the food that your pets are used to or your pets may end up with an upset stomach or worse, diarrhea, at the worst time possible. Also you should bring your own water. Drinking water from an unfamiliar location might cause your pets problems too.

How to reduce the stress level for my pet?

Flying is a stressful experience for pets. It is very distressing for the animals flying in the cargo hold during the loading and unloading periods.

You should begin training your pets for the long trip, especially if they have never experienced being in a crate. They will likely have to travel as cargo on an international flight. Dog trainers, vets, and shipping companies specializing in animal transportation can give you sound advice on how to prepare your dog for a flight. If they’re used to their travel container, it will help them feel less anxious.

Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medicine to help with anxiety or tension. Costa Rica does not have a pet quarantine period, making it easier to reunite with your pets after a long tiresome trip.


What papers does a dog need to travel?

You will need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection to travel, and some airlines require an acclimation certificate. These certificates can only be completed and signed by a federally accredited veterinarian.

Suppose you bring your pets from the USA. You will need to fill out a Costa Rica Health Certificate with your vet within two weeks of your departure to verify that your animals are in good health to travel. 


What is APHIS?

APHIS – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Costa Rica needs an international health certificate signed by a vet and then authorized by APHIS. Your dog or cat must be examined by a USDA accredited veterinarian, who can fill out Federal APHIS Form. If not, you can mail the documents to APHIS for certification.

For the USA – please check HERE for the information about APHIS;

For Canada – please check HERE for the necessary form to fill out.



The requirements for dogs to enter Costa Rica are:

  • Rabies vaccination (you will need to vaccinate your pets for rabies more than 30 days before travel);
  • Distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and leptospirosis vaccination;
  • Internal and External parasite treatment within 15 days.


The requirements for cats are:

  • Rabies vaccination;
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.

You can find more detailed information HERE



Ensure you have all of your forms ready to give to the TSA and ticket agents when you arrive at the airport. Keeping an additional set or two of completed forms on hand is good. Make sure you pets have their name tags updated with the information to find you and a recent photos of your pets in case it’s necessary. It’s a good idea to write down the info on the crate as well. Don’t forget wet wipes, waste bags and a few treats to reward your pets.


What to do once landed in Costa Rica?

You’ll need to locate a SENASA Customs Official to clear your papers. If everything is in order, they will stamp your documentation and return it to you. You’re good to go after you’ve passed through Customs.


Pet’s adaptation

Your animals may require some time to acclimate to the new temperature and the thrill of the journey once they arrive in Costa Rica. There are a few critical issues to be aware of when it comes to your pets.

Keep your eyes open when you go to the beach or jungle area as your pets may come in contact with cane toads, scorpions, ticks, and other creatures dangerous for your pets. It’s best to talk to your local veterinarian about the best treatment options and have emergency numbers handy. 

Depending on your animal’s breed, the weather may also be a factor. Summers may be oppressively hot, and without air conditioning, large species or those with thick coats would suffer greatly. When strolling with your pets, it’s also essential to keep an eye on the temperature of the asphalt and sand as it can hurt your pets’ paws. 


To conclude, we would like to emphasize that you should consult your vet and your airline before moving to Costa Rica, as animal transport laws may change. It’s crucial to keep in mind the document deadlines. You should check with your airline to see what their unique restrictions are.



We recommend you contact a trusted organization that can bring your pet to Costa Rica. One of them is Pet Lounge, a company specializing in logistics services and international pet transportation based conveniently close to SJO airport in Costa Rica. It was founded in 2012 by two brothers with vast experience in Cargo transportation and veterinary practice. They will coordinate your pets’ delivery with international agents, manage your pets’ documentation, customs, and quarantine procedures if needed. Moreover, they can deliver your pets with airlines, pick up and drop off your pets directly to your home.



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