OH a dog, cat or bird OK. No wait someone asked to bring a pig? A pig is harder than a bird to get in if you even can. Traveling with you pets no matter if you are coming just for a visit or to live here can be a challenge. Is not only getting them here a bit of trouble once here there are many things you will have to look out for. This blog is going to document our journey from the US to Costa Rica with our dogs. Here are some pictures of our current Fur Family.
So Pepper, Ginger, Dobby, Pixy and Nina we got here in Costa Rica one way or another and the rest we brought down from the United States back in March of 2012. So a total of 6 dogs we brought with us. So that is our current fur family! I know crazy right? It has its moments of joy, sorrow and “OH MY GOD!” We love them all. I can’t speak to bringing down cats, but I am told pretty much the same process as I am about to talk about. Now Birds I have been told are worse and hard and unless you love that bird with all your heart and soul and think of it as a son or daughter you may want to rethink about bringing it down. Again I can’t speak directly to what is involved, but we have a friend who brought his African Grey down and the long stories of what he had to do and the issues he has here as no vet in Atenas knows how to take care of an African Grey. So lets get to it shall we.
What is needed to bring down your dogs and or cats?
Now, before I even begin I need to tell you the rules are always changing so what I type here is what we had to do. Depending on when you do it the rules could be different. So be sure to check before you bring them! Once you have get it all done quickly before they change it again. You are going to need proof of vaccinations and you are going to need certification statements and everything is all about the timing of things. Dogs need to be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies and Cats just need rabies. Now the vaccinations have to me more than 30 days old, but not more than a year. We had an issue with 2 of our dogs as we had given them 3 year rabies vaccinations and they were in their 2nd year. So it had been longer than a year, so they would not accept that, even though it was a 3 year and they still had over a year left on their certificate. It really is all about the timing people so pay close attention to those details. You are also going to need a health certificate from a properly licensed veterinary. Not all vets can do this health certificate. Ours could not so we had to take them somewhere else. It has to say at minimum that your pet was examined and found to be healthy and free of any clinical signs of infectious disease. I know any vet should be able to do this one. Not sure why ours couldn’t. It is what it is. The health certificate also needs to be endorsed by the US Department of Agriculture as well. If I were you I would make sure I had at minimum 3 copies of everything just to be on the safe side. You will also need an international health certificate form 7001 from Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This is a lot of stuff to do! Now I am going to tell you we looked into all of this and it scared the crap out of us. We were so afraid that we may screw up and not dot an i or cross a t and we would be stuck when we got here. So we went with a service to get this all done. We paid for door to door service. Since we had the vaccination issues of the whole 30 days thing our dogs could not travel with us. We left the states in Feb. and they followed 30 days later in March. So we were not there to bring them. The door to door service at Capital Pet Movers was a god send! Yes it was a bit costly, but they took care of all of the above. Picked up our dogs at the the house in the States, put them on the plane, sent us tracking information all along the way so we knew where they were and had someone pick them up here and bring them right to us to our house in Atenas. It cost about $9K for 6 dogs. Now the crate is a bit of a challenge and things get a little more sticky if you have a larger animal. The crate has to be the size big enough for your pet to stand and turn around in. Larger dogs and larger crates create a problem on some airlines. I have heard some horror stories of pets dying while being transported and being left on hot tarmac’s and just all manner of stuff. Again which is why we went with a service to be sure they were taken care of properly. Another concern is how well your pet travels? If they have to be sedated to travel the airlines will not take them. They do not want the responsibility should something happen to your pet because of the medication. If you have one small pet and bring them on the plane with you in the cabin its a little easier from the shipping stand point. Larger or more dogs becomes more complex and more problematic. There are issues with time of year and heat and water and food and all kinds of stuff. So do your research with each airline as each one is different.
Bringing you pet back to the US
It is pretty much the same process. You will need a Certificate of Good Health from your veterinarian in Costa Rica and an authorization issued by the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture. There are some stamps you will need and there are fees that will need to be paid to the country. The vet you use should know all of this information and help guide you better than I can on this point. My suggestion is if you are not coming here to live with you pets don’t bring them. Now if you are going to be here for a month or two or 3 then maybe.
Things you should know that we did not know about having pets in Costa Rica This is a beautiful country and you pets are going to love it here as much as you do, but there are hazards here that we did not have in the states. We knew about some but not all of them. Not that if we knew would we have done anything different, but we may have planned our life here a little better for our animals.
Lets start with fleas and ticks. Oh my god the ticks were so bad here! Our poor dogs in a matter of a week were covered in them. We had them treated before they left the states, but it was horrible! We were grooming and picking anywhere from 5 to 15 a day off every dog. So we got a fumigator. Well no change we picked one who didn’t have a clue what he was doing so our hunt for a new one began. We talked to people and looked online and searched and finally found one who was amazing! We also got our vet involved and we got shampoo and collars. I didn’t think collars did anything really, but they do! They were great! It did cause some issues which I will talk about later.
Toads! this is a big problem here in rainy season! Toads can kill your small pets and large. They are very dangerous! Dogs love to play with them and lick them and bit them. If they do they will die within 15 minutes if you do not get them treatment. Now I have heard that if you use milk or a honey, milk and egg combo or seltzer water or a number of other things you can save you pet. To many stories what our vet says is to wash out their mouths as quickly as you can with running water and do not let the dogs swallow the water. Use a tooth brush to clean their mouth out. Be sure to wash any area that may have gotten venom on it and get them treatment as quickly as possible. Which isn’t always easy as Atenas doesn’t have a 24/7 vet here. The closest is in Santa Ana about a 20 minute drive if you speed and the best is in Heredia about 30 minutes if you speed. So 15 minutes just won’t work out. So vigilance is the key! Night time I go out and check the yard and KILL yes I said KILL any toad I find and dispose of it before I let the dogs out. They are only out a short time to do what they need to and then brought back in. Walking 10 dogs on a leash is not an option. I will leave the details of how they meet their ends out of this post. Know I try to make it as painless as possible.
Snakes are pretty much in the same category as the Toads with the exception of there is an anti venom available to give to your pets. Depending on if it is an adult or baby determines how much time you may have to get them to the vet. Again see above about vets. You may want to check to see what you local area vet has to offer and where the closest 24/7 one is to you. You do not want to do that drive at night, in the rain, in a panic the 1st time.
Scorpions are less dangerous of the things here in Costa Rica that can harm you pet. I think it is the least out of all of them even the ticks are more dangerous and I will tell you why next. Ticks carry a disease call Ehrlichiosis. The following comes from the CDC website. Ehrlichiosis is the general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that affect animals and humans. Human ehrlichiosisis a disease caused by at least three different ehrlichial species in the United States: Ehrlichia chaffeensis,Ehrlichia ewingii, and a third Ehrlichiaspecies provisionally called Ehrlichia muris-like (EML). Ehrlichiae are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) is the primary vector of both Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii in the United States. Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Usually, these symptoms occur within 1-2 weeks following a tick bite. Ehrlichios is diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical presentation, and later confirmed with specialized laboratory tests. The first line treatment for adults and children of all ages is doxycycline. Ehrlichiosis and other tickborne diseases can be prevented. Now what they just said for humans can be applied for dogs. They get the same symptoms. They can not communicate to you that they have a majority of them, so what you look out for is fever, fatigue and limping. If you dog starts to manifest any of these and you have pulled a tick off of them get them to a vet asap. They can go down hill quickly. Since you don’t always see it in the dogs they could have had the symptoms for some time. We almost lost 3 dogs to this disease as we were uneducated on it and what to look for. We have a great vet Doctor Salono here in Atenas and we love, love, love him! We fumigate 2x a year our entire property inside and out. We do it just before rainy season starts and just before dry season starts. That has helped, but still doesn’t stop it all. Ticks and fleas are rampant here. Our wonderful fumigator is highly trained and knowledgeable. He showed us how to prune our plants and grass to help with keeping scorpions away and snakes. He has given us advise on all manner of things to do. Make sure you keep a dirt barrier of about 1 to 2 feet from any surface. The creepy crawlers like to hide in the grass and travel that way, and if they come to dirt they tend to turn around. All your shrubs should be trimmed a the bottom about a foot from the ground. Again removes the hiding places. All drains should be capped off with wire mesh so as to not allow entrance into your property. If you want to be very diligent you can build walls. Just make sure there are no trees that over hang the wall or snakes can get in that way. Now I have also been told to plant Garlic grass as it will keep the snakes and toads away they don’t like it. I have also been told to throw moth balls around the property where the dogs can not get them. So this rainy season I am going to try both and let you know what happens. Now we have used the collars and we have also used two controversial items to help keep the fleas and ticks off our dogs. Our vet comes every 2 months and injects our dogs with Ivermectin and imizol. Look them up and educate yourself about them and use or not. I also use a little minced garlic in their water and that seems to help a good bit as well. We have been told to give them a bath once a week in dawn dish soap and we are going to start that as well. Our dogs health is one of the most important issues for us here in Costa Rica. Its a tricky thing here to keep these creatures out. So diligence is you best defense to keep you pets safe. So lets wrap this one up as well. Educate yourself, be diligent and take all precautions you can while traveling or living with you pets in Costa Rica. Know where you vets office is and where a 24/7 hospital is. Keep these things in mind and you could save your pets life! Lets end this with a nice video of out dogs playing in the yard shall we. Hope you enjoy it!