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Traveling to Mexico with Two Australian Shepherds – Vet Visits

About a month ago, I wrote an article about heartworm prevention in dogs. This was not out of the blue – it was because we were planning for a trip to Mexico and the new dog regulations require a veterinary sign-off on the treatment/prevention of both ecto and endo parasites.

We recently returned and I am working on writing up our adventures. In the meantime, below is a description of how we prepared for our trip.


Here is the link to the USDA page where directions and forms are listed for various types of animals – link. Compared to what we need to do to travel with Fred Bird, the dogs were a piece of cake. Basically, we needed a health certificate verifying overall health, vaccination against rabies, and treatment against endo/ecto parasites.

If you regularly give your dogs heartworm preventatives and flea/tick medication, and are planning a trip out of the country, consider scheduling your vet appointment to coincide with the application of your meds. That should reduce or eliminate the likelihood that you will have to dose them a second time in the presence of a vet.

Note: The parasite section on the form says they must be treated within the last 6 months. So as long as one of your vet visits in the last 6 months included a dosing – and the vet made a note of it in your file – you should be fine.


Planning a Trip to Mexico with Dogs

If you are about to do a similar trip, note that timing is incredibly important. The vaccinations must be given more than 15 days before departure but the health certificate has to be signed by a veterinarian within 10 days before departure. That means two visits to the vet!

Here is what we did – It was early August when we decided to do the trip and our expected departure was September 3rd. I checked with the local humane society about their upcoming reduced cost vaccine clinic and found the next one was the next Saturday; $35 per dog. Great. So if I took care of their vaccines the next Saturday, I could take them to the vet for the health certificates a few days before our departure.

I called a local vet next to go over the health certificate details. Being so near the Mexican border, the vet was familiar with the process but had not heard about the new requirements with regards to endo/ecto prevention. (It is also possible it is not closely regulated at the border. Perhaps flying in is more challenging.) The health certificates would be $20 each.

Out of curiosity, I asked what it would cost to get the distemper combo and rabies with them and was pleased to discover it was the same price as the ‘reduced’ clinic – $35. And even better, the receptionist said there is no office visit fee – we could come for our vaccines soon and swing by at the end of the month to pick up our health certificates.


Vaccinations & Preventatives

A long time ago, I had heard that rabies and distemper are good for life but vets now recommend them annually (or every 3 years for rabies). I cannot speak to the accuracy of this statement but I have encountered others like myself, who choose not to over-vaccinate. My husband and I only board at kennels who understand this stance and who allow us in without ‘recent’ vaccination records.

The last time I vaccinated the dogs was immediately before our departure from Connecticut. I only did it so that we would be able to board them if the need came up while moving.

As I mentioned in the heartworm prevention post, both dogs showed negative on the heartworm test and neither had fleas or ticks. However, a negative test result is not the same as treatment and would not suffice for the health certificate.

After the vet administered the vaccinations, she gave each dog their dosage of Frontline. Next up, Heartgard…..

Based on our prior vet visit (3 years ago), I had told the receptionist on the phone that Sydney weighed 35 pounds and Trooper weighed about 45 pounds. She said we would be able to purchase ONE box of 25-50 lb Heartgard formula and use it for both dogs. That box would include six dosages (four would remain after the vet visit) and would cost $45.

Unfortunately, the dogs weighed in at 42 lbs for Sydney and 53.5 lbs for Trooper. I tried to make the case that I had just fed Trooper more than a pound of food (which I had), he hadn’t pooped (which he hadn’t) and was full of water but they were not satisfied with my presentation. As a result, I would have to purchase TWO boxes at $45 each (and would end up with ten extra dosages that I had no plan on using).


Let’s Pause a Moment

Trooper gained nearly 9 pounds! Holy moly! I did notice that sometimes he appears rather squishy and round. But usually after a poop and a hike, he looks slim and normal. Perhaps it it all due to the last couple of weeks. Flashback –

We had been in the middle of monsoon season, Sydney’s least favorite time of year. She does not like thunder and will willingly leave her meat behind to cower near the door and ask to come inside. That week, we discovered that she had been abandoning her meat mid-meal (not finishing it like we thought) and Trooper had been eating it! So for at least 4 days that week, Trooper ate more than double his daily allowance. What a fatty!

So I think 48-50 pounds is a closer weight for Trooper. Knowing he had been eating double and that he had just eaten before our vet visit, I can understand the ~54 pounds; but I did not feel it was representative of his normal weight.

Sydney, on the other hand, despite being 7 pounds heavier, is as svelte as ever. If she is heavier, it is because she has gained muscle mass from all of our hiking. One thing we know for certain, she does not easily gain fat on this diet and lifestyle.


Delaying the Heartworm Medication

I asked the vet if we could delay giving them the Heartgard until I came back for the health certificate. That way, I could put Trooper on a diet for a few weeks, ensure that he came back under 50 pounds and then we would do the heartworm preventative and health certificate at the same time. They said that was fine.

The next day, we switched up the foods. Our normal routine is actually to feed the dogs the same sized chunk of meat. But if one happens to be noticeably larger, we drop it on Trooper’s rock. With our diet plan, we decided to give Sydney any visibly large pieces for the next couple of weeks.

On the first day, with the dogs’ meats switched, I released them from the house….and they ran to the wrong rocks! Sydney got the small piece and Trooper got the larger one. Okay, we’ll try again the next day.

For the next two days, Trooper got the slightly smaller piece. During the afternoon of the second day, we went to the Continental Dive Trail entrance on Highway 90 to play frisbee and mill about. I noticed Trooper lolling behind in an unusual way. It turns out he was eating anything he could find – poop, seeds, berries, etc.

I guess the reduction in meat amount was enough to make Trooper hungry – which is usually the case when someone is on a diet. But I did not think Trooper had been fat to start with. Something was not right.


Purchasing Single Dosages

I thought about it some more and became dissatisfied with changing Trooper’s meal plan. While Trooper can definitely appear a bit pudgy sometimes, if he is wet or shaved, he looks slim and trim. Not only does his hair add a lot of bulk, but he does not have the same Speedy Gonzales metabolism that Sydney has.

I did not like him scavenging for gross objects, so we stopped giving him the smaller meat chunk. If we were not going to force him to lose weight, then we needed to find an alternative to our Heartgard plan.

I looked online and found a source where I can purchase two SINGLES of the Heartgard. I bought one for 51+ pounds and one for 25-50 pounds. No need to diet and no need to purchase $90 worth of preventatives and have 10 extra dosages.

In my 20 minutes of searching, I found one source for the singles – Pet Supplies for Less. At the time of my purchase, the medicine was on sale and shipping was free. We paid $6.29 for Sydney’s, $7.19 for Trooper’s and a $1 processing fee. Total cost – $14.48.

I had to input the name and info for our vet, as well as the dog that each tablet was intended for. I assume the fax they sent was satisfactory responded to by our vet, because the medication shipped a few days later.

The Heartgard medication arrived in separate bottles.

Each one contained a single dosage of Heartgard.

Receiving our Health Certificate

I called the vet the day before our intended visit to give them a head’s up so they could prep the form – it would need to be typed (not hand-written) and printed on their letterhead. The office does not schedule appointments so we planned to stop by after the lunch hour the next day.

We showed up with our Heartgard tablets and the two pups. The vet and receptionist were struggling with the new form. Despite giving them a day’s notice, and having warned them earlier in the month that the form was different, they had waited until the last minute to puzzle it out. We spent about an hour at the vet, 5 minutes of which was spent actually doing medical stuff. The rest was working out the details on the form.

Note: The form is not difficult. It just has specific requirements – no handwritten anything, all typed, printed on letterhead, no abbreviations, must contain destination address and a few other things.

When the form was complete, the vet called us back. He visibly inspected each dog, watched me feed them their Heartgard and then sent us on our way. The receptionist printed us two copies so we had a backup if needed. That was really nice.


Requirements for Re-entry into the United States

The only requirement for re-entry was to have a rabies certificate documenting rabies vaccination at least 15 days prior to crossing the border. There was some discrepancy on the internet – one site said at least 30 days prior to crossing. Because the rabies had been administered in early August, we would be fine either way with our return in mid-September.


Other Preparation

We put our two copies of our health certificate, the rabies certificates and the receipt from our vet visit in a file and put it behind the driver’s seat. In terms of packing for the dogs, I packed several old towels, a dog bowl and the cooler. We were not supposed to take raw meat across the border, so we planned to pick some up once we stopped on the other side. We always travel and hike with two big jugs of water in the car, so the only other thing was a package of training treats.

We had recently purchased a 10 pound bag of chicken quarters, so we knew we would need to freeze what we did not consume before leaving. In order to prevent having to struggle with frozen meat when we returned, I took a meal (chicken quarter + liver chunk) for each dog out of the big bag and put them in separate gallon freezer bags. That way I could just dump the contents on the ground; not spend several minutes prying them apart.

On Saturday, prior to leaving our house, we fed them their meat meals; but this time they each got twice as much. We decided not to feed them on Sunday – our day of border crossing and trying to travel more than half our distance down the coast. By the time we finished packing the car, the dogs were more than ready to join us. Mexico, here we come!