You want to move to Panama with your fur babies. Of course! I moved to Panama with my cat, Elizabeth. So, I totally get it. The process of moving pets to Panama is time sensitive and takes effort. But it’s very doable. Your pet will love living in Panama with you.
Step by step, here’s everything you need to know and do to bring a dog or cat to Panama (plus more on other types of pets below).
1. Consult Your Veterinarian About Moving Your Pet To Panama (3 To 6 Months Before Your Move)
Sometimes older pets can get too stressed when flying, especially if they must travel in cargo. The journey can do them more harm than good.
Discuss all aspects of your pet’s condition and health with your vet. And do what’s best for them.
2. Understand The Cost Of Moving Pets To Panama.
The total cost to move a pet from the U.S. or Canada to Panama can be around $500 to $1,000 if you do the process on your own.
Hiring a pet relocation service can cost you around $3,000 (more on this below).
3. Check Airlines’ Policies About Traveling With Pets
Most airlines will not allow pets to fly if it is too hot or too cold outside. There is often a ban on traveling with pets during major holidays, like Christmas, when travelers may have extra luggage.
With those potential restrictions in mind, here are a few questions to ask:
Does Your Pet Fit The Size To Fly ‘In-Cabin’?
Flying in-cabin means your pet will be in a crate under a seat. If you want to bring a second pet in the cabin, another person must fly with you. If not, the second pet will go in special pet cargo.
If your pet is too large to fit under the seat in front of you on the plane, it must fly in cargo. Consider this list of crate sizes allowed in Copa Airlines’ pet cargo area and the costs:
|SMALL||$405||28 X 20.5 X 21.5|
|MEDIUM||$605||36 X 25 X 27|
|LARGE||$805||40 X 27 X 30|
|X LARGE||$1,005||42 X 29 X 33|
If your pet is too large to fly in cargo, you will either need to use a pet relocation company or charter a private jet to get you and your pets to Panama. It’s about $25,000 for a private jet from Florida to Panama.
What Are The Pet Carrier Requirements (Including Height)?
You’ll need to see if the pet carrier you own will work or purchase a pet carrier accordingly.
Can You Take A Direct International Flight To Panama?
Domestic flights have small pet cargo areas that you may want to avoid. It’s also easier to rent a car or hire a driver to get you and your pets to your new home in Panama.
See if you can drive to a hub with direct flights to Panama, like Houston or Miami.
4. Avoid Arriving On Panamanian Holidays, Weekends, Or After Hours
Here’s why: Once you arrive at the airport in Panama, a veterinarian must inspect your pet. The working hours of vets are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. during weekdays, except on Panamanian holidays.
If you arrive when the vets are not working, your pet must stay in an airport kennel until the veterinarian’s office reopens.
5. Book Your Flights
Once you’ve selected the airline and flight that ticks all the boxes, including arrival times in Panama, you can book your flights.
Keep in mind that airlines usually have a limit of two pets in a cabin. So, if your pet fits the requirements to fly in-cabin, you want to book your flights early!
You will not be able to book your pet to go in cargo until you have all the necessary paperwork for your pet to fly to Panama.
Knowing your arrival date in Panama is essential to follow the remaining steps of the process:
6. Familiarize Your Pet With Their Crate
Once you know what size pet carrier is needed for your pet, buy it 3 months before your flight and start getting your pet familiar with being in the crate.
7. Get The Necessary Vaccines
Thirty days before your move, get all the shots your pet needs and update their vaccine records. Here’s a list of vaccines they need.
8. Shop For Your Pets (If Needed)
In Panama, you can find almost all specialty pet food brands and special needs food, including gluten-free pet food. Other items like toys, kennels, and pet beds are also available.
That said, I’ve noticed that cat treats aren’t widely available. I order the treats from Amazon and get them shipped to Panama. So, you might want to bring a few packets of cat treats.
9. Complete All 3 Of These Processes In The 10 Days Before Your Move
There are three steps to follow at this stage. Remember, you have just 10 days to complete all three of these processes:
Get An International Health Certificate
You need to get this certificate from your vet. Even though the international health certificate is valid for 30 days, most airlines will not accept a pet health certificate that is more than 10 days old.
Expect to pay $200 to $400 for the health certificate. You may be able to include two pets in one certificate.
Have The Health Certificate Authenticated By The Agriculture Department
If you’re from the U.S., the authority in charge of this process is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you’re from Canada, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Ask if your vet will include this authentication in their fee.
If you’re living too far to visit the department in person, send them the international health certificate by courier and pay for next-day delivery. Include a return next-day delivery envelope, so you can get it back without delay. I recommend using FedEx to courier the document.
It’s a good idea to call the authority in your country ahead to discuss the process.
Have The Health Certificate Authenticated By The Consulate Of Panama
Once you’ve got the authentication from the agriculture department, you need to get all the documents authenticated by the Panamanian consulate nearest you. See this list of Panama Consulates.
Again, if there’s no consulate office near you, send the certificate via courier with next-day delivery and include a next-day delivery envelope to save time on its return.
The Consulate of Panama in the U.S. asks you to clearly state “TRAVELING WITH PET” on the envelope so they can fast-track the process.
You can also get the documents Apostilled at the Secretary of State’s Authentication Office in your state.
Pro Tip: The Panamanian consulate charges $30 to authenticate each document, which you must pay via money order.
10. Complete One Of These Processes 3 Days Before Your Move
Request For Home Quarantine
At least 3 days before your arrival, you must send a document to the Department of Zoonosis Control in Panama requesting a 40-day home quarantine. This means your pet can stay (quarantine) in your home or yard in Panama rather than a pet quarantine facility.
The request will cost you $130 per pet. You can pay it once you arrive in Panama.
Here’s the Home Quarantine Request Document in English. When you send the documents, remember to also submit an image of your passport or ID in Panama.
Make sure your documentation is in order. If the Panamanian authorities decide that the pet doesn’t meet the requirements after its arrival, they will send the pet back. You want to avoid your pet being returned at all costs!
Alternative: Get Help Completing Your Home Quarantine Documents
There are service providers in Panama who can take care of all the home quarantine documentation for you. They will meet you at the airport in Panama and help you handle the pet inspection process.
During our Panama Relocation Tours, we give you recommendations for these service providers.
11. It’s Time To Pack!
Prepare a packing list for your pet to make sure you pack everything.
Remember to start packing early. It’s easy to forget something if you wait till the last minute.
12. Get To The Airport 4 To 5 Hours Before Your Flight
The extra checks and steps to fly with a pet internationally can take time. Things might get done faster, and you could have extra time. But it’s better to be early than late and sorry!
Make sure your pet is comfortable, but do note that most airlines will not allow you to medicate or sedate your pet for the flight.
If your pet flies in cargo, know that you might have to pick them up with your baggage.
13. Once You’re In Panama: The Veterinarian Inspection
The airport’s veterinarian will check the relevant documents and inspect your pet.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to pay $130 per pet for home quarantine as well as another $16 for the pet to enter Panama.
Once you get the “all clear,” you can go home! If you hire a company to help with the airport’s pet clearance process (as discussed earlier), they’ll drive you to a pet-friendly hotel or your final destination.
14. The Home Quarantine Period
Follow the instructions in the home quarantine form to fulfill your responsibilities, including:
- Finding a veterinarian to keep your pet up-to-date with vaccines and nutrition and to control preventative diseases.
- Keeping them in a clean area.
- Providing good care.
- Contacting the authorities if you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior.
Refer to the home quarantine form for the complete list and details.
Pro Tip: Panama has many highly trained veterinarians with the latest equipment and services. Some vets speak fluent English. You can get recommendations from expats and Facebook groups.
Moving to Panama with pets may be stressful for you because of all the time-sensitive steps. But it is oh so worth it to have your fur babies with you in Panama! Know that thousands of people have successfully moved their pets to Panama and you can, too!
Pet Relocation Services
If the entire process of moving your pet to Panama sounds complicated and too time-sensitive, you can get a pet relocation company to handle the complete process.
Their prices can vary. In general, expect to pay around $3,000 per pet for their service.
But if you can follow the steps mentioned above, you really don’t need to hire a third party and spend extra money.
Moving To Panama With Other Types Of Pets
You may have other pets (that are not dogs and cats), like birds. They are considered “exotic” pets. I recommend you call the nearest Consulate of Panama to clarify the rules and documentation requirements. They may ask you to contact the local authorities in Panama.
In this instance, you might be better off hiring an experienced pet relocation service.
Adopting A Pet In Panama
Maybe you can’t bring your pet due to their health issues. Or perhaps you want to become a brand-new pet owner in Panama.
There’s no shortage of fur babies in the country. You can adopt a pet through an adoption agency, or sometimes a pet will adopt you!
If you’re not ready to become a full-time pet owner, you can volunteer at spay/neuter days and help community dogs and cats. There are also opportunities to foster pets until they find permanent homes.
Panama is dog friendly and a pet-friendly country, in general. So, no matter what pet you bring or adopt, they will surely have a good life.
Many foreigners dream of living in Panama. But moving countries comes with challenges. So, use our Complete Panama Relocation Guide to learn everything about making a smooth move to Panama. You’ll also get access to our directory of trusted service providers.
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