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Bringing Pets to Nicaragua

Bringing Pets to Nicaragua

Yup, your pet too can live the life tranquilo here in Nicaragua


Whether you’re coming for a few months to relax at your vacation home or relocating permanently to live the life tranquillo here in Nicaragua, we know how important it is for your pets to come along. We’re happy to report that bringing pets to Nicaragua isn’t nearly as great a headache as you’re likely envisioning!

To help you successfully bring your dog or cat to Nicaragua, we’ve compiled a neat little list below. This is for our USA-based readers but the process in Canada is pretty much the same (except that you documents will need to be endorsed by the relevant animal health authority in Canada).

We’ll briefly cover airline information, veterinary requirements, needed certifications, and what happens upon arrival in Managua when bringing pets to Nicaragua.

6 Step Process

Minimize The Headache

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     Chat with the Airline

It’s a good idea to start the process by talking with your preferred airline about any requirements they have for taking your pet. You’ll discuss with them how you’ll transport the pet – in the cabin, as checked baggage, or as cargo. This will all depend on the airline and it’s chosen options available.

Is your dog or cat small enough to travel in the cabin? They’ll need to fit in a carrier that can go underneath the seat in front of you. If you can take your pet this way, it’s definitely what we recommend and it’s 100% allowable by airlines flying into Nicaragua. It can ease both your stress and their own to travel this way if you can.

If too big, your pup will need to travel either as checked baggage or booked in as cargo (don’t worry, they can still travel on the same flight as you). In this case, you’ll need a kennel that’s approved for international travel. Again, your airline will provide guidelines on what they require.

The airline will help you with flight scheduling too, as most won’t let animals fly as baggage or cargo if temperatures are either too hot or too cold. Since many flights originating from the US have a stopover in Texas, Georgia or Florida, it’s very important to fly during a time that you won’t run into heat restrictions, which will delay both your pet’s trip and ultimately yours. Arrival time in Managua is important too. Make sure you arrive in Managua before 9PM local time, otherwise you’ll likely miss the customs agent for pet arrivals and your pet may then not be allowed out of the airport until morning when an agent returns. Also be aware of any long layovers too and what your airline can offer in terms of pet care mid-transit.

Pro Tip | It’s a good idea to purchase the crate well ahead of time and let your dog get used to hanging out in it, making sure they can stand up and turn around comfortably too.

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     Call Your Vet

Once travel plans are set, call your normal vet and find out if they or anyone else in the office is a USDA approved veterinarian. Most offices will have at least one USDA approved vet on their staff. They will then investigate the requirements, which are the following –

Current Rabies Vaccination
The vaccine must have been given at least 30 days before travel but not more than 1 year ago.

Parasite Treatment
Your pet will need to be treated for endo- and ectoparasites with approved products. Don’t worry, your vet knows what this means!

Nice to Haves
While not required, we do recommend that your pet has a microchip that’s registered with your contact information. Microchips are a great means of identification for international travel, proving ownership, and should your pet be lost or separated from you.

Routine Vaccinations
It’s always a good idea to ensure your pet is up to date on all other normal vaccinations and to check with your vet about other recommended vaccinations or treatments to ensure your animal’s health and wellbeing while in Nicaragua. Flea/tick control products (external and internal) as well as deworming products, you can buy easily here in Managua (and cheaper than in the US), but you may want to purchase heartworm treatments at your vet before traveling.

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     Visit Your Vet

Take your pet to the USDA Approved Veterinarian within 14 days of travel. The USDA International Health Certificate states a timeframe of 14 days, however some airlines require a shorter timeframe, such as 10 days.

Your vet should have the required certificate for bringing pets to Nicaragua from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) – but you can download a copy here – Veterinary Health Certificate for Export of Dogs and Cats from the United States of America to Nicaragua.

Your vet will conduct a health check of your dog or cat, give the required parasite treatment, and any other vaccination updates or extra treatments you decided to add. Make sure they fill out the form above, provide a rabies vaccination certificate that lists all of your information and your pets, including date given and expiry.

Make sure your vet gives you TWO filled-out copies of the USDA international health certificate. One to keep for yourself, and the other you need to give to the USDA office for stamping. This one will be needed by the Airline, along with the rabies vaccination certificate, to check that all is in order (but they won’t take it) and it WILL be taken by the customs animal agent in Managua after arrival and successful import.

Pro Tip | While not required, it’s good to have a vaccination record of the other treatments received too.

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     Get Your Paperwork Endorsed by the USDA

You’ll need to find your closest USDA APHIS Veterinary Services Endorsement Office. You can either mail in your paperwork or go in person. If you’re close enough to drive there, we recommend you visit the office in person. Some offices only offer walk-ins, others offer appointments.

The endorsement by the USDA costs $38 per animal and it’s usually a quick process at the office. The USDA will only stamp ONE of the copies. That’s ok. And no, you can’t pay them more to stamp both. All you need is the one!

Older blogs may note something about informing the Nicaraguan consulate. This is no longer the case at time of writing. You do not need to get an import permit nor get your paperwork endorsed by the Nicaraguan consulate or customs beforehand. And the health certificate endorsed by the USDA does not need to be in triplicate either. The form you downloaded above, signed by your USDA Approved Veterinarian and endorsed by a USDA APHIS office, is all you need.

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     Time To Fly

This is the part where most people will stress. A lot. Try not to, as this will rub off on your pets too! You have all your paperwork (and personal copies), you’ve confirmed your pet’s travel reservation with the airline, and you’ve prepared their crate for a comfortable journey. On the day of departure, put a t-shirt of yours into the crate with your pet – your scent will help them stay calm. You can use alternative/natural therapy calming aids too. A few companies making both collars and sprays that release calming pheromones, like Sentry’s version here. Airlines and vets will strongly recommend that you do not use anything stronger, and some airlines will prohibit it.

If your pet is coming into the cabin with you, make sure their carrier is lined with absorbent (and disposable) material in case they have an accident, and bring along a small fresh towel and some wet wipes to keep your pet smelling and feeling good.

If your pet is traveling as checked baggage or cargo, you’ll want to line the crate with newspaper and then put an old towel over the top, along with a worn t-shirt for comfort. Your airline will have informed you of all the necessary stickers and signs the outside of your crate will need (many will be given upon checking in your pet) and that the inside of the crate door needs to be fitted with two bowls for water.

Pro Tip | Fill one of the bowls the night before with water and put it in the freezer. Just before you head off to the airport, take it out of the freezer and attach it to the inside of the crate door. It’ll melt slowly, ensuring your pup has access to water for a longer time.

Give your pup a small meal and a nice long walk before heading to the airport, ensuring they get ample time to relieve themselves before getting in their crate.

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     You’ve Arrived!

Once you’ve landed and deplaned, you’ll go through normal border security/passport control. Then it’s onto baggage claim and customs, where your pet awaits.

A MAGFOR Quarantine Delegate will find you (or be waiting with your pets). You’ll head to an office just after the immigration points, where the customs agent will go through your USDA paperwork and vaccination certificates. He’ll fill out an import form on triplicate paper and provide you with a copy. You’ll pay $10 USD for each pet and the agent will supply you with a receipt for your payment too. If your dog came through as checked baggage or cargo, you may be subject to an additional $10 USD customs fee too.

Older blogs have stated that you will need to go to a local bank upon arrival to pay your pet import fees then schlep back to the airpot.  This is no longer the case either. Everything is handled right there at the airport. Too easy, right? Bringing pets to Nicaragua doesn’t have to be a headache.

Bringing Pets to Nicaragua

Welcome to Nicaragua!

Now Get Out There and Play



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