Some dogs cross the border between the US and Canada because the closest veterinary clinic (or closest referral/specialty clinic) is in the other country. In the past, that hasn’t usually been an issue because of the ease of dog movement between Canada and the US. That’s going to change very soon due to new dog importation rules for the US that take effect on August 1.

We’re trying to clarify a few things but here’s the quick run-down:

1. Taking a dog from Canada to the US for veterinary care

Taking a dog to the US for elective veterinary care is still fairly easy, it’s just a matter of treating it like any other Canadian dog going to the US. There will be more paperwork and planning involved, but it’s perfectly feasible, as long as the dog is at least 6 months old.

There’s always some concern about the “must appear healthy” clause in these cases, but dogs going for elective veterinary care usually do appear healthy. That’s also been part of the rules for a while now, and there’s typically been flexibility for dogs that are going to the US for veterinary care.

Taking a dog to the US for emergency care will be an issue. It’s pretty much impossible under the new rules, at least at this point. One barrier is getting all the paperwork done fast enough. The bigger issue is the CDC Import Form that must be done 2-10 days before the dog hits the border. That 2 day minimum is not a timeline that fits with emergencies.

And if the dog is less than 6 months of age… forget about it. They can’t go. (But ideally we’d see an exemption put in place for dogs going directly to and from a veterinary clinic, even if they don’t meet this age requirement.)

2. Taking a dog from the US to Canada for veterinary care

This is something I’ve been working on this morning, since we see US dogs both at our veterinary hospital and at other practices near the US border in Ontario. It’s a work in progress.

As for dogs going to the US, elective cases are easy, as long as they are over 6 months of age. They just need to get the paperwork done.

Emergencies are more challenging. It’s possible under the new rules (unlike Canadian dogs going to the US), because the issues arise when the dog needs to return to the US. A US dog can still get across the border into Canada immediately (with a rabies vaccination certificate). Then there’s time to get the return paperwork together, as long as the dog stays in Canada for at least 2 days (because of the 2-10 day submission period for the CDC Import Form it needs to go back). The bigger issue is the other paperwork. For dogs leaving the US and coming home, the pathway that’s set up is for elective scenarios, where the paperwork is done in the US before the dog leaves. If that’s not done, as would likely be the case in an emergency situation, it looks like when the dog returns, it might be treated as a dog not vaccinated in the US. That means a separate set of paperwork and potentially a need for rabies vaccination in Canada. The rules aren’t really clear for situations like this, so we’ll need some more details to sort that out (or someone with better interpretive powers than me).

Hopefully we’ll get some clarification and maybe some recognition of these issues and ways to address the unintended consequences of the new rules.