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How I Brought My Dog to Costa Rica - and Things to Consider

First things first - is my blog a travel blog?

"I thought you taught yoga, reiki and The Fertility Awareness Method, why have you been posting more about traveling?"

Well, because I want to.

And doesn't travel and adventure coincide with wellness, anyways?

Maybe one day I'll start an actual travel blog, but as of now, I'm just sprinkling it in with the rest of the stuff I do - and I hope that's ok with you😉

Moving on - today's travel related blog post is all about bringing Irie to Costa Rica!

Irie is my 6 year old Maltipoo, and the love of my life (currently, and probably forever - let's be real).

I came to Costa Rica last May for 5 weeks and fell in love! I knew I wanted to come back for a more extended period of time, but one thing was holding me back - being away from my baby.

Luckily, I met people in the community who brought their dogs down from the states - and this planted the seed that maybe I could too.

My Maltipoo dog Irie and I on our balcony in Pavones, Costa Rica
Irie and I on our balcony in Costa Rica

This process took 5 months for us - but it doesn't have to take that long.

Costa Rica is generally a pretty easy country to bring your dog to, especially if they are small enough to travel in cabin. They require 5 vaccines (distemper, hepatitis, rabies, parvovirus and leptovirus), heartworm protection, and a USDA health form signed by a certified Vet.

This process took 5 months for us because I wanted to spread out the vaccines to be easier on Irie's body vs. giving them all at once. The rabies vaccine must be given at least a month out from entering the country, and the 3 year vaccine is accepted.

The USDA health check and form needs to be done within 10 days of entering the country.

I don't have insurance for Irie, so all of the vaccines, health check and form, and 6 months of heart worm and flea and tick medicine (6 months supply was my choice) was $495.

I flew Delta, which was a blessing and a curse.

They definitely did their due diligence at every point of my journey - when I called to add Irie to the flight, when I checked in at the airport, and when I checked in at the gate. Every time they looked up the requirements for a dog to enter Costa Rica and questioned me about who I contacted to ensure her arrival was accepted, the processes I already completed, and more.

While I appreciated their ultimate goal of making sure we both were accepted upon arrival, I had already done my homework prior to each of their "checkpoints" so this, frankly, caused me unnecessary stress and anxiety each time.

My maltipoo dog in her soft crate pet carrier while I hold my passport waiting in line at security at the airport to board a flight from Denver Colorado to Costa Rica
Waiting in line at security

Delta has a $200 fee for pets traveling in cabin internationally, each way.

While Irie is an emotional support animal and has been since 2018 shortly after I got her, most airlines do not accept this as an exemption of fees anymore. I considered getting Irie formal training to be a service animal, but my conscience did not sit right with this.

When we landed in Costa Rica, we went through immigration, and then customs. Upon going through customs, an official saw Irie in her soft crate and pointed. I handed him our USDA health form (make sure to print this and bring it with you on your carry on in case checked bags are lost!) and her vaccine certificates. He kept the USDA form but gave us back her vaccine certificate with a piece of paper that said "This U.S. certificate is valid only for entry into the country. You must obtain an official export certificate in Costa Rica to return to the United States. You must also bring a certification from a veterinarian regarding screwworm, indicating that your pet is free of this disease."

So, basically, I will have to do a similar process when I bring her back to the states with me - in addition to a screwworm test, Costa Rica has a screwworm problem right now.

Overall, it was a pretty straight forward process, especially since my vet had done this before and was able to answer all of my questions.

Now, some things to consider when bringing your dog to Costa Rica...

If your dog is over 20 pounds, depending on the airline, they cannot ride in the cabin. Irie is 11 pounds so she could ride in a soft crate under the seat in front of me - here is the one I used that fits official dimensions. I do not have experience bringing a bigger dog to Costa Rica, but it is my understanding Alaska Airlines is the only airline that allows bringing dogs in the cargo to the country at the moment, and they may have put that on hold with the screwworm problem.

If you feel uneasy about the process (this blog is not a formal walkthrough of the process) and want to do your due diligence, I called the CDC. USDA/ APHIS, my Vet, Delta, and the embassy in Costa Rica, alongside doing my research online. This helped me feel confident I was doing everything I needed.

Irie is a poodle mix - and so the humid, jungle atmosphere can be hard with her hair. Poodle mixes don't shed, so not only did I learn and bring clippers (the town I'm in does not have a groomer) and give her regular cuts to stay cool, but I also have to give her biweekly preventative baths in an anti-viral shampoo. This ensures the humidity doesn't cause any skin issues. I also give her preventative eye drops.

My maltipoo dog Irie's first time at the beach playing ball in southern costa rica
Irie's 1st time at the beach

Speaking of humidity - everything rusts. So, Ruffwear collars and leashes are helpful - they do not rust!

I'd definitely recommend bringing flea/ tick and heartworm medication for the duration of your stay, as well as any vitamins or supplements needed. There are a lot of critters here, and medication may be hard to find. I brought both in my checked bags, unopened, and wasn't questioned. I did bring a printed prescription of the medications just in case, though.

Speaking of critters - this is something to keep in mind in general! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about the things that could hurt my baby down here. From poisonous snakes to scorpions to tarantulas to stray/ territorial dogs to crocodiles - there definitely is danger for any doggie, let alone a small one, unfortunately.

You have to weigh the pros and cons - if your anxiety with these dangers is too much for the benefit of bringing your dog, and the length of your trip isn't very long, leave them with friends and family. Since I'll be down here for an extended period of time, I didn't want to leave her in the U.S. I keep her on a leash almost always, avoid having her in piles of leaves, and watch what she's sniffing. While most dogs down here are off leash dogs, her safety and my peace of mind is more important.

Luckily, the town I'm in is pretty dog friendly - she comes with me to the yoga classes I teach, restaurants if I splurge, friends' houses, etc. I won't leave her alone on the beach while I surf because she is so little and I worry about the other dogs, but many people do.

Overall, I am so glad I brought Irie down here with me. She is loving the beach, and loves chasing flies and little geckos (which aren't poisonous to dogs, even if injected. I checked😉). I'm sure she misses her friends and family back home, as I do, but I'm sure she would have missed her momma more.

Pura Vida,

Jordan and Irie

P.S. Curious about how I can afford to travel so much? One of the big reasons is Going! I have been using Going since 2019 to find affordable flights. Check them out here.

P.S.S. Want to visit another country but aren't sure how to book reliable and safe tours and excursions? I love Viator! Viator is a well-vetted company that does all of the work for you when organizing tours. The site has reviews from other people who have done the tour. Explore tours via Viator here.

P.S.S.S. This blog post contains affiliate links😉

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