Bringing Your Pets to Panama

Bring your fur babies! The process for getting your pets into Panama is extremely time-sensitive, but it is worth it to have your pets with you. When I moved to Panama, I brought my cat, Elizabeth (see photo on the left).

Consult with your veterinarian before bringing your pet to Panama because older pets may be too stressed to fly to Panama, especially if they have to go in cargo.

These are essential things you need to do to bring your pet to Panama:

At least three months before moving to Panama, you should check the airline pet policies on their website to determine which airline you will use to get your pet into Panama. If the pet is small enough to fit under the airline seat, it can fly “in-cabin,” but if it is larger, it must go in a pet cargo area.

Note that each airline has different rules for how tall a pet carrier can be. Domestic flights have much smaller pet cargo areas, so driving to a town with a direct international flight to Panama, like Miami or Houston, may be necessary. It will be easier for you and your pet to have a non-stop flight to Panama instead of changing planes with long layovers.


Some airlines do not allow pets to be flown during certain months, times of day, or holidays. It’s important to check the pet policy for the airline to pick a date and time when you can fly with your pet(s). The airline’s pet policy will have pet carrier size and style rules. Also, ensure you are NOT arriving in Panama on a weekend or a Panamanian holiday. You must arrive in Panama between 8 am and 11 pm on weekdays. I will explain why later.

If your pet is small enough to fly in-cabin (in a crate under the seat), there is usually a limit of two pets in the cabin on any flight. You can estimate about $150 for your per to fly in-cabin. So, you’ll want to book your and your pet’s flights early. If only one of you has two pets to go in-cabin, you’ll need to have a friend fly with you to get the other pet in-cabin; otherwise, the second pet will need to go in cargo.

These are the prices for larger pets to fly in cargo on Copa Airlines.

Other airlines have different sizes for allowable crates so check their pet policy or call their cargo department. The sooner you know this information, the better.

Once you book your flight and pay for your pet to go on the flight, then you know the DATE you will be arriving in Panama.

The next step is to ensure your pet is up to date on its shots and schedule a veterinarian appointment to get an international health certificate for your pet 30 days before your flight to Panama.  This is a list of vaccines needed.

Ten days before you fly to Panama, you must take your pet(s) to the vet to get an international health certificate. You may be able to put two pets on the same certificate. The cost is $150 to $200 for the certificate. For those who doubt the 10-day rule, see the State Department website section highlighted in purple.

If you are flying on a charter plane, the health certificate can be no more than 30 days old.

Next, you must get the international health certificate authenticated by the agriculture department. If you’re a US citizen, that is the USDA. Canadians go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Some vets (but not all) can electronically deliver the health certificate to the agriculture department and then get it back quickly.

If the agriculture department has an office near you, driving to their office to get the authentication would be a good idea. If there is not an agriculture department office near you, you will need to send the international health certificate to them via Federal Express “next day delivery” and include a return “next day delivery” envelope so they can send it back to you as fast as possible because there is one more step…

In the third step, once you get the authenticated international health certificate back from the agriculture department, you must authenticate it by the Panamanian Consulate.  If they have an office near you, it is best to drive there to get the authentication. If there is not an office near you, once again, you will need to send the authenticated international health certificate via Federal Express “next day delivery” and include a return “next day delivery” Federal Express envelope so they can send it back to you right away.

Remember, you only have 10 DAYS to complete the last three steps.

Simultaneously, while you are doing what is necessary to get your pet OUT of your country, you will need to do certain things to get your pet into Panama. We have information below on hiring someone to help with the next steps if you prefer not to do it yourself.

At least three days before you arrive in Panama, you must send a document requesting a 40-day home quarantine. The home quarantine means your pet can stay in your home or yard in Panama. The fee for the home quarantine is $130 per pet.   SEE THE HOME QUARANTINE DOCUMENT IN ENGLISH HERE.


When you arrive at the airport, a veterinarian must inspect your pet. So, it’s essential to arrive at the airport when the vets are working from 8 am to 11 pm on weekdays and NO Panamanian holidays. If you arrive after hours, during a Panamanian holiday, or on the weekend, your pet will be held in a kennel at the airport until the veterinarian’s office opens again.

You can hire a company in Panama to take care of the Panama home quarantine documents for you. They will meet you at the airport when you arrive to help you get your pet inspected by a Panamanian veterinarian, then either take you to a pet-friendly hotel so you can relax or drive you to your final destination in Panama. We recommend using Jose at GoldenFrog.

If this sounds too complicated and time-sensitive for you to do, you can hire a pet relocation company to handle everything for you, but they charge about $3000-$5000 per pet. This is not necessary if you follow these simple yet time-sensitive guidelines.

Getting your pet into Panama is a time-sensitive process, but YOU CAN DO IT! Tens of thousands of others have gone through the same process to get their pets into Panama, and you can, too! It’s so worth it to have your fur baby with you.

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. Filimena Snyman says

    Oh my word, I have 3 dogs and 5 cats that are my babies. How on earth will I be able to get them to Panama? If we only allowed 2 pets.

    • Jackie Lange says

      You can only have 2 pets INSIDE the plane on each flight. The other pets will need to go in a special cargo area for pets.

  2. Chuck says

    Since our dogs must see a vet at the airport in Panama City, do most people then rent a car to get to Boquete if that is their final destination? I am just not sure how I would catch a connecting flight to David if it takes awhile for a vet to inspect my dogs.

    • Jackie Lange says

      If you don’t want to take a domestic flight, you can either hire a private driver to get you, your pets and your luggage to your final destination or you can rent a car. It’s usually less stressful for you and the pets if you hire a driver.

  3. nita daviesbagnall says

    Can’t we just road trip it down to Panama with our pets?

    • Dustin Lange says

      Assuming you are coming from North America, yes it’s possible. It adds a lot of extra complexity though because each country has a process that must be followed for allowing your pets to enter the country. Check out this article to read someone else’s experience making the drive..with no pets.

  4. Trisha says

    What about if you are bringing your cat in via a sailboat?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Contact Jose at to find out what the rules are for bringing pets in on a sail boat. You will still need the international health certificate, authenticated by the Panama Consulate, but not sure if they would give you more than 10 days.

  5. Delores Prichard says

    Could you please give me a link to an official government website for the required information (that you mention above) — I need to give that to our pet relocation service so that she will know how to get our cat from China to Puerto Armuelles.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Check the Panama Consulate website in China for details about getting pets out of China.

  6. Karen Bowser says

    Are there special issues with birds since I have parrots?

    • Jackie Lange says

      You’d need to check with the airlines about bring birds on the flight. And check with Jose about bringing birds into Panama.

  7. Heidi says

    Are you allowed to bring a parrot? I’ve had my bird for 20 years and would need to bring him with me.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Yes, you can bring parrots into Panama.

  8. Cindy Winston says

    Hi Jackie. My husband and I have a tour booked in January of 2023. We are 99% sure that we will be retiring and moving there around June of 2023. We have 2 pugs and from what I have read, alot of airlines will not allow a pug to fly because they have such short snouts and potential respiratory problems. I need info about booking a private company to bring my boys over. You said something about people are booking together and sharing the expense. Can you give me more info on that?
    Thank you,
    Cindy Winston and Tim Treadaway

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hello Cindy, Inside our private facebook community there are several people booking charter flights to Panama and looking for people to share the flight. The private facebook group is only available for those who have been on a tour or who purchased the Complete Panama Relocation Guide. I’m glad to give your information to those who are arranging charters but currently they are all for moving in 2022. After your January tour, you’ll have access to all the information for private charters and people who want to share a flight.

  9. Chris says

    How difficult is it to rent a home when you have 2 dogs and 2 cats?

    • Jackie Lange says

      There will be less rentals available with 4 pets but there are definitely rentals available.

  10. Hanna Kjellman says

    Is there any special requirements or documents/certificates if i’m just going to transfer airplains in panama with a cat?
    I have a cat and im going to travel with him from el salvador to sweden but have a transit in panama

  11. Amanda A says

    I have contacted Copa Airlines a couple of different times, and all of the agents have told me that the health certificate is valid for whatever the USDA says (which would be 30 days).

    Have you heard this information too?

    • Jackie Lange says

      while it’s true that the health certificate is valid for 30 days, the airlines will not accept a health certificate that is more than 10 days old.

  12. Tiffanie Kempf says

    Hello, how does the 40 day quarantine affect us if we are staying on vacation for 30 days in Panama? Thank you

    • Jackie Lange says

      Yes, it affect you. Your pet cannot leave the property for 40 days.

      • Lauren says

        Hi Jackie, I have a house in El Palmar, As a tourist, can I fly into Scarlett Martinez (RIH) airport via Air Transat with my cat ( from Toronto YYZ) or does it have to be through Tocumen airport ??(YYZ) I would only be going for 2 weeks with home quarantine, but is that possible?

        • Jackie Lange says

          You can definitely fly into Rio Hato. I don’t know that airlines pet policy.

          You do realize that you will need to get a new health certificate from Panama that is not more than 10 days old when you fly your cat back to Canada.

  13. Kristin says

    Would we be able to bring our pets for just one night? We are planning to move from USA to Uruguay, but with a stop in Panama for a day in between so that our pets are not stuck in kennels for 18 hours. Would we be able to bring them in for just one day?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Kristin, you must follow the same guidelines for bringing your pet into Panama – even if it is only for 1 day.

  14. Mary says

    Hi Jackie – Thanks for the great information! Should I assume that all of this also applies to a service dog? What about bringing in dog food? Our service dog is on a special diet so we would be carrying it with us. Thanks!

    • Jackie Lange says

      all the rules for bringing a dog into Panama apply to a “service dog” too. Panama does not recognize service dogs. In addition to the paperwork requirements, your dog will need to do a 40-day quarantine and cannot leave your property. Most businesses do not allow dogs inside so you will not be able to take your dog inside. Some restaurants have outdoor seating where dogs are allowed.

  15. renee leblond says

    I am not comfortable at all about flying my 2 Australian Shepherds. I saw a video with man driving through central america with his dogs…. Is there a convoy that is orgonise for that if we decide to drive to Panama? Is there a compagny or private that can drive our dogs through Central America?? In other words does the pet owner have to be with the pet for driving through? How about sailboats or ships for pet transfortation with or without me on board?

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Renee. Pre-pandemic,there was a company out of San Antonio Texas that did monthly convoys to Panama. But I think they went out of business. In the Online Panama Relocation Guide, we have recommendations for several Pet Relocation Companies.

  16. Deb Strachan says

    Hi Jackie,

    I have always flown into Tocumen airport but this year I will be flying into Rio Cato airport RIH. I was wondering there is an email address that I send the request for at home quarantine. Would I use this same email address to request quarantine when flying into Rio Cato?

    • Jackie Lange says

      Deb, The form and the request for home quarantine is the same. The bigger problem is that the vet to do an inspection is not always at Rio Hato especially on holidays and weekends. You must have a vet inspection or your pet will be put in quarantine at the Rio Hato airport.

  17. Shiv Kapoor says

    Hi There,

    Does the 10 day requirement for the international health certificate also apply to service dogs? I am flying on the 29th but will have the certificate completed by the 17th. There is no possible way I can have it completed within the 10 day timeframe.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Yes, the health certificate cannot be more than 10 days old. It applies to service dogs too. Tens of thousands have been able to accomplish this — you can too.

  18. Nathan says

    Hello Jackie,
    we live in Costa Rica and have two large dogs (Central Asian Shepherds) and six cats. We want to move to Panama with them, however will not travel by aeroplane, but by car. (We are aware of the fact that we need permission to cross the borders with CR plates). Do you know how it works in this case? We talked with our vet here and he said that we need export documents proving our pets are healthy and were vaccinated. Based on his words almost 90% of vets in Costa Rica can do this paperwork. But he does not know anything about the home quarantine.

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