A health certificate is an official government document that is required for any animal traveling to another state or another country.  A health certificate (sometimes referred to as a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or CVI) is necessary whether an animal is traveling by auto, plane, train, or boat. If you are transporting your pet via personal auto and elect not to have a health certificate done, you do so at your own risk. If you are stopped during your travels and asked by authorities to present a health certificate for your pet and are unable to do so, the officials may have the right to detain the animal, or refuse to allow the animal to enter the state or country. (Rules vary by state & country.)

Requirements for transporting a pet by air may vary from airline to airline; usually the health certificate must be done within 10 days of the animal’s travel date, but you should always check with your airline for specifics, and it’s a good idea to check with someone at the airline on the phone as well as looking for information on the airline website.

For travel within the continental United States*, a current Rabies vaccination and an examination by an accredited veterinarian deeming your pet healthy (no evidence of infectious, contagious, or communicable diseases) are usually all that is required to obtain the health certificate.

If you are traveling outside the continental United States**, in addition to a current Rabies vaccination and physical examination, your pet will very likely need to have a microchip implant that meets the current ISO standards.

For animals traveling overseas, additional requirements may include a second Rabies vaccination; vaccinations against various viral or bacterial diseases; parasite treatments; diagnostic blood tests; and sometimes a mandatory quarantine period. It is important to understand that it may take as much as 6 months or more to prepare your pet for import to another country or an island state, especially if the country or island is officially classified as “Rabies Free.” If you anticipate a move out of the United States, check the import regulations as soon as possible! Please note that import & export requirements frequently change, so you must be sure to obtain current requirements every time you travel. The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website is an excellent source of information. You may also contact our office with any questions you may have!


All of the veterinarians at Bellevue Animal Hospital are USDA Accredited (Category I) and are therefore qualified to issue international health certificates for dogs and cats, as well as ferrets, rabbits, and some other small mammals. (Please note, however, that not all of our veterinarians see exotic pets.) Only an official government veterinarian (usually a military veterinarian or a USDA official) can endorse your pet’s health certificate. Military personnel who have health certificates for their pets issued by accredited civilian veterinarians (for example, at Bellevue Animal Hospital) must have their documents endorsed by a USDA official.

Once we have seen your pet for its final pre-travel examination and completed the health certificate paperwork, we must send all of the documents that are required for import (including, but not limited to, signed Rabies vaccination certificates and health certificates) to the USDA-APHIS office in Topeka, Kansas. The documents and the USDA’s endorsement fee will be sent to Topeka via an overnight express service, and returned to our office in the same manner. Please allow at least 3 days for this process! The USDA office in Topeka can also accept documents in person for endorsement; you must make an appointment with them if you wish to do so. Whenever possible, it is strongly recommended that we send all documents to the USDA office via email for a preliminary review, prior to your pet’s health certificate exam appointment; this allows the USDA to make sure that everything is in order ahead of time.

PET BIRD OWNERS: If you are traveling with or shipping a pet bird, make sure that your veterinarian has the appropriate accreditation status (Category II) for completion of international health certificates for birds. At our hospital, Dr. Linda Rock-Paul is currently the only veterinarian who holds both Category I and Category II accreditation status.

*Including Alaska

**Hawaii, Guam, and foreign countries