Brussels Griffon dog with a travel suitcase and hatA 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. It is often required that the microchip be implanted BEFORE your pet is given a Rabies vaccination.
  • For example, the first rabies vaccination your pet gets after its microchip or after any lapse in vaccination coverage is a “primary” rabies vaccination according to the rules of the European Union (including Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, etc.) This rule may apply for other countries as well.
  • For all pets vaccinated in the United States, a “primary” rabies vaccination is only valid for 1 year.  Even if your pet is an adult animal and receives a three-year vaccine, if it is a “primary” rabies vaccination according to the rules of your destination country, it is only valid for 1 year.
  • If your pet does not receive another rabies vaccination within 1 year of a “primary” rabies vaccination, it means the vaccination coverage lapsed and you must start over.  Even if the vaccination coverage only lapses by a day, the next rabies vaccination is again considered a “primary” rabies vaccination, and it is only valid for 1 year.
  • After any “primary” rabies vaccination, your pet must wait 21 days before traveling to the European Union.  There may be waiting periods for other countries as well, typically from 21 – 30 days.  Your pet may be able to travel less than 21 days after a “booster” rabies vaccination, but then the previous rabies vaccination must also be included on the health certificate, to prove the validity of the booster vaccination.


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! Import and export requirements frequently change, so you must be sure to check on the 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.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the amount of time involved for a review of your pet’s complete medical record, and the paperwork involved in an international health certificate, we typically need to schedule health certificate exams at least 3 to 4 weeks prior to the pet’s travel date in order to ensure accuracy and a timely return of the USDA-APHIS endorsed documents. 

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 a USDA-APHIS office for endorsement by an official government veterinarian. We will usually submit the documents to the USDA electronically via the Veterinary Export Health Certification System (VEHCS) website.

Digital /electronic endorsement by the USDA-APHIS veterinarian is accepted by some countries, but may vary by species.  Most countries still require the USDA-APHIS veterinarian to ink-sign and emboss the health certificate with an official seal. This means that the final, endorsed health certificate that travels with your pet must be mailed back to us from the USDA office via an overnight courier such as FedEx. We must allow at least 3 days for this process!

Regardless of whether the USDA endorsement is digital or non-digital, your pet must always be accompanied during its trip by a printed paper endorsed health certificate.

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