Traveling with dogs or cats to Ecuador takes a lot of planning and preparation. You’ll need to get a variety of vaccinations on a very specific schedule, and you’ll need to make travel plans to fly them. In this article, we provide all the shortcuts for the required paperwork and share our firsthand experience bringing our two dogs to Ecuador from the United States.
IMPORTANT: As of the writing of this article, most airlines are not allowing checked dogs in cargo due to reduced staff during the pandemic. We will update this article when that changes.
If you’re planning a move to Ecuador, you may find our Start Here series helpful.
USDA APHIS – Traveling with Dogs or Cats to Ecuador from the USA
If you’re going to bring your pets to Ecuador, the first thing you need to do is read through all the guidelines and certificate paperwork on the USDA APHIS website. APHIS stands for “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.”
Here’s the page with the Health Certificates for Dogs and Cats, specifically for Ecuador. You need to have this paperwork with you at all times while traveling internationally with your pets.
The next step is to find a USDA Accredited Veterinarian who can will help you fill out all the paperwork and plan your vaccine schedule. They’ll also work with the USDA to make sure everything on the paperwork and the vaccine schedule is correct. We used Town & Country Veterinary Clinic in Marietta, GA. They were very helpful and we highly recommend them if you live in the Atlanta area.
You’ll also need to find the nearest USDA APHIS office to get all the certificates endorsed. You need to make an appointment with them, and it could take a couple weeks to get on their calendar so plan accordingly.
The vaccine schedule is complicated, especially if you have multiple dogs or cats at various stages of their vaccine schedule. Daisy and Alicia both had some vaccines that had not expired yet. That meant we had to get boosters for some vaccines while making sure others were given during a specific window of time.
Even working with an accredited vet, we still made a mistake on one of the vaccines, which caused us to delay our trip by two weeks. Thankfully for us, but not for millions of other people, Hurricane Irma passed through Atlanta on the day we were supposed to leave and closed the airport, so we were able to change our flights without paying any fees.
The best way to avoid timing mistakes is to create a calendar and share it with your vet. Have them make sure everything is correct and nothing is missing or on the wrong dates. If you don’t have all the right shots at the right times, your pet will not be allowed to board the plane to Ecuador.
Is It Safe to Fly Your Pets on an Airplane?
There are a lot of horror stories that are easy to find about how dangerous it is to fly your pets, especially as cargo. However, if you look at the safety stats, it’s still safer to fly your pet in an airplane than it is to drive him or her to the airport in a car.
If your pet is small enough to fit under the seat in a soft-sided pet carrier, or if you have a registered service animal who can fly in-cabin with you, you won’t have as much cause for concern. With that said, some airlines won’t allow snub-nosed dogs like pugs or bulldogs due to their notorious breathing issues. Check with your airline about their policy relating to these types of dogs if you have one.
As for checking your large dog as cargo, that’s a whole different story. It is very safe to fly your dog in the temperature and pressure controlled cargo area of the plane, but it can be very stressful to hand your fur baby over to an airline employee and watch him or her disappear behind a door into the bowels of the airport. It’s a leap of faith for sure, but thousands of pets are flown on airplanes every year with very few incidents.
Some airlines prohibit large dog crates and will only allow dogs to be checked as cargo during certain times of the year when the temperatures at the departure and destination airports aren’t too hot or too cold. Be sure to check with the airline about their rules and plan your trip accordingly.
We moved to Ecuador without Daisy (my Heeler/Border Collie mix shown here) because it was too hot to fly her in cargo. She stayed with her grandma in Atlanta until the weather changed and we were able to go back to get her.
Even then, we still had issues due to weather. Atlanta had a freak cold snap in November with 8 inches of snow and it was too cold to fly her so we rented a car and drove to Miami. The car rental was very expensive and changing our flights was a huge hassle.
The trip was very stressful for her and it took several days for her to forgive us for the whole experience, but she’s our baby and we didn’t want to leave her behind.
If you have an older or unhealthy pet, or your dog is too large to fly in cargo, you have two options. First, you can find a new home for your pet with a family member or friend. We know a few people who have done this. It’s a tough decision, but it may be the best option for your fur baby.
Second, you can charter a flight if you have sufficient funds. We also know people who have done this. The cost is between $20,000 and $30,000 so it’s not something the average person could afford.
Whether you decide to find a new home or bring your dogs or cats to Ecuador is a tough decision, but we’re very happy our two dogs are here with us.
Pet Transport Services
We also researched pet transport and relocation services before we moved to Ecuador. These services handle all the logistics of transporting your dog or cat to your new home in Ecuador. They’ll pick your pet up, take them to the airport and make sure they get on the plane safely. Then someone else will pick them up at the destination city and deliver them to your new home.
We opted not to go this route because these services are very expensive and they fly the pets in a commercial airplane just like we did. The only difference is we wouldn’t have been there with Alicia in-cabin or with Daisy when we dropped her off at the checkin counter or picked her up in Guayaquil.
We decided the cost wasn’t worth it and we wanted to be with our babies as much as possible during the stressful experience.
Pet Friendly Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil Ecuador
The hotel we mentioned in the video is the Air Suites Hotel in Guayaquil. It’s only a few blocks from the airport, it’s very affordable and they accept pets. We’ve stayed there several times and it typically costs about $35/night. The rooms are small, but they’re very clean.
You can walk to Mall del Sol, which is about 10 blocks away. That mall has all the modern stores you would see in the US or Europe with a sizable food court and lots of nice restaurants. We featured a bit of Mall del Sol in this video: Guayaquil Ecuador: It’s a LOT Different!
We don’t recommend walking to the mall or back to the hotel at night, but it’s safe during the day. Just stay aware of your surroundings like you would anywhere.
Renting a Home that Accepts Pets in Ecuador
Not all landlords in Ecuador will accept pets, and some will only accept small dogs like Alicia. Daisy is considered a large dog here even though she’s only 30 pounds.
Ecuador has a culture of negotiation so you may be able to convince a potential landlord to accept your pet, but they might want to meet your fur baby first. Pet deposits aren’t common in Ecuador, but you could offer one to sweeten the deal.
Pet Services in Ecuador
We now live on the coast in Olón, Ecuador, which doesn’t have the same types of pet services that Cuenca does. Most people take their pets to La Libertad about an hour drive south of Olón, but we are getting a new vet clinic with a full time vet and a vet tech. Once they officially open for business and we have more information about them, we’ll update this article.
We highly recommend these pet service providers in Cuenca, Ecuador:
- Cuenca Animal Clinic – Veterinarian
- Maxi’s Pet Care – Grooming and Babysitting
- Dog Wash – another groomer we’ve used with several locations in Cuenca
- Club Canino Cuenca – a groomer we’ve used for Alicia who picked her up and dropped her off
If you have any other questions, please let us know in the comments and we’ll try to answer them.
Planning a move to Ecuador?
Our Ecuador Expat Fast Track eCourse will tell you exactly how to do it! Join more than 250 people who have already signed up! See what our students have to say here...
Get Qualified, Trustworthy Recommendations
Need help with your visa, finding a place to live, shipping a container, health insurance, private driver or something else?
We're happy to introduce you to our trusted and qualified relocation experts in Ecuador!
Every Friday, we send an email with current expat-relevant news from Ecuador (in English). It contains the latest information about covid, travel restrictions & guidelines, government actions, volcanoes, flooding, crime, and more. Basically, anything significant from the prior week that affects expats. We don't share this information ANYWHERE ELSE!
In addition, you'll also gain immediate access to our Ecuador Cost of Moving & Living Calculator. And it now contains a Low Budget Cost of Living option.
Once you become a member, you'll also gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits that will help you make a smooth transition to Ecuador!