Pets in Panama

Hello everyone,

Many of us in Panama have four-legged friends. What about you? Do you have one or more pets? Share your experience with us!

What are the formalities to import pets in Panama? What about pet adoption procedures in the country? Did you bring your pet from your home country to your host country? If so, did everything turn out fine?

What do Panamanians think about pets? Are they comfortable with dogs, cats or unusual pets?

Share your advice!


This was our experience with bringing our dogs down to Panama from California: … om-a-to-z/

We have 5 rescued dogs in Panama. 2 we brought from The Bahamas air cargo and the rest we adopted in Panama after fostering them. My wife and I rescue cats and dogs here in Panama as part of a well organised charity called "Pro Vida Animales Panama"....Panama Pets on FaceBook is also a good page to ask for advice.

Bless you for your rescue work.

Another poster gave explicit information about bringing a pet (or pets) to Panama. When I moved to Panama (Volcan) in 2004 I did not have a pet at the time and I thought I didn't even LIKE dogs. (I had formerly had cats.)

Well, the sight of the scores of starving, diseased, mange-ridden dogs roaming the streets in Volcan broke my heart. Through a series of events, I began a low-cost spay/neuter clinic (once a month) for my town and the surrounding area in March of 2006. See  No foundation or corporation involved, just me, our one veterinarian, and a few dedicated volunteers.  I pay the deficits from my own pocket.

November 20, 2016 will be our 100th spay/neuter clinic! We will have sterilized around 3,700 dogs and cats, thus eliminating the births of thousands upon thousands of puppies and kittens that would have homeless lives of starvation, cruelty, disease, and early death. And of course those that survive long enough to procreate exacerbate the problem. 

During the years I have rescued/adopted many dogs. I currently have 18 dogs. Fortunately I have a wonderful employee without whom I could not care for so many dogs! Most of the current dogs are "mine" permanently because I couldn't think of parting with them. They are family.

Of course animal cruelty exists everywhere, including in the US. But in the small town of Volcan, the suffering animals were more visible. Now, because of our spay/neuter clinics, we seldom see a malnourished or diseased dog on the streets. The clinics have also helped to change the hearts and minds of the local Panamanian people about their animals. Now many are aware that their dogs are not just "things" without needs for affection, sufficient food and water, and shelter from the sun and rain. It warms my heart to see how many people at our clinics now absolutely adore their dogs and cats.

Little by little...

It is heartening to hear of the work by Muffiemae and friends. We have a small Bichon-poodle but rather than expose her to the rougher dog's life in Panama I will leave her home in Canada with my wife and look to a rescue dog once I am settled in Panama (or Colombia if that is where the chips land.

There are tons of dogs here, and if you want one you won't have any trouble finding one to adopt, especially if you are OK with a mid or larger size mixed breed, not a chihuahua or little poodle or something.

There is a business that I believe is called Golden Frog that helps people bring in pets.

Almost all the Panamanians I know have one or more dogs. There are little house dogs, usually chihuahuas. Then, there are outside dogs that are more like livestock to guard the house. They often aren't socialized or trained as much. There are strays also, but not as many thanks to the efforts of good people who run spay/neuter clinics and help rescue dogs. I have noticed that many Panamanians while they won't adopt a stray, they will feed and care for one that lives on their street. They are also getting on board with spay/neuter. I took a stray I know to a clinic and that day they did 104 dogs, and only 6 belonged to gringos. (my stray was being cared for by people at a nearby business, but she had been injured by a car so I was her "nurse" for a while. She had puppies and didn't need any more)

There aren't as many cats but there are some, also often roaming free. Birds and parrots are very popular here as pets. Other unusual pets - people are probably fine with whatever you want to do in your own house. Warn them if you have a snake though. Most Panamanians are deathly afraid of snakes, and if they come to visit and are surprised by your pet snake in your living room they would probably have a heart attack.

I don't have a dog, or cat, or bird, or goldfish, or anything that needs taken care of. I want to be free to come and go as I please, but if I want a dog companion I can always "borrow" one from the neighborhood.

Steve, if your  wife isn't coming with you to Panama, I think it's a wise decision to leave your little doggie with her in Canada.  Not that there is "rougher life" for your doggie in Panama, but depending on where you settle, the issue is competent veterinarian care.

It has taken me a long time over the years with my own rescued dogs and working with Dr. Tello and our spay/neuter clinics to know what COMPETENT veterinary care really is. Without that kind of experience and knowledge, one just "assumes" that a "veterinarian" is competent. WRONG! Even in the US, Canada, etc. , just because someone is a "veterinarian" doesn't mean they are competent. Many aren't. Whatever "advice" is given by a veterinarian, before allowing them to administer ANYTHING--drugs or surgery--do lots of research on the internet! And get references by satisfied customers. (Same with medical care for humans--wherever you are!)

In my town, there are NO competent veterinarians. Between our monthly clinics, many people bring their dogs to me because I and my employee usually know how to competently treat them, including suturing wounds.

In the the larger town of David down the hill from us, there are a couple of "veterinarians" that some gringos think hung the moon. They have good bedside manner and charge a lot. But anyone who knows what competent veterinary care is knows those people are incompetent charlatans. For those who say these people are "wonderful," there are more who say "I will never go back to them again."

My two cents worth. My 18 rescued dogs will NEVER been treated by anyone other than Dr. Tello from Costa Rica who operates at our clinics. When we need him between clinics, we arrange to meet him at the border at Paso Canoas for him to examine our animal. When necessary, he takes the dog/cat to his clinic in Costa Rica. There is not a better veterinarian anywhere than Dr. Andres Tello , including in the US. Besides his extraordinary competence, he has a heart of gold and genuinely CARES for animals.

I took the stray I mentioned to Happy Pet in David and thought he did a good job. He examined her, cleaned the wound, told me how to care for it, did blood tests to check for infection and any general health problems, ordered antibiotics, and answered any questions all for $60? $70? I don't remember for sure. Oh, and he also gave me instructions and tranquilizers and a muzzle so I could even get her in. Injured street dog who didn't know me... it didn't go well at first but now we are very good friends, and happy to say she is fully healed.
I'm a nurse and I have also worked for a vet in the US, so I kind of know what's going on. Others say he has done a good job with their pets too. Oh, and he speaks English too, and I think one of his staff may as well.

And I have horror stories galore about Happy Pets. Sometime even the bad "vets"s get lucky.

I went the first time with a friend who had a sick cat and we didn't know the vet spoke English. In that case, and also with my stray dog friend he diagnosed the situation accurately and gave appropriate treatment. That's all I know first hand. 

muffiemae :

And I have horror stories galore about Happy Pets. Sometime even the bad "vets"s get lucky.

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