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Why is my dog's 3 years rabies vaccination considered expired for pet travel?

How long is the rabies vaccination actually valid for?

John's problem

John was puzzled when his agent told him the United Kingdom deems his dog’s rabies vaccination expired. His doctor told him it’s valid for 3 years and there was at least 1 more year to go before it expires. That’s what is written on the vaccination record as well! What’s going on?

"Is my dog’s rabies vaccination valid for 1 year or 3 years?"

For pet travel, John's problem isn't uncommon and happens to perhaps 1 out of 4 pet owners who use our services for their pet's travel. If caught early, it's possible to remedy it. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation where you put your pet through many other procedures and paying a lot of money for them to only discover that due to the rabies vaccination, everything else done later is now useless. 

Let's identify and break down what the problem actually is: Most countries require a valid rabies vaccination for your pet to enter. Even if it's the only requirement (besides the health certificate), you need to read the fine print of how to actually meet the "valid rabies vaccination requirement".

Hong Kong does not recognize the validity of any rabies vaccination beyond 1 year.

Why is my dog's 3 years rabies vaccination considered expired for pet travel?

How long is the rabies vaccination actually valid for?

One must first understand that there are 3 parties here: The manufacturer of the vaccination, the doctor who administered it and finally the country of import who determines the import requirements. Next one must understand that the importing country holds the most weight. If an appeal letter to the importing country gets approved, your pet’s vaccination status is accepted regardless. However, as part of the import requirement, most countries will use the term: “vaccination valid if administered according to the manufacturer’s recommendation” or some iteration of this sentence. 

Manufacturers like Boehringer Ingelheim/Merial, Elanco, Merck, Zoetis, MSD etc, may produce 2 separate rabies vaccination products - the 1 year and the 3 year. The 1 year is obviously only valid for 1 year. However, the 3 year product, as per the manufacturer’s recommendation is specifically only valid for 3 years 

  • If it was administered as a booster 

  • to a pet who has had a primary rabies vaccination 

  • Before the age of 3 months.

Therefore, if these conditions aren’t met, the longest “validity” of the rabies vaccination is 1 year. 

For pet agents, we will have to track down your pet’s earlier rabies vaccination for this reason: to prove to the importing country that your final rabies vaccination is indeed valid for 3 years. Otherwise, and quite often, we would recommend that your pet simply gets another rabies vaccination. In some cases, we would also recommend this if your pet also needed a rabies titer test.

Validity of a rabies vaccination prior to microchip implantation.

For most if not all countries, vaccinations are only considered valid for travel if they were administered after a pet has been microchipped. This is the only way they can verify that the vaccination belongs to your pet/ that your pet, being identifiable via a microchip has been vaccinated on that particular date. There is no "declaration" otherwise acceptable. In turn, that means that while verifying your pet's paperwork and rabies vaccination records, we have to be "blind" to any vaccination records done prior to your pet being microchipped. That sometimes result in your pet not having that primary rabies vaccination in order for the latest rabies vaccination to be considered valid for 3 years.

Is my doctor wrong?

Do understand that doctors are responsible for your pet's welfare. On the other hand, pet agents are responsible for your pet meeting the importing country's requirement. This is often at opposite ends of each other.

Your doctor may have reason to consider your pet's latest rabies vaccination valid for 3 years because they can recognize the primary rabies vaccination done previously whereupon we can't recognize it because it was done prior to microchipping.

We will defer to your doctor if it's all about your pet's welfare. However, if you want your pet to travel, we ask that you trust our advice.

Why is my dog's 3 years rabies vaccination considered expired for pet travel?

Some Rabies vaccination Requirement examples:

Disclaimer: These are only some examples, please consult with a full-service agent like 0x Cargo in order to determine what is actually required of for your pet.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa:

These countries don't recognize the validity of rabies vaccinations beyond 1 year. This does not mean that the country doesn't recognize 3-year rabies products but that if administered, it only offers your pet protecting for 1 year.

To put it in another way, these countries requires your pet be vaccinated against rabies within 1 year of travel.

Singapore, United Kingdom and the EU:

Popular destinations, they recognize 3 years rabies vaccination validities if they previous rabies vaccinations can be tracked down to the primary.

Japan, Thailand:

Some countries do not explicitly state whether 3-year vaccinations require proof of primary vaccinations to be valid. The best way to negotiate this is to be prepared to provide those documentations or to err on the side of caution and only travel with rabies vaccinations within 1 year.

Rabies Vaccination Certificate

Along with all the hassle with making sure the rabies vaccination is done correctly, the rabies vaccination certificate is a document that needs to travel alongside your pet. Before July 15, there is no specific format the rabies vaccination certificate should look like. However, a few key items that must be on your pet's vaccination records are:

  • Details of Hospital

  • Pet's details including microchip number

  • Vaccination details including manufacturer name, product name, batch/serial number, product expiry date, vaccination date and valid till date.

  • Doctor's name and signature (ideally in original blue ink).


A lucky person might just have had the rabies vaccination for their pets done in the perfect date range but hopefully the above has helped someone discover that they are in danger of not meeting their destinations requirement as they had first thought!

To both, we would like to remind that rabies vaccination may not be the only requirement your pet has to meet. Procedures like rabies titer tests, parasite treatments and the final health certificate all their own "traps" that one might fall into. Do do alot more homework or consider trusting in a company like 0x Cargo to oversee all of these for you.


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