MEXICALI, BAJA CALIFORNIA./ Valerie Silva estimates that she’s saved hundreds on vet bills for her dog over the past year. All it takes is a two-hour drive across the U.S.-Mexico border for the prices to plummet.
Her first trip to a Mexican vet clinic was at the start of 2022 when her chihuahua mix Sunny needed vaccines. All the local clinics near her Indio, California, home were booked full, so she found a pet hospital near her grandparents’ house in the city of Mexicali. She liked the service enough to come back to get Sunny spayed and have a second dog, a Husky named Paco, vaccinated.
Overall, she said about eight shots for two dogs cost about $200, while the spaying procedure cost $80.
“The price difference is insane,” Silva, 21, told USA TODAY. “It’s just so much easier being able to go in there and not have to worry about it being like $70, $100 for a shot.”
Mexico can be an attractive destination to those seeking dental work and cosmetic surgeries at a fraction of what is charged in the U.S. But travelers aren’t the only ones who can find more affordable health care across the border. Data from the Mexican Government shows more Americans are entering Mexico with their pets as wait times and costs at U.S. vet clinics soar.
“We’ve got this perfect storm in terms of pet vet tourism,” said Dr. David Vequist, director of the Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas. “People are trying to find care at the price that they want.”
The uptick in pets crossing the U.S.-Mexico border
Data from Mexico’s SENASICA, the agency that inspects all pets entering Mexico, shows the number of pets crossing the U.S. border into Mexico has swelled since the start of the pandemic.
In 2019, just over 20,000 dogs and cats traveled from the U.S. to Mexico. The number took a dip after the onset of the pandemic but quickly began to pick up in 2021, as pet ownership rates in the U.S. skyrocketed and travel to Mexico began to ramp back up after travel restrictions were lifted.
Last year, there were more than 33,500 crossings – up 68% from 2019.
With information from Veterinaria Mexico