Should expats bring their pets to China?

The Chinese are rapidly becoming a population of pet lovers. As with all social changes this change is painful and the speed of change varies with the city or province.

I have read posts in various places on the internet that suggest that bringing your beloved pets to China should be avoided at all costs; I disagree with this strongly and if your pet could talk then I think they would too.


China is a country where they have strong laws that they enforce firmly, and whilst I may not agree with their methods of enforcement as long as pet owners satisfy the regulations then they will not fall foul of the authorities.


Each province has their own regulations; in Beijing and Shanghai import quarantine is 7 days. In Beijing vets that have government approval can give the Rabies vaccination but in Shanghai only the government vets can give this vaccination.


Hence it is important that the client has a thorough understanding of these local regulations before arrival and this may include where you live! In Beijing to live within the 5th ring road one’s dog has to stand less than 35cm at the shoulder.


Throughout China dogs need to be registered yearly with the local police and this process is routine, however owners do often complain that in those areas where the government officials give the vaccinations, the procedure can be a little rough and unhygienic.


Some of the vaccinations that we take for granted in the West are not available for our dogs and cats in China but generally the health liability is still low even though this is the case; the multi-vaccinations and Rabies are available.


Veterinary care in China is understandably at a lower level than in the West however in Beijing and Shanghai this is changing with western veterinary consultants helping drive this improvement, just as Western doctors helped develop the human medical profession.


Clients often think that such international standard medical services are especially expensive in China, be it human or veterinary, but I’d suggest that its their cost perspective that may have changed as so many other products and services are actually a lot cheaper than in their home countries.


Also before you arrive give a thought to where you maybe going after your time in China! China is a non-registered country from an export perspective, hence the EU will require a rabies antibody titer blood sample before your return, as will many other countries; the Americas do not.


Hence if you are coming from the EU, get this blood sample and a pet passport before coming. This blood sample aside, the export process has the same steps as the export process from all other countries i.e. an export health certificate and permit from an approved veterinarian, though there is a little bit of blood sampling that this author deems unnecessary.


During my time in China, whilst dogs and cats were predominantly the pets that I have treated, iguanas, chameleons, parrots, terrapins, turtles, and all of the small furries found their way though my door. It should be noted that the export of all these exotic species from China is becoming increasingly complicated and in certain instances prohibited e.g. birds, hence I would recommend leaving your more unusual pets at home.


Obviously China isn’t presently as pet friendly as many other expat destinations, however it is getting there and if we wanted the familiar and risk-free we would have stayed at home.


Hence whilst the countries we visit may well have rules and regulations, beliefs and perspectives that we may find frustrating or unacceptable I think we should remember that in their society we are the oddity. If a local stares or grimaces at us as we walk our 30kg dog down their street, I think we should swallow a big dose of humility and accept that in our world experiences vary and mature over time.


Warm regards,



Pet Mamas & Papas is a blog written by Dr. Tony Beck of the Doctors Beck & Stone veterinary clinic. You can learn more about Dr. Beck by clicking this link.


Image courtesy of Ambro at

2 responses to “Should expats bring their pets to China?

  1. Well, I think it all depends on where you come from. If you are from Australia, and you want to take your pet back home after living for a few years here, you should be aware that the pet quarantine rules are very strict. You cannot bring a pet from China into Australia. It has to go through a third country, and it has to stay there for at least 6 months before entering Australia, which makes it a total of 7 months quarantine. Would you lock up your pet that long? A bit inhumane in my opinion.

  2. We brought our dog here from US 6 months ago. She was required to get a rabies shot to enter China (even though her current one was still valid). Then after we got here in order to get her Vet immunization card (first step to getting her registerd with police station), they required her to get another rabies shot. Which I put my foot down and said NO. Your country required she get one to enter, she does not need another. They relented and issued us the card. I know of other families who have done the same thing. If you are in this situation, do not hesitate to take control.

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