Think Twice Before Bringing Pets To Cuenca

We vividly remember helping our downstairs neighbor bury his beloved cocker spaniel last year.  The dog had fallen victim to distemper, a common Ecuadorian disease we have almost eradicated in the States.  As a result, the dog hadn’t been vaccinated against distemper and was gone in less than two weeks despite multiple trips to the vet.

Why bring this up?  An increasing number of our clients are telling us they plan to bring their pets with them when they move to Cuenca.  While in the US some 61% of Americans routinely travel with their animals (according to the June edition of Prevention magazine), an international move is just not comparable to a weekend getaway in the States.  Having grown up with animals ourselves, we get why people want to travel with their pets … but we still ask anyone thinking of bringing their pet to Cuenca to think twice before they travel with their beloved cats, dogs, rare birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, or pet rats.  Here’s a short list of why:

Different Pet Culture

Cuencanos have a very different pet culture than what is found in the United States.  There are no city-wide leash laws or PooperScooper rules here.  Pets are rarely spayed or neutered.  Exotic pets are extremely rare, and guinea pigs are a local delicacy.  Unpopular local animals (such as yappy dogs or wandering cats) will be poisoned without regret by the neighbors, even if they are normally kept in private yards.

This is not to say there are no spoiled cats or pampered pooches – it’s just that dogs are much more likely to be viewed as a security system than “man’s best friend” in Cuenca.  Cats are less common as pets than as mousers, and feral animals of both types roam free in the evenings to hunt for food or beg at doorways, even in your nicer neighborhoods.

Expensive To Import

Along with trying to manage a very different pet culture, there is a significant cost factor involved in bringing a pet to Ecuador.  You will need special airline arrangements to get to the country, lists of shots, translated documents, and money for entry fees.  Size limits are enforced, as is a per person pet limit for import tax purposes.  Some pets have been subjected to quarantine, though this is not common.  What is common are high costs and misunderstandings on the Ecuadorian side of the line when bringing in pets, even if you think you have all your papers in order at customs.  Though some people do come through with no major issues, plan for extra work at the border when you are traveling with pets.

New Diseases

After costs and culture shock, your pet will also have to deal with new diseases.  For this reason alone we encourage you to leave your beloved pets at home for short trips to Ecuador, and consider finding them a new loving home in the States instead of bringing them to Cuenca.

Distemper is just one common but deadly disease new arrivals have to face down.  Cuenca has significantly different bacteria and viruses than other parts of the world, leaving new arrivals with sick spells, odd rashes, and surprising allergic reactions.

The high elevation also a strain for non-native animals.  A number of older pets have found the  adjustment needed to be more than they can comfortably manage.  Regardless of your pet’s age, we advise against bringing any animal with a compromised respiratory system to  Cuenca as the altitude can be too much.

Food & Medicine Changes

Do you have a picky cat or dog that would rather not eat than eat an “inferior” brand of pet food?  Please don’t bring it to Cuenca!  Pet food supplies are limited to basic brands.  Wet cat and dog foods are very expensive and selection is marginal at best.  Dry pet foods are the norm, since many local families feed their animals table scraps rather than shopping for anything fancy.

The same goes for medicines.  Most vets use generic brands, and even name brands are often formulated a bit differently here in Ecuador.  If you know your pet can’t handle medicinal changes, you will need to either plan to secure a stable supply of the home stuff or leave your pet behind for their own well-being.

Challenging To Find Apartments

Last but not least (from our perspective) bringing a pet to Cuenca makes it very difficult to find a quality apartment.  This is doubly true if you are looking for a short-term furnished rental in Cuenca while you choose your final home.  Almost all the landlords we know with quality short-term furnished apartments available have no interest in having “animals” in their rentals.

Chalk it up to prejudice, but accept that this is real.  No amount of pet deposit is going to make the situation better.  Promising angelic behavior doesn’t work either.  These landlords have hard experience under their belt with bite marks on wood, lingering animal odors, and lasting flea infestations making their places unrentable to future tenants.

Longer term places give you better odds, but the selection is still limited.  Many newer buildings and condo buildings don’t allow pets at all for both noise and sanitary reasons.  Others will allow just one pet – generally a small dog or cat – per apartment.  Multiple pets are almost always out of the question for new arrivals.

Unfurnished places are somewhat easier for renters looking to bring pets, and especially for those wanting to bring multiple pets.  With no furniture in place, landlords are less concerned about damages.  Still, expect to answer a number of questions about your animal(s) size, behavior, and habits before winning over hesitant landlords.

We’ve found that stand-alone dwellings or country houses are generally best for pet owners.  The trade off is that these properties are often well outside the Centro Historico, and you may have to buy a car if you live far outside the city to keep your pets happy and well.

Final Thoughts

We don’t mean to sound anti-pet or like we’re loading you up with scary warnings about animal ownership in Cuenca.  Bringing a pet to Cuenca is not an impossibility, and we know that many people do it successfully.

Nevertheless, traveling abroad with your pet is a choice you should consider carefully.  There’s your own love for your pet to consider, but you should also consider what is in the best long-term interests of the animal.  If you think the health and well-being of your pet would be compromised by a move to Ecuador, or if you think you would grow to resent your pet due to its effect on your housing choices, please try to find a good home for your pet before you make your move.  You may find that you enjoy a pet-free life, and if after you arrive in Cuenca you still want a pet, there are many local dogs and cats who would love to be taken in by an adoring expat family!

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15 Responses to Think Twice Before Bringing Pets To Cuenca

  1. J.Denman says:

    I’m glad I read this even if it was written in 2011. This is the first candid account of the problems facing an ex-pat who brings a pet to Ecuador. Since my dog is a beloved family member, the Ecuadorian attitude toward pets is a deal-breaker. Nothing else positive about the country or Cuenca could overcome it.

  2. Leonard Ledoux says:

    I have been living in Cuenca for two years and I find the above article and advice to be about the most worthless piece of drivel I have read in quite some time. We brought two Miniature Schnauzers with us from Seattle and have experienced ZERO problems or issues. We feed them Pro-Can dog food and still put a teaspoon of oil on the food just as we did in the USA. The only difference we have noted with the vet is that while our rabies shots were good for three years in the USA they are yearly here. That just means they don’t have the latest vaccines. We know numerous other dog lovers here who have brought their pets from the states and have heard no horror stories. Sorry to burst the author’s bubble but I don’t find the information useful or accurate in the least.

    • CCstaff says:


      I’m glad that your experience with pets in Cuenca has been a good one. I’m a dog lover my self and understand the desire to have your pet with you. Everyone has a unique experience and not all of them are good. Next time, however, please refrain from being a disrespectful person in any future posts.

  3. Pingback: Dogs Must Be Considered – Southern Boulder

  4. Tim says:

    Where can I find the current requirements to bring my dog over to Salinas, EC?
    Thank you!

  5. We really had no choice but to bring our cat and dog.Recently, the little dog, a shih tsu was stolen. This is a real problem here — stolen dogs. We’ve spent the day searching for him in horrible places at Ferria Libre, the shelter, and elsewhere. This is not a good place for pets, unless you find a perfect situation and are extremely careful.

  6. Alice Epps says:

    I am looking at Cuenca a as a place to live and will bring my 3 yr. old Cavalier King Charles with me for several months. He is well trained and accustomed to the leash. Can he go into stores with me, restaurants?

  7. Cherie Rose says:

    The Hotel Otorongo is pet friendly and offers furnished suites very reasonable and

    right on the river. A one mile walk to El Centro. I saw it on my trip there and booked

    it for our arrival in November. Cherie in California

  8. Judy Hosler says:

    Thanks to everyone for your info/comments. Our Shih Tzu is almost 16 yrs. old now, but just passed her physical & bloodwork & is currently undergoing her round of vaccines for the trip, which I’m concerned about concerning reactions to same. Ohio St. Univ. vet? Small world! We’re from Ohio; I attended OSU back in the day. We’re starting homeopathic treatment to ameliorate side effects from the shots with an OSU grad vet here in AZ; our 1st vet for “Candy” was also from OSU! It’s quite apparent to anyone that meets our dog that she makes no noise & causes no wear & tear. So she’ll pass any “interview” required. Blessings to one & all.

  9. Holly says:

    I just wanted to add a word of warning about Dr. Mora’s clinic. I had a very bad experience with his clinic and the end result was my dog dying a very painful and slow death. Every single staff member (including Dr. Mora himself) told me conflicting information and on several occasions even outright lies. It’s a long story that I won’t get into here but after watching my poor dog needlessly suffer for a week I feel that I should at least warn anyone who might be considering taking their pet to the clinic.

    The vet I use now is Dr. Andrés Figueroa at Aservet near San Blas. He doesn’t speak much English but he seems to know what he’s doing plus his clinic is complete (x-rays sonograms etc).

  10. Jen says:

    Hi Judy,

    Ben had me track this down for you – took a minute to find someone others have used and trusted!

    Allow me to present Dr. Mora, who got his vet degree from the University
    of Ohio. He speaks good English and his contact information is below. Sorry I don’t have an email – many businesses here don’t do anything online.

    Dr. Mora
    Ave. Huayna Capac y Pacjacamac
    Phone: 280 4962/286 3209/ 280 1771

    He said he can be reached 24/7 at one of these numbers.


  11. Judy Hosler says:

    We’ve considered all the points raised in your article on bringing our small dog to Cuenca & have discussed same with our vet, but still have questions based on your discussion, which would best be answered by a vet in Cuenca. Can you direct us to an American or English speaking vet in Cuenca that we can write to? We’re on track to arrive in EC this Fall. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    • Judy, the points made in this blog post are obviously to be considered, but I guess for us not bringing our beloved Star was simply not a thought. If she could not come, I wouldn’t come. It was just that simple… Although the culture here is different as it relates to pets, there are tons of people who adore their dogs and you see them everywhere loving on them. Yes, it different but your dog along with tons of other Expat dogs can thrive here!
      Our Australian Sheppard-Border Collie Mix is doing great and loves it here.

      You are welcome to contact me or visit my blog if you have any questions. I have not taken Star to a vet but have the contact information for one.

      • jo fox says:

        for those who want an understanding, exceptional and competent vet in Ecuador I was told by an Australian friend to contact a Gisella in Guayaquil. phone 01273 814 465
        I lived in Ecuador for many years and to find a good vet is indeed a treasure.

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