Summer Vacation / Hawaii 5 Days or Less

Well, I said helpfully, I just called up so you could yell at me.

Complete silence for a moment, followed by protestations. They had never been upset with me. Everyone was so lovely at the clinic. Their pet had never been away from them before.

Their dog boarded with us for a week. A joyous, boisterous good time was had by all. Their little Maltese, Princess, had never been anywhere where she could bark as much as she wanted. Once she realized there was no shushing, she barked herself hoarse. There was so much to see and do, dogs coming and going, the occasional call of a parrot, exotic sights and smells. New people to romp and play with, as her owners knew from receipt of photos and video outtake of their Princess at play. Not wanting to miss a moment of the party, Princess skipped her daytime naps. Accustomed to daily brushing at home, she submitted to some brushing at the clinic but wiggled uncontrollably because she wanted to play some more! Rules went out the window as this little Maltese took advantage of every new opportunity that came her way. We took to calling her the Energizer Bunny. The day she went home she had a bath and blow out and went trotting out the door, every inch the Princess.

Remind you of anyone you know? Ever needed a vacation after the vacation? Guess what, dogs do it, too. And for the pet owner who has never seen their dog like this, it’s scary. Understandably, their first reaction is to ask: what did we do to their dog? Often at high volume, because they’re worried. I no longer try to explain the “vacation syndrome”, I just offer to see their pet, courtesy, to check him or her over for any actual health issues. To date, I have never found a problem and all these pets have returned to normal behaviors and routines within a few days of going home.

And then there are the good folk who take their pet with them. Oh, to hit the open road, man’s best friend at your side. I’m supposed to tell you not to forget your health certificate, but unless you cross borders into another country you may not be asked to show them. I’ve heard national parks will often inspect these documents. They are technically required by law for interstate travel by car. Of course, some people get carried away and want to take their pet with them on vacation to places like Hawaii. We’ve discussed this in this column before that the State of Hawaii, a group of isolated islands, is rabies free, unlike the rest of the USA. They have stringent requirements before a pet may enter Hawaii. Some clever person named the program “5 Days or Less.”

Clients who come to see me are disbelieving when I explain that the 5-Day-or-Less Program is available AFTER 120 days from our first meeting. First their pet must meet the requirements for prior Rabies vaccinations and microchipping before we will submit a Rabies titer blood test (FAVN) to a government mandated lab. The 120-day countdown starts with their passing FAVN test. Four months later you may fly to Hawaii with your pet and enter the Islands that same day – 5-Days-or-Less! Ta-da! Should you fly your pet there earlier, they’ll just quarantine him/her on the island for 120 days at your expense. You are permitted to visit on-site.

I’ve worked on a lot of Health Certificates to foreign locales. I respect the concerns behind their requirements. I do wish that Hawaii had come up with a different name for their program, as the current title is misleading to many clients. Experience has taught me to quietly sidle into the room, smile brightly as I congratulate them on their big trip to Hawaii and ask when they are planning to travel? I roll out my paperwork and gently start to explain what actually lies ahead of us. Today I barely flinch when the client starts screaming. We work through it. And may I say that Hawaii is a piece of cake compared to Japan. Japan, also Rabies-free, requires that you start the process over 6 months in advance. I just completed one that we started in July of 2017. Two more are in the pipeline. That was me you heard screaming.

Christine McFadden, DVM

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