Advice from Veterinarians

Learn how to make your trips to the vet smooth and effective while saving money.

Preparing your pet for travel requires a great deal of coordination with your veterinarian. Hawaii has a strict set of requirements for pet travel, and an accredited veterinarian must complete the travel documentation. Pet owners commonly talk about how tedious traveling with a pet can be, but what is it like for your vet?

This article will discuss what preparing a pet for travel to Hawaii is like for veterinarians. It will provide insight into the common mistakes they see owners make and what you can do to make the process go more smoothly.

Choosing the Right Veterinarian for Pet Travel

To prepare pets for travel, veterinarians must go through a rigorous accreditation process with the USDA Animal Health and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The accreditation process certifies them to perform specific functions necessary for state and federal disease control programs.

The accreditation program is voluntary, and not all veterinarians become accredited. Before you make your travel arrangements, make sure your veterinarian has the appropriate credentials.

An accredited veterinarian’s essential functions include providing Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), more commonly referred to as health certificates. Accreditation must be renewed every three years and requires multiple hours of continuing education to renew.

Why Hawaii Pet Travel is Difficult for Veterinarians

Although accredited veterinarians go through this rigorous training to make pet travel possible, every destination has a different set of requirements and forms that your veterinarian must fill out. Just because your vet has experience issuing health certificates, it does not mean they are familiar with the specifics of Hawaii’s process.

Veterinarians on the west coast tend to have more experience with the requirements because travel to Hawaii is more common in that region of the country. Some veterinarians may practice for years before they ever encounter the Hawaii travel restrictions. The good news is that accredited veterinarians know where to access the necessary information, and many destinations have similar requirements.

What Can Make Preparing a Pet for Travel More Costly for Owners?

The number one thing that can make this more costly for owners is poor communication and planning with your veterinary team. When setting up an appointment with your vet, make sure to give them specifics about your travel destination, what airline you are flying, and the date you are leaving.

The requirements of your chosen destination and airline may differ. Having all the relevant information will help your veterinarian make they are following the proper protocols.

Many vets find that owners do not provide complete information and have to make multiple appointments to obtain the necessary travel documents. Hawaii requires a health certificate within 14 days of travel, but many airlines require the health certificate to be issued much closer to departure.

Communicating your travel plans with your vet ahead of time can help them create a plan to satisfy all the requirements in the least amount of visits. This can save you from having to pay for repeat documents and numerous trips to the vet.

While making a few extra trips to the vet can add up, pet owners can make much more expensive mistakes.

One of the most costly mistakes veterinarians see owners make when traveling to Hawaii is not paying attention to the waiting periods for rabies vaccines and FAVN rabies antibody testing. Under Hawaii’s 5 days or less quarantine program, these two requirements must be performed at least 30 days before travel. This waiting period for the antibody testing begins the day after the lab receives the blood sample.

If your pet arrives before the 30 day waiting period has elapsed, they will not be eligible for the shorter quarantine program. Pets who arrive before their 30 day wait period for FAVN antibody testing must remain in quarantine for 120 days. The quarantine fee for a 120 day stay is over $1,000. Make sure you double-check the date that the lab received your pet’s blood sample before leaving on your trip.

Mistakes like these may seem small, but they can become a major nightmare.

What Veterinarians Want You to Know

A common concern among veterinarians is that owners do not start the process early enough for their intended travel date. As previously discussed, some of Hawaii’s travel requirements come with specific wait times before the pet can travel. If your pet has not been vaccinated for rabies or their vaccine has expired, your pet needs to be vaccinated before the rabies antibody test can be done.

In an interview with Dr. Meg Walker, a small animal veterinarian from Charlotte, North Carolina, she discussed the difficulties she has experienced with preparing pets to travel to Hawaii. Dr. Walker finds that clients often do not realize how much planning a trip of this nature requires.

When asked what her best piece of advice would be, Dr. Walker said, “I would highly encourage clients to do their research before deciding to travel with their pet and start planning as early as possible with your veterinarian.” She added that clients should ideally start planning at least a year in advance.

Final Thoughts

Veterinarians play a central role in getting your pet to Hawaii safely. But just like you, preparing a pet for travel can be a stressful process for veterinarians. When considering a trip, please communicate with your veterinarian and give them plenty of time to work with you to develop a plan for your pet. Following these steps will make the process less stressful for both you and your veterinarian.