Orders have finally been received. The Family is excited about their new assignment, starting new jobs and making new friends. But what happens to the Family pets?Many Families aren't aware that several different requirements must be met for cats and dogs when traveling overseas. What should the Family expect from their new veterinary clinic once they arrive? Japan, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii are common destinations for service members on orders, but these four locations are rabies free, meaning that it takes a lot of preparation for pets to come along with their Families.
A pet must have a passing Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralization test, which measures a pet's immune system response to the rabies vaccine. A small sample of blood is drawn and submitted to specific laboratories to run this test. If the FAVN is passing, the pet then begins quarantine or a waiting period, which can be as long as 180 days so it is important to have this test completed as soon as possible.Other requirements for pets to travel by air include up-to-date vaccinations, a microchip and a health certificate signed by an accredited veterinarian within 10 days of travel. If traveling outside of the United States, the microchip must be an ISO-compatible microchip in order to be scanned, or else the pet owner will need to travel with his or her own microchip scanner. Other countries have additional requirements, such as the United Kingdom, where pets must be dewormed with a specific medication that is effective against Echinococcus, a type of tapeworm.Once pet and owner arrive at a new duty assignment, it is important to know what to expect in terms of the veterinary care that will be available.Throughout the Department of Defense, the Veterinary Corps has many specialized and board certified veterinarians, but the level of care provided at each duty site depends on the designated tier of the clinic. The most basic level of care is provided at a veterinary clinic, which has the capability to provide routine vaccine appointments and wellness exams, send out laboratory tests and basic sick call exams. They do not have the ability to perform surgical procedures and may not have certain diagnostic capabilities available.A Veterinary Treatment Facility, or a VTF such as the Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Treatment Facility, offers the next level of care. A VTF provides wellness and vaccine appointments, sick-call exams, surgical capability, including dental cleanings and extractions, and has many available diagnostic tools, such as X-ray, blood machines and ultrasound.A veterinary center or VETCEN provides all of the capabilities as a VTF, but often have a boarded specialist on site who can perform additional diagnostics and procedures, such as orthopedic surgery or endoscopy.Due to staffing and manpower, all military veterinary facilities have a limited ability to provide emergency care, so Families should always have a relationship with a civilian clinic as well.For further information about PCS requirements or the capabilities of military veterinary facilities, do not hesitate to contact your local military veterinarian or visit https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/animed/vtfo/Pages/default.aspx.(Editor's note: Doyle is a veterinarian at Fort Leonard Wood Veterinary Services.)