South Kona Veterinary Service
Hazards on Hawaii Island:
1) Fleas: Most properties in South Kona have fleas, and most of the fleas here are resistant to the commonly used over-the-counter products like Frontline. Newer prescription products work fairly well here.
2) Ticks: Ticks like to live where there is bare lava rather than the lush areas fleas like. Products like Nexgard and Credelio are good products for fleas and ticks.
3) Bufo toads (Cane toads): These are very large toads that are extremely toxic to dogs and cats (and humans). Biting at or even licking an irritated toad can be deadly to pets in a matter of minutes.
Signs of cane toad toxicity: foaming at the mouth/drooling, pawing at the mouth
If you suspect your pet has bitten a cane toad, RINSE HIS MOUTH WITH A HOSE at home before seeking emergency veterinary care
4) Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts are a neurotoxin to dogs and can cause weakness, difficulty walking, and even paralysis. Rear legs are usually affected first. Some dogs may also vomit (which may contain nuts).
5) Toxic Plants: There are many toxic plants and trees in Hawaii. Some are more dangerous than others. A few of the more dangerous ones are: Be-Still tree, Sago Palm, Angel’s Trumpet
6) Lava: Please only let your dogs onto lava when it is cloudy and cool out to protect their paw pads. If you find that your dog has injured or blistered a paw pad, he may need pain medications, antibiotics, and/or foot soaks for a few days. In addition to paw pad injuries, dehydration is a severe health risk for you and your dog if spending any time in a lava area. Always bring water for your dog when you go on a hike or to the beach.
7) Wild pigs: Wild pigs can easily kill or seriously injure even a large dog. It is unwise to let dogs run free on farm property, especially in the evening and night when pigs are most active.
8) Internal parasites: We commonly see tapeworms (which dogs and cats can get from fleas or from hunting rodents), roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.
9) Rabies: You do NOT need to rabies vaccinate your pet unless they are going to travel outside Hawaii
10) Leptospirosis: This is a disease generally transmitted by rats, especially anywhere there is standing water (such as an uncovered water catchment). It can be life-threatening and can be transmitted to people. Lepto is the “L” in the combination shot for dogs and should be given yearly.
11) Parvovirus is also common here and can live in the soil for a year or more. Parvo protection is also part of the yearly combination vaccine, so make sure to keep those shots up to date!
12) Feline upper respiratory disesases: MOST of the feral cats on the Big Island carry some form of upper respiratory virus and pass it readily to any new kittens or unvaccinated cats. These include Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Chlamydia, and Feline Herpesvirus. We recommend any cat with potential exposure to feral cats get boosters yearly to keep them from getting sick. Herpesvirus is a life-long recurring infection.
13) Mange: Sarcoptic Mange is a contagious mite (microscopic bug) that causes itching, hair loss, skin thickening, and often secondary bacterial and yeast infections in the skin. Sarcoptic mange can be easily transmitted to other dogs, especially puppies. Demodectic Mange (“Demodex”) is also a microscopic parasite, but is not contagious between dogs. Either can be found on dogs who have had poor nutrition and care.
Other important information:
1) There are no veterinary emergency hospitals on Hawaii Island. If your pet has an emergency, call all 3 clinics in town to see who can see your pet first. You may need to pay an additional emergency fee if your pet must be seen immediately.
Ali'i Veterinary Hospital: 329-8999
Keauhou Veterinary Hospital: 322-2988
Kona Veterinary Service: 325-6637
2) There are a LOT of loose animals here that may or may not have homes. If you see a loose dog or cat and are able to catch them, call the Hawaii County Animal Control or the Humane Society and have them scanned for a microchip.
Loose cats here are generally feral (wild). Some may warm up to you if you start feeding them, some will stay too skittish to touch. If at all possible, ALL cats should be trapped to assess whether they are spayed or neutered. If the tip of the right ear is missing, the cat is a spayed female, if the tip of the left ear is missing, it is a neutered male. Advocats is a spay/neuter organization based in Kona who will fix cats for free (donation requested) and vaccinate and microchip them if you agree to take them back to where you found them. The humane society and PetFix will also spay and neuter cats for little to no cost.
3) There are very few veterinary specialists here. As far as we know, there are only 2 based on this island:
Dr. Keri Jones (South Kona Veterinary Service) is a certified veterinary pain management specialist and geriatric pet specialist.
Dr. Deborah Fine (Alii Vet Hospital) is a board certified veterinary cardiologist.
Most of the specialists (surgeons, internal medicine, and ophthalmologists) are Oahu-based and only come to the Big island monthly or when they have patients here to see. The clinics in town are generally the ones who will arrange for a specialist when needed. If a specialist is needed on an emergency basis, some owners will fly to Honolulu with their pets for care. Mokulele Airlines is particularly good about transporting animals on short notice.
4) Travel: One-way travel to the mainland only requires a current rabies vaccination and a health certificate. Round-trip travel has numerous requirements and paperwork that must be done BEFORE your pet leaves Hawaii if you plan on returning with your pet anytime in the next few months. Google Rabies-Free Hawaii for requirements from the state USDA office. Click on “Pets originating from Hawaii”.
5) Beaches: Unfortunately, the parks and beaches in Hawaii are not as pet-friendly as on the mainland. Dogs are prohibited from all County beaches and there are no “formal” dog beaches. There are some informal ones though. Ask around for some suggestions. Always make sure to bring your dog’s bowl and a bottle of water as well as poop bags.
6) Dog Parks: Unfortunately, there is only one we know of. The Hawaii Island Humane Society has recently opened a nice new dog park in the Keauhou Mauka area on the upper road near the water department. Dogs should be current on all vaccines (including Bordetella) when using the dog park and must be well-supervised and play well with others.
7) Rescues and “Rescues”: There are many rescue organizations on the island to help re-home dogs and cats and in some cases provide needed veterinary care. There are also a lot of well-meaning individuals who “rescue” animals from poor situations who do not have the means to take care of them either. Though I hate to say it, I believe some people “rescue” for the re-homing fees. Use your own judgement. A legitimate rescue will require the pet be spayed or neutered as part of their adoption.