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South Park Animal Hospital

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Our Frequently Asked Questions

South Park Animal Hospital is proud to provide the pet parents of Austin, TX with information on common veterinary topics and questions. If you have any additional questions not answered here, please do not hesitate to call our office at (512) 386-1065 where our expert veterinary staff is ready to assist you.

What are the laws for you and your pet in Austin, Texas?

The following State of Texas, Travis County, and City of Austin laws and ordinances apply to you and your new pet. You can face criminal or civil penalties or the loss of your pet for noncompliance!

Rabies Vaccinations - Owners of dogs and cats must have them vaccinated against rabies once they reach three months of age, then again in one year. After that, your pet must be vaccinated every one to three years depending on the type of vaccination used. Pets do not have to wear rabies tags, but you must be able to provide a rabies vaccination certificate issued by your veterinarian.

Anti-Chaining Ordinance - An owner may not leave a dog outside and unattended by use of a chain or tether unless the person is holding the chain or tether.

Outdoor Enclosures - If you keep your dog primarily in an outdoor enclosure, the enclosure must be a minimum of 150 square feet for each dog six months or older.

“Dangerous Dogs” - A “Dangerous Dog” is a dog that has been declared “Dangerous” by a Hearing Officer as a result of an unprovoked attack on a person that causes bodily injury.

🐾 A court may order your dog destroyed if it causes serious bodily injury to a person

🐾 If you own a dog that is declared a “Dangerous Dog” you are required by law to:

- Register the dog with local animal control (Austin Animal Center in Austin)

- Attach the dangerous dog tag provided to your dog’s collar

- Restrain the dog at all times on a leash

- Obtain liability coverage or show personal responsibility in an amount of at least $100,000 to cover any damages resulting from an attack

Cruelty to Animals - The cruel treatment of animals is illegal under Texas law. The following actions are considered “cruel” under the law:

🐾 Torturing an animal Killing, seriously injuring or poisoning an animal

🐾 Failing to provide food, care or shelter to an animal in your custody

🐾 Abandoning an animal

🐾 Transporting or confining an animal in a cruel manner

🐾 Causing an animal to fight with another animal

🐾 Using a live animal as a lure in dog race training

🐾 Overworking an animal

Dog Fighting - It is illegal to fight a dog with another dog or to participate in any of the following activities associated with dog fighting:

🐾 Participate in the earnings of or operate a facility used for dogfighting.

🐾 Use or permit another to use your property for dogfighting.

🐾 Own or train a dog with the intent that the dog be used in dogfighting.

🐾 Attend a dogfight as a spectator.

Unrestrained Dogs Prohibited (AKA Leash Laws) - Your dog must be restrained at all times in public except in approved off-leash dog parks (a list is provided here: Austin Off Leash Areas).

Safety of Animals in Motor Vehicles - You may not leave your dog or cat in a motor vehicle in which the animal is endangered by high or low temperature or inadequate ventilation. You may not transport your animal in a motor vehicle unless:

🐾 The animal is safely enclosed within the vehicle; or if the animal is transported in an unenclosed vehicle, such as a pick-up truck, the animal must be confined in a secure and appropriately sized vented container or confined in a manner that prevents the animal from falling or jumping from the vehicle or otherwise being injured.

Canine Defecation Guidelines - You must promptly remove and dispose of feces left by your dog on public or private property.

Surrendering Your Dog or Cat - Austin’s new status as a “No Kill” city does not mean that Austin Animal Center no longer euthanizes dogs and cats:

🐾 Dogs and cats picked up as strays may be euthanized in 72 hours (3 days).

🐾 If you surrender your pet to the shelter:

- You immediately lose all ownership rights to your pet.

- The shelter may euthanize your animal. There is no holding period for an owner surrender, so your pet could be immediately euthanized.

Courtesy of the Austin Bar Association Animal Welfare Committee

What should I do if my pet is vomiting?

Dogs and cats can vomit for a number of reasons. In general, animals vomit much easier than people, so vomiting can range from a minor problem to a sign that something is significantly wrong. If your pet is acting normal, wanting to eat and drink, and playing, a single episode of vomiting may not be a problem. Remove food for 12 hours, and only let your pet have small amounts of water at a time.

If your pet has multiple episodes of vomiting, has diarrhea, or acts like he or she doesn’t feel well, it is best to have them examined by the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if the symptoms are just a simple upset stomach or perhaps a sign of something more significant.

How often should I have my pet's teeth cleaned?

Veterinary Dentists recommend having your pet’s teeth cleaned every 6 months. (This is the recommendation for humans and we brush our teeth every day!) For most pets, starting at 3 years old, a once-yearly dental cleaning should suffice. With a very safe anesthetic procedure, this process can benefit your pet by removing not only debris and build-up that you can see, but also what is below the gum line. Regular dental cleaning can help your pet keep its teeth for much longer and prevent unnecessary pain and suffering that results from decaying teeth.

The extent and cost of the dental procedure will vary based on your pet’s age, size, dental cleaning history as well as other factors. Please call us today at 512-386-1065 to schedule a free dental assessment to obtain an estimate.

Why does my pet have eye discharge?

There are numerous reasons why a pet may have excessive eye discharge. Some are potentially very serious, and others may be a minor cosmetic issue. It is difficult to determine what the issue is without a physical exam, but excessive eye drainage could be related to your pet’s breed (brachycephalic, or “smoosh-faced” pets tend to have more drainage), allergies (fairly uncommon in most pets), infection in either the eye or the sinuses, deformed eye anatomy (eyelashes growing the wrong way, misshapen eyelids), or foreign material like dirt and dust.

In general, there are some very crude signs that may help assess the severity of the issue (e.g. scratched are more severe than dust in the eye). If the visible white portion of the eye (called the sclera) is reddened, the eye is being held in a “squinty” position, or if the surface of the clear portion of the eye (the cornea) is cloudy or has an irregular surface, these may indicate a more serious issue, which should be examined as soon as possible.

How do I know if my pet's eye is scratched?

The surface of the eye (the cornea) is very sensitive, and can easily be scratched by many different things. In general, a scratched eye is likely going to create more discharge, cause the white of the eye to turn red, cause your pet to squint the eye, and possibly cause the cornea to become milky colored. These symptoms do not guarantee your pet’s eye is scratched, nor does every symptom need to be present to indicate a scratched eye.

The scratch itself is often not apparent to the naked eye; your veterinarian will stain the eye to determine if the eye is scratched. The stain will only “stick” to the damaged portion of the cornea allowing your vet to see how big the scratch is, what shape it is, where it is at, and if there are more than one. Scratches are very painful and, in some cases, can quickly deteriorate to a point where the eye cannot be saved. If you are concerned that your pet may have scratched its eye, you should see your veterinarian promptly.

What vaccines should I get for my dog?

Vaccines are very important to help your dog live a long and happy life. There are many vaccines in existence, so deciding which ones are best for your pet is an important question.

The rabies vaccine is required by law and is recommended for all dogs. This vaccine cannot be given until a puppy is 12 weeks old. Some states will allow a rabies to be given every 3 years, but some states require it be given every year.

The DA2P vaccine is another common vaccine given that is considered a “core” vaccine, which means all puppies and adult dogs should receive this vaccine. This vaccine actually covers 4 viruses, Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus (types 1 and 2), and Canine Parvo Virus. Distemper, Adenovirus type 1, and Parvo virus can all be fatal if a dog is infected.

The “kennel cough” vaccine is a vaccine that protects against upper respiratory infections from the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. It also can include the Canine Parainfluenza virus. This vaccine may be given as in injection or directly into the nostrils. It is commonly given to dogs that have exposure to other dogs not residing in the same household, such as dogs that frequent dog parks, pet friendly stores, boarding facilities, and grooming facilities.

The Leptospirosis vaccine protects against various forms of the Leptospira bacterium. This group of bacteria can be shed from infected wildlife into water sources and causes fever and potential kidney problems.

The Rattlesnake vaccine can help lessen the effects of a bite from a number of different species of rattlesnakes.

The Canine Influenza vaccine protects against infection from Canine Influenza Virus, which causes upper respiratory infections and potentially pneumonia.

The Lyme disease vaccine protects against infection from Borrelia burgdorferi, a tick-borne disease that causes joint pain and fever.

With so many vaccines out there, how do you decide which ones are appropriate for your pet? Your dog’s lifestyle plays an important part in the decision. Does your dog spend a significant amount of time in countryside or open areas? Leptospirosis vaccine and possibly rattlesnake vaccine may be appropriate. Is your dog in an urban environment, often in contact with other dogs or in “common areas” shared by many other dogs? The kennel cough vaccine will be very important. Geography plays a part as well, as many diseases show more prevalence in certain geographic areas than others. In central Texas, Leptospirosis is common, while Lyme disease is not common.

With so many influencing factors, a conversation with your veterinarian can pinpoint which vaccines will help your dog live a long and healthy life.

How do I get my dog to like car rides?

Below is an article from Dr. Marty Becker, who is the founder of Fear Free SM.

How Can I Teach My Dog to Enjoy Car Rides?

What do I need to travel with my pet?

Health certificates are legal documents to allow animals to move across state lines (a legal requirement by the USDA) or to legally enter into another country. The primary reason for these certificates is to ensure that contagious and infectious diseases do not get spread to other areas of the world.   

For some countries and states, this may only require a current physical exam by your Veterinarian and proof of rabies vaccination; however, others may require extensive and time-consuming blood tests, microchipping and medications.

What are the requirements to travel to different Countries? 

Every country is different, for more information on each countries requirements click here to visit the USDA’s website, then select the country you will be traveling to.

If there are required tests necessary, you will need to schedule an appointment with one of our accredited veterinarians to help determine the appropriate tests and timeline. The fees incurred for these additional visits are not part of the fee for issuing the international health certificate.  A written estimate will be provided upon request during the first appointment if you so choose.

Because these are legal documents to ensure health, the pet must be physically examined at the time a health certificate is issued, even if the pet was seen by our office recently. This is a USDA requirement.

What are the requirements to travel to different States?

Again, every state is different and they each have their own set of requirements for traveling into or through their state. Click here to check out this helpful website to help you determine what you need in order to travel between state lines.

What do Airlines require for my pet to fly? 

Depending on the airline you choose to fly with, you will want to research their individual set of rules and regulations they have in place as the standard for transporting your pet. Some airlines allow small pets to travel in the cabin with you as your carry-on item while others require pets travel in the cargo area below. Airlines can have additional fees ranging anywhere from $0 to over $500 and some only allow a set number of animals per flight so make sure the flight you want to book will have a spot open for you and your furry friend.

To help you prepare, Bring Fido is a website that discusses all things travel for your pet. For airline policies, click here and then select which airline you will be booking your travel arrangements through. They have in-depth information about the different airline requirements and direct contact information for each airline. Once you’ve looked over the information, you will want to contact the airlines concierge to confirm you have everything you need to follow their rules for flying. Airlines often change their policies or procedures for transporting a pet with little or no notice to the pet owners, that’s why we recommend always calling the airline concierge before arriving at the airport.

What are pet relocation services and what do they do? 

More and more frequently people are choosing to turn to pet relocation services to help them navigate the difficult process of moving or traveling with their pet. Pet relocations companies can help you with advice/tips and create a “move coordination plan”, they can pick up or drop off your pet anywhere, help you select the proper crate for traveling based on requirements, get your pet checked in at the airport and help you facilitate all the vet appointments, quarantines, permits, all other legal documentation, book travel arrangements, and much much more.

We are available to work with any pet relocation company you may choose. In the past, we have worked with PetRelocation. They are an Austin based company that clients have used with great success.

What do I do once I get the Health Certificate? 

After issuance of an international health certificate, also known as APHIS form 7001, the certificate, and any required documents must be signed by the state veterinarian as well. They are located downtown, their contact info follows:

USDA Texas State Veterinarian Office

Veterinary Services

Dr. Kevin Varner

APHIS Area Veterinarian-In-Charge

903 San Jacinto Blvd., Room 220

Austin, Texas 78701-2450

Phone: (512) 383-2400 FAX: (512) 916-5197

Email: [email protected]

Why does my dog eat grass?

One of the most common questions asked at the veterinary hospital is “Why does my dog eat grass? Is he sick?”

Dogs eat grass for a number of reasons. Sometimes dogs do have an upset stomach, and eating grass accompanies signs like vomiting or diarrhea. If this is the case, it is important to get them in to the veterinary hospital to be examined.

On the other hand, some dogs just like the taste! It is common for dogs to eat a variety of things, and grass is a harmless plant that dogs sometimes enjoy. If your dog is playful, eating well, and acting normal, he or she may just like something different on the menu!

Why does my dog scoot on the carpet?

Oftentimes dogs are seen at the animal hospital for scooting their bottom on the carpet. This can be accompanied by licking and chewing under the tail, or even pain when having a bowel movement. So what causes this?

Both dogs and cats have scent glands located on either side of the rectum. These scent glands are meant to empty every time your pet has a bowel movement as a part of scent marking their territory. This is why dogs sniff each other so much! If these glands do not empty properly, they can become distended and quite uncomfortable. In the worst case, they can even rupture. Most of the time, the glands can be expressed by a qualified technician or the veterinarian, and the area can be checked for any other problems that may exist. Once expressed, your pet will be much happier and much more comfortable.

When do dogs go in to heat, and when should I have my dog spayed?

A female dog’s heat cycle depends greatly on the size of the dog. In general, small dogs come into heat much sooner than larger dogs. A small dog can come into heat starting around 6 months old. Large dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, usually take longer to have their first heat cycle, usually 9-10 months old at the earliest. Some giant breeds of dogs, such as Great Danes and Mastiffs, can take up to 2 years to come into heat. Genetics also play a part, as bloodlines that tend to have early heat cycles or late heat cycles continue that trend in the offspring.

The best age to spay your dog will vary depending on the size and breed of your dog. In general, we recommend spaying at 6 months old to avoid the first heat cycle but give the dog time to mature physically. In some larger breeds, we recommend spaying when they are older based on breed predilections to certain forms of cancer. A conversation with your veterinarian will determine the best age to spay your pet for her overall and lifelong health.

What vaccines should I get for my cat?

Vaccines are very important to help your cat live a long and healthy life. In general, all cats should be vaccinated for rabies. The FVRCP vaccine protects against both respiratory and diarrhea viruses, and is recommended for all cats. Feline leukemia virus vaccine is recommended for cats that spend time outside or live in a home with a cat that already has the virus. While other vaccines exist, the previous vaccines are the most common ones administered. A discussion with your veterinarian about your cat’s exposure and risk factors will determine which vaccines are appropriate for your cat’s health.

What is the safest rabies vaccine for cats?

What is “adjuvant” and why shouldn’t my cat have it in its vaccine?

As veterinarians, we never want to harm a patient, but it was discovered some time ago that there was a relationship between some vaccines and a certain type of cancer in cats that would develop where older vaccines were injected. Cats are a delicate species, and it was found that any long-lasting irritation (from anything, not just from vaccines) could potentially develop an invasive tumor at the site of irritation.

In some vaccines, an added substance was put into it to “irritate” the immune system further (this is called adjuvant), which made the protection of the vaccines stronger, but increased the chance of this irritation turning into a tumor. Although relatively rare (about 1 in 10,000), it was a serious concern.

A new line of vaccines called Purevax was developed without adjuvant and has found ways to stimulate immunity without causing this long-term irritation to the immune system. It is our standard of care to ensure that we provide the best for our patients, just as we would (and do!) for our own cats.

How do I get my cat used to the carrier?

How do I pill my cat?

Easy Way to Pill Your Cat

Video provided by Pets Plus Us

Is coconut oil bad for my pet?

Coconut oil is not inherently bad, other than any of the problems that can come along with any fat supplementation. Any fat source can cause an upset stomach (vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases pancreatitis) for some dogs, and of course, it is an extra source of calories.

The benefits that humans derive from the omega fatty acids in coconut oil do not benefit dogs or cats. Same applies to flaxseed oil as well. Dogs and cats need fish oil or krill oil to benefit from the omega fatty acids, so your money (and the extra calories) would be better suited with one of those instead. Any oil (coconut, olive, corn, fish) will still help with a shiny coat, though. An increase in fats in the diet simply increases the oil on the skin.