Frequently Asked Questions for Veterinarians in Tampa

How often should my pet have an exam?

Southpaw Animal Health recommends yearly visits for most pets and older pets coming in more frequently – at least every 6 months. Yearly exams include physical examinations by our veterinarians plus annual or booster vaccinations, parasite screening & prevention, and various lab tests performed.

For puppies and kittens, we need to see them on a more frequent schedule during their first year of life. For pets over age 7, we recommend exams and blood work every 6 months to help us detect diseases and issues before they become a problem.

Why does my pet need a dental cleaning?

Many people think that it is normal for a dog to have bad breath, but that is not the case. Bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth that create byproducts that contain sulfur. Regular home cleanings accompanied by scheduled professional cleanings will help to prevent bad breath and the bacteria that cause it.

Besides just bad breath, dental disease:

  • Releases bacteria into the bloodstream
  • Increases risk for heart, liver and kidney disease
  • Can cause severe pain and problems for your pet

Pets need regular dental cleanings to increase quality and length of life and:

  • Allows us to chart dental disease over time
  • Means less time under anesthesia
  • Reduces the need for more advanced and expensive treatment in the future such as teeth extractions and oral surgery

Dental disease is the most common disease in dogs. Recent studies show that 85% of cats and 92% of dogs over age 3 have periodontal disease.

What happens during my pet’s dental cleaning?

A thorough dental cleaning can only be accomplished while the pet is under general anesthesia. The anesthesia we use is safe for all animals and your pet is constantly monitored during the dental procedure. Prior to anesthesia, blood tests are performed to help uncover any hidden illnesses.

A professional cleaning (called a dental prophylaxis) removes plaque and tartar from the teeth. Your pet's entire mouth health (teeth, tongue, gums, and lips) will be examined and assessed.

I noticed a change in my pet’s behavior. Should I see a veterinarian?

Pets cannot tell us how they feel and are able to hide their pain from us (especially cats). Changes in behavior such as appetite change, lethargy, energy level, aggressiveness, inappropriate elimination, and vocalization (barking/meowing) can be symptoms of behavior or health issues. Contact our vet hospital for an exam appointment right away.

What should I do if I notice fleas or ticks on my pet?

Isolate your pet from other animals and small children to prevent the spread of the parasite to them. Bring your pet to our vet clinic for thorough testing for parasites. They can usually be easily treated, but parasite preventative measures are best for both your pet and your wallet. Ask about our available safe and effective parasite prevention products.

At what age should I have my pet spayed or neutered?

Southpaw Animal Health recommends waiting until your pet is at least 6 months of age before seeking a spay or neuter procedure. Contact us to discuss specific details based on species, breed, and size. Spaying / neutering has health and behavioral benefits for your pet and of course, helps prevent over-population.


What are heartworms? How can I prevent my pet from getting heartworms?

One infected mosquito is all it takes to infect your dog with the baby form (larval stage) of the heartworm parasite.

Heartworms are a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets. Twelve-inch-long worms (looks like spaghetti) live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets, causing lung disease, heart failure, organ damage, and can be fatal if untreated.

How does my pet get heartworms? Heartworms living in an infected dog, cat, or wildlife produce baby worms that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up these worms and when it bites another animal, the worms enter through the bite wound. Heartworms can grow and live for 5 - 7 years in dogs and 3 years in cats.

What can I do to protect my pet? Heartworm disease is preventable! Dogs should be tested annually and before starting prevention. Prevention is the safest and most cost-effective option, but treatment is available for dogs (although costly and lengthy). Cats should be tested before starting prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate. There is NO treatment in cats, so prevention is critical and the only means of protection.

Southpaw Animal Health has safe, effective products available that cater to your pet's lifestyle and your budget. Heartworm prevention should be provided 12 months of the year.

Should I let my pet have at least one litter?

There is no advantage to letting your pet have one litter. However, there are plenty of advantages to having your pet spayed or neutered. These advantages include decreasing the chances of breast tumors later in life, decreasing the chance of cystic ovaries and uterine infections later in life, decreasing the desire to roam the neighborhood, decreasing the incidence of prostate disease later in life, helping prevent spraying and marking, and also decreasing the surplus of unwanted puppies and kittens.

Why does my dog need vaccines every year? He never encounters other dogs.

Southpaw Animal Health adheres to the manufacturer's recommendations for vaccinations. We do offer 3-year Rabies vaccines. Not all diseases that we vaccinate against require direct contact with other dogs. For example, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis are in the environment. It’s always better to prevent a disease than to treat one.

Why do I have to get a heartworm test every year for my dog? He never misses his monthly dose.

To practice responsible medicine and in accordance with Florida law, we require a yearly exam/test to dispense heartworm medication. The test is a safety precaution: we confirm that the medication continues to be effective; we know that pets can fool us by spitting out medication when we’re not looking; and human error. Even though our clients do their best to administer medication when it’s time, sometimes mistakes are made. Giving a dog heartworm prevention when it has heartworms is potentially lethal.

Why do I have to do a fecal test every year on my cat? She never goes outside?

You might be surprised how easy it is for a pet to pick up a parasite. Dogs walk in areas infected with parasites, sniff those areas, and sometimes lick them – it doesn’t take prolonged contact to pick up a parasite. And you might be surprised at how easy it is for pets to become infected by lizards or other critters that they may eat who get inside our homes from time to time.

Do you offer payment agreements?

Southpaw Animal Health does not offer payment agreements. There are many excellent pet insurance companies available as the pet insurance industry continues to expand, and we accept Care Credit. Please see Insurance & Payments for further details.

Why do I have to bring my pet in for a prescription she will have to be on for life? She’s healthy except for her arthritis.

According to Florida law, a veterinarian must have seen a pet recently (within 12 months or less) of prescribing a prescription. Please see Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine Rule: CHAPTER 61G18-30, for further information.

Can you fill a prescription from my other veterinarian even though I’ve never brought my pet to you? You’re much closer to my home.

Southpaw Animal Health does not fill medications that require a prescription from other veterinarian practices with the exception of prescription food. A call from your vet or a written prescription will be required for food.

Southpaw Animal Health will sell over-the-counter medications that do not require a prescription, such as flea and tick products.

Where can I go to learn more about my pet’s health?

Please see our Pet Owner Resources for links to organizations with useful information.SOPAW - Southpaw Animal Health:patient-resources/pet-owner-resources