How to Add Years to Your Pet’s Life

By Lorie Huston, DVM

Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat wishes just one thing — that he or she has a healthy and long life. Here are five tips that can help your pet do just that.



Pets fed a high quality diet have a shiny hair coat, healthy skin, and bright eyes. A good diet can help strengthen your pet’s immune system, help maintain his or her intestinal health, help increase his or her mental acuity, help keep joints and muscles healthy, and much more.


Pets that are overweight are at risk for a myriad of health issues. Obesity is the number one nutritional disease seen in pets currently and studies have shown that being overweight or obese can shorten a dog or cat’s life span by as much as two years. Why? Being overweight or obese puts your pet at risk for joint disease, heart disease and diabetes, among other things.


All pets, including both dogs and cats, require regular veterinary care. However, veterinary care goes far beyond routine vaccinations, even though those are important. A routine examination by your veterinarian can uncover health issues of which you are unaware. In many cases, an early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment. Early diagnosis is also likely to be less costly for you than waiting until your pet’s illness has become advanced and serious before attempting treatment.


A common problem among dogs and cats, dental disease and oral health issues can cause your pet pain, making it difficult for him or her to eat. If left untreated, oral health issues may even lead to heart and kidney disease. In addition to regular dental checkups, the most effective means of caring for your pet’s mouth at home is to brush his or her teeth at home. If your pet isn’t a big fan of toothbrushes there are other alternatives as well, including dental diets, treats, and toys. Ask your veterinarian for some recommendations.


Allowing your dog or cat to roam free may seem like you’re doing your pet a favor. However, pets that roam are susceptible to a number of dangers, including automobile accidents, predation, exposure to contagious diseases, exposure to poisons, and more. Additionally, allowing your pet to roam unsupervised may alienate your neighbors should your pet ever “relieve” him- or herself in their lawn or dig up their garden.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital


Service Dog Requirements

How Does My Dog Become a Service Dog?

Training a dog to become a service animal is available to everyone! First step is to know what the requirements and laws are for service dogs. Title II and TitleIII of the ADA defines Service Animal as any dog that is trained perform tasks for the benefit of an person with a disability. This may include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other emotional disability. Below is a general overview on service dog requirements and how to train your dog to go from your household pet to becoming a service dog. Service dogs are an important part of the assistance animal family and serves an important function in our community. Based on the ADA’s ruling in 1990, dogs that provide a professional service to individuals with disabilities that require their support will be allowed access to public places when accompanying their handlers. This is not limited to seeing eye dogs as commonly believed!

Step 1: Identifying and Understanding What Type of Dog You Have

Any dog breed is suitable for service work! From Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bully Breeds, Poodles, Huskies, etc. All types of dogs are eligible to become services dogs, each potentially providing a different type of service. Service dog laws do not include dog breed restrictions or weight discrimination. If you don’t know the breed of your dog, you can require a simple dog DNA test. This may give you more information about the behavioral patterns of your dog and can provide you with higher accuracy of breed-related instincts.

You should also be aware of your dog’s health conditions to confirm that the age and health of your dog is suitable for the job. It’s important to understand your dog’s condition to prevent adding strains to a service animal’s health and also to its handlers condition(s). It is also important to test your dog’s personality type to see if he or she has a good temperament for service work. Dogs who are aggressive or easily scared may not work as service dogs until their public temperament improves.

Step 2: Find a Trainer You Trust or Train Your Dog Yourself!

People often search for a reputable trainer that they trust to train their service dog. You can either adopt a trained service dog from a reputable trainer or bring your dog to a trainer. Did you know that you can train your dog yourself under service dog laws? Many people are not aware that service animal tasks can be trained at the comfort of their own home!  In the United States, there are no required ADA certification for service animal training. The community is self-regulated and includes minimum government regulated standards for training. If you find that you would rather train your dog yourself, you are not only welcome to it, but it can also help increase the bond between you and your service dog.

Step 3: Training Your Service Dog

Most of your time will be spent here. Putting in enough time to train your future service dog is a crucial step. While the United States has no minimum requirement, international standards suggest approximately 120 hours over six months. We also recommend that at least 30 of those hours should be time spent in public to help train the dog in moments of distractions and any surprises that may come their way.

The most important task for you to teach your service dog is tasking, or learning the specific skill they will be performing to help assist with your disability. Some tasks may include sensing a medical alert, tactile stimulation during a panic attack, or grounding/blocking in public areas.

Step 4: The Public Access Test

Once you feel your service dog is trained, it’s time to put them to the test!  Below is a quick list of the most important criteria for your service dog to pass:

  • No aggressive behavior
  • Cease sniffing behaviors unless released to do so
  • No solicitations for food or affection
  • Over-excitement and hyperactivity in public

Step 5: Certification and Equipping

In the United States, service dog certification and service dog identification is not a requirement. Unfortunately, many public employees and places will still require it.  For your own convenience, it’s good practice to present documents that can help show that your dog is a trained service dog. This will help prevent situations where you are meet with hostility when traveling with your service dog. Electing to carry a custom Service Dog ID card and Service Dog Vest might be a simpler solution for you and your service dog. You may also choose not to carry the ID card and stand your ground on principle when you encounter people ignorant of service dog rights.

After you verbally confirm that your dog is a trained service dog or documentation is shown, reasonable accommodations must be legally made for service dogs. Service dogs provide help for those facing a physical or mental disability so they are granted access into public places such as hotels, restaurants, and malls. It’s important to understand these steps to help you or those around you.  Good luck!


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital


Springtime Safety Tips

Spring has sprung, and with the change of season, our thoughts turn to Easter celebrations, spring cleaning and much-needed home improvement projects. Before you embark on seasonal chores or outdoor revelry, take inventory of potential springtime hazards for your furry friends.

Easter Treats and Decorations
Keep lilies and candy in check—chocolate goodies are toxic to cats and dogs, and all true lilies can be fatal if ingested by cats. And be mindful, kitties love to nibble on colorful plastic grass, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration. Moreover, while live bunnies, chicks and other festive animals are adorable, resist the urge to buy them—these cute babies grow up fast and often require specialized care!

Screen Yourself
Many pet parents welcome the breezy days of spring by opening their windows. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly put their pets at risk—especially cats, who are apt to jump or fall through unscreened windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows.

Buckle Up!
While most dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the beds of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets riding in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.

Spring Cleaning
Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in many households, but be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all cleaning products, even all natural ones, contain chemicals that may be harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.

Home Improvement 101
Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.

Let Your Garden Grow—With Care
Pet parents, take care—fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients may be dangerous if your pet ingests them. Always store these products in out-of-the-way places and follow label instructions carefully. Many popular springtime plants—including rhododendron and azaleas—are also highly toxic to pets and can prove fatal if eaten.

Like us, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause itching, minor sniffling and sneezing, or life-threatening anaphylactic shock to insect bites and stings. If you suspect your pet has a springtime allergy, please visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Pesky Little Critters
April showers bring May flowers—and an onslaught of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round heartworm preventive medication, as well as a flea and tick control program. Ask your doctor to recommend a plan designed specifically for your pet.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Pet Obesity

Did you know that obesity affects more than 50 percent of America’s dog population? If your pooch is overweight, he can develop all kinds of health problems, such as painful arthritis, heart disease, breathing difficulty, diabetes and even bladder cancer. For your dog, the excess weight and the resulting health problems can mean less play time and depression.

What causes weight gain?

Weight gain is the result of an increase in body fat. This is usually caused by eating too much, especially when combined with lack of exercise. But there can be other contributing factors too.

Age: Older dogs are less active, have less energy, and require fewer calories.

Breed: Some dog breeds are more likely to gain weight. These include Labrador retrievers, and cocker and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Neutering/ spaying: Clinical studies have shown that the basic metabolism of neutered dogs is lower. Neutered dogs actually require fewer calories.

Medical Problems: Very occasionally weight gain is associated with a medical disorder that may require specific treatment

Overfeeding: Dogs with unlimited access to food understandably eat more than they need

Overeating: Many commercial foods are loaded with salt and fat. This improves taste, which means your dog will want to gorge

Feeding habits: Feeding table scraps and “people food” can lead to obesity

Lack of exercise: Too much food and too little exercise produces a typical result: Obesity


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Our Services

Our services include:

Health Paws Savings Plans incorporating the services and savings you need for a year

  • Healthy Paws Puppy and Kitten Classic and Optimal Care Savings Plans
  • Healthy Paws Classic and Optimal Care Savings Plans for Adults
  • Healthy Paws Internal Health Savings Plans
  • Healthy Paws Dental Savings Plans

Doctors’ Appointments scheduled for 30-45 minutes to ensure we meet all your needs

Urgent Care appointments daily until 7 pm

Routine and Emergency Medical and Surgical Services

  • Spay and Neuter Packages
  • Emergency Surgical Procedures
  • Dental Care Programs
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Weight Management Programs
  • Pain Management and Mobility Rehabilitation Services

Bathing and Pampered Boarding Care

Intensive and Critical Nursing Care from 6 am until 11 pm daily

Outpatient Convalescent and Hospice Programs

Full Service Diagnostic and Treatment Center

  • Extensive In-house Laboratory for rapid detection of disease
  • Radiology, Ultrasound, and Endoscopic Imaging
  • Tele-medical Referrals to Board Specialists throughout the United States
  • Allergy Testing and Desensitization
  • Cardiac Evaluations and Treatment Programs
  • Oncology Consultations and Treatment Programs

We understand the special role your pet plays in your family and we are dedicated to becoming a valuable partner in your pet’s health care needs.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Our Dedicated Staff

Our staff’s professionalism, dedication to service, and enthusiasm for excellence will make your visit a rewarding, unique experience. Our doctors are dedicated to educating our clients on the health care needs of their pets through every stage of life. 25299397_1600081170051015_7065629068173945184_n

Offering pediatric preventive care, maintenance adult care, and early intervention to senior health issues, we are here to help you navigate the daily advances in veterinary medicine so your pet is provided with optimal care.

Our doctors and staff are continuously adding to their medical and surgical knowledge to help ensure your pet is given every medical opportunity and advantage.

In addition, Dr. Preston Thornton travels to farms and stables throughout Roanoke, Salem, Franklin County, Botetourt and Fincastle. Whether on the farm or in our fully equipped Hospital on Hite Street, they are committed to providing the medical, dental, and surgical care your pet deserves. Our entire staff is dedicated to developing an important, lasting health care partnership with you by earning and keeping your trust. With our wide range of services and extended hours for routine and urgent care appointments, we are able to provide all the care your pet needs, when they need it the most.

Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Dog Showers Are The Latest Home Trend Among Pet Owners

Ask any pet owner and they’ll tell you: Furry friends are just as much a part of the family as actual humans.

And this interior design trend proves it.

A recent New York Times report pointed out that there’s a growing demand for designated showers for dogs in homes. Yes, you read that right: dog showers. Instead of giving pups a bath in the regular tub, some are opting to build a separate shower just for their pooch.

As excessive as it might sound, it does make sense. William Harrison, principal architect of Harrison Design, said his firm has been designing dog showers for clients for many years. dog-showers-today-180314-tease_fcbdb44a973ec80e8fdb6f7f90cfb183.focal-1000x500

“In the beginning, some clients asked us to design a shower with a higher platform so they could more comfortably wash their dog,” he told TODAY Home. “Now it’s morphed into a highly desired feature.”

The appeal of a dog shower is usually for bigger breeds, not Yorkies, he explained.

“You try bathing a big dog at home; it’s a big mess! Not only is the dog unhappy in the tub, but the suds, fur and water get everywhere,” Harrison said. It can also be unsafe as wet dogs can get hurt trying to jump out of a slippery bathtub.

Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital