Biz Q&A – River Road Animal Hospital

For last year’s pet edition, Dr. Alyssa Travis of River Road Animal Hospital answered a few questions about how to care for pets, along with veterinarians of Southport Animal Hospital. This year, we get to know Dr. Travis a little better as a local vet and Brunswick County citizen. Read on as she details pursuing her dream career and a few more tips on taking great care of our pets.

River Road Animal Hospital is located at 8593 River Road SE. For more info, call (910) 454-8910 or visit

Southport Magazine (SM): When did you discover you wanted to be a veterinarian, and why?
Dr. Alyssa Travis (AT): I was unusual—most people who are vets have known it was what they wanted to do from birth! I was actually in the Air Force to start with. I was always the go-to person for animal questions. If someone found a dog or a cat, or if they had a weird behavior question, they’d always call me. I was at a picnic and was talking with someone and they said, “Geez, you should have been a vet.” And that was it—the lightbulb came on. Like most vets, it’s a lot about the love of animals and really enjoying the people who own them. For me it’s also a lot about the medicine and the science. I love the challenge of the kinds of cases I get to see every day!

SM: Why did you select Southport as the location for your animal hospital?
AT: I was practicing in Fayetteville and wanted to own my own hospital. There was no other option for me except the coast. I began looking in Brunswick County for purely economic reasons—it was among the top 20 fastest growing counties in the country at the time. But as almost everyone who lives here knows, one trip to Southport is enough to sell you on moving here. When a practice went up for sale here, is was a done deal.

SM: Tell us about your pets at home.
AT: Right now I’ve got two Great Danes, Dafne and Velma, and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Loki (although everyone calls him Pig Dog) that live with me in addition to my fabulous cat, Guiness, and my beautiful but sometimes loud and annoying Eclectus Parrot named Kiwi. At the office, there are three chickens, two tortoises, and Applesauce, the guinea pig.

SM: When we spoke in our last Pet Edition, you mentioned folks exercising with their pets can keep the whole family healthy and happy. What are some of your favorite activities to do with your pets?
AT: The big thing I do with my girls is agility. If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out, because it’s a blast! It’s basically running your dog through an obstacle course. They love it! Velma, my younger Dane, is still a little too crazy for doing any wheeled activities with, but Dafne and I do a lot of joring together. Usually I am on roller blades while I’m attached to her via a long leash-and-harness system. She doesn’t really pull me, but she keeps me going at a pretty fast pace. We’re experimenting with using a skateboard as well.

SM: What are some services offered by the clinic that readers may not be aware of?
AT: I think we have some really great areas of interest and emphasis here. We’re all very much into pain management and senior care, which often go together. I hate to think of pets in pain, especially the type of chronic pain that comes with age and osteoarthritis. So many pets hide this pain by simply slowing down that owners can easily be fooled (it happened to me with my first dog). So we really try to question people about behavioral and activity changes and do a very thorough pain exam. We take a multi-modal approach that has been a huge success on the human side—using multiple medications and modalities to find the optimum combination. We’re also thrilled to offer laser therapy for pain and other conditions and will be adding acupuncture late this spring.

In addition to all the pain stuff, we do a lot of behavior work, intense skin and ear work, and we are really expanding our dentistry and ultrasound areas.

SM: Cats and dogs usually see their vets once per year. What are some good tasks—like teeth brushing, which you mentioned last Pet Edition—for “self-exams” at home that we can do to make sure our pets are in good health between visits?
AT: That’s a great question! Brushing teeth is one of the single easiest ways to keep the number-two health problem in dogs and cats at bay! Really looking at the teeth—which should be free from debris and breaks or cracks, and gums—which should be pink with no red areas—gives you so much information.

Petting them is also huge (and liked a lot more than brushing!). Checking for lumps, bumps, or abnormal areas as you do your normal belly rub is a great way to keep tabs on things. Looking in ears, trimming nails, exercising with your pets, and remembering that some behavioral stuff—like throwing up in cats, lack of interest in exercise, clinginess, personality changes, urinating in the house—can be signs of medical problems and not just “normal” or “lazy” or “mad at me.” The sooner we can figure it out, the better for everyone.

SM: Favorite food (for you—not the pets!)?
AT: Any fruit, fried chicken, nachos, lobster.

SM: Favorite book?
AT: Impossible! There are too many! Right now: “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama.

SM: Favorite music?
AT: Train/Billy Joel.

SM: Favorite place to travel?
AT: Abroad. I love Thailand and SE Asia.

SM: Favorite thing about Southport?
AT: The people.

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