Keeping Fleas and Ticks Away- Even in the Winter

Winter is usually a time when we get a break from the bugs that annoy us and our pets. We look forward to taking a reprieve from all the preventative medications. However, winter doesn’t necessarily mean the end of bug season. Insects and parasites can still survive and transmit disease as weather gets cold.


The flea is a very resilient pest with a complicated life cycle. It is capable of surviving in outdoor temperatures as low as the upper 30’s. As long as an adult flea can find a host to feed from (such as wild animals or your pet), it can stay alive through the cold season. Their pupae remain in their cocoons until it is warm enough to hatch- as long as they have been protected from freezing cold (for example, a garage, covered patio, or basement). Flea pupae can remain dormant for over one year until their surroundings have reached ideal temperatures! Once conditions are ideal (inside or outside), the pupae will emerge from their cocoons. A temperature of 65-80 degrees is the ideal temperature range for growth and reproduction of fleas. For the majority of pet owners, your home will be at a consistently warm temperature throughout the winter. This means that a flea population can remain active all year long. Only sustained cold (less than 30 degrees) and low humidity levels will kill outdoor eggs, larvae, and adult fleas.


Ticks are also capable of surviving winter temperatures when they are able to find a host to feed from or a warm location to hide. Adult ticks could still be a threat when temperatures hover around 45 degrees. Wild animals can shed parasites close to home, leaving them dormant and waiting for pets. If your pet spends anytime outdoors in the winter, tick prevention is still a good idea. The past few Chicagoland winters have been really mild and the veterinarians at Loyal Companions have still been seeing ticks on pets during the winter months.


Most geographical areas do enjoy a break from mosquitoes in the winter. However, dormant mosquito larvae can develop in a few days of 50 degree temps. Even if you think you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes during the winter, their return in the spring can catch you off guard. It’s best to be prepared. Veterinarians suggest using heartworm preventative medications year round. This is a much easier method of prevention since you won’t have to remember when to start. Heartworm preventatives recommended by Loyal Companions also protects against intestinal parasites, which is a year-round problem.

Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes may just seem like nuisance pests, but they are actually capable of causing health problems. It’s best to keep your pet on preventative medications all year round, especially when temperatures fluctaute from day to day.

Current recommendations for spaying and neutering

Over the years new research has persuaded the veterinary community to change age recommendations for spaying (for female dogs) and neutering (for male dogs). In the past pet parents were told to spay or neuter their pet at 6 months of age or earlier. New studies have indicated that postponing neutering could have added health benefits.

Studies have shown that neutering before 1 year of age, especially in larger breeds such as Shepherds and Retrievers, can come with its costs. Debilitating joint disorders such as hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture and elbow dysplasia, being a few. A study performed with several breeds indicated that neutered and spayed dogs were two to three times more likely to have cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture.

An increase in some cancers may also be a concern with neutering, specifically osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, and mast cell tumors. In spayed females, cardiac hemangiosarcoma was reported four times greater than in intact (not spayed) females.


The doctors here at Loyal Companions Animal Hospital are encouraging families to consider postponing neutering male dogs until after 1 year of age. With that being said, some male dogs may start displaying male tendencies prior to 1 year of age, such as urine marking, aggression and humping behavior. If your pet starts developing these unwanted tendencies we recommend neutering prior to 1 year of age. We want your pet to live a long healthy life, but we don’t want any unwanted behaviors keeping your pet from being an active member in your family.

If your pet participates in doggie daycare, specifically at Loyal Companions, male and female dogs are required to be neutered by 7 months of age to deter any sort of aggression during playtime.

We still recommend spaying (female dogs) at 6 months of age. We feel that these recent studies do not outweigh the significant risk for mammary cancer in intact female dogs. Allowing a female dog to have even one heat cycle (estrus) greatly increases risks for mammary cancer. A female dog who does not experience a heat cycle has a 0.5% chance of developing mammary cancer, a dog who experiences one heat cycle has a 8% chance of developing mammary cancer, and a dog who experiences two heat cycles has a 26% chance of developing mammary cancer. Most female dogs will start a heat cycle (estrus) between 7-9 months of age.

For the full article click here

The pet overpopulation is a worldwide epidemic. The doctors and staff at Loyal Companions Animal Hospital feel that these recent studies may help prolong the life of your pet, however spaying and neutering your pet is the best way to deter any unwanted pregnancies.

For further concerns or questions please contact your veterinarian

Dog Body Language

We all know that dogs can’t talk to us, so they use their own vocalizations, body gestures and postures to express themselves. They rely on these types of communication to let people and other dogs know their emotions, especially if they feel stressed, frightened or threatened. They hope that the gestures will work to calm the situation and keep them out of trouble.

We can’t always read a dog’s body language accurately. Dogs, just like people, have their own, unique personalities, and they don’t all express themselves in the same way. One dog wagging its tail might mean that the animal is happy to see you or wants to play. The same gesture in another dog might mean that it’s anxious or nervous.

Sometimes, dogs will yawn, put their ears back or raise a paw if they are feeling worried. As the dog gets more concerned about the situation it’s in, its behavior will change. For example, if a dog tucks its tail under its belly or leg, lies down with a leg up or stiffens its body and stares at you, it could be trying to tell you that it’s frightened or threatened. When the dog reacts by growling, snapping or biting, it’s telling you that it wants to be left alone – Right now!

Remember, we can’t predict whether a dog will bite or not based on its size and breed. Always focus on the behavior of the animal.

Ask yourself a question next time you’re around a dog and want to pet or play with it: Does the dog seem like it wants to be with you? If the dog is relaxed and friendly, and seems happy to see you, it’s probably in a good, playful mood and will welcome your attention. If the dog won’t look at you or is avoiding you by walking or turning away, it’s probably best to let it go on its way and leave it alone. If it seems tense and nervous, or seems to be staring at you, you’ll want to stay away.

If it’s not your dog, always rely on its owner to help you understand the pet’s mood. Always, always ask the owner’s permission before you attempt to pet a dog you don’t know.

Preparing for a disaster

In most cases we are given warning before a natural disaster strikes. Tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfire, and thunderstorms can happen to any of us during our lifetime. Not only do we need to prepare our home and human family members for a disaster but we also need to include our pets in the plan. How do we include our most helpless of family members in our plan?


Consider having each animal permanently identified in case they are separated from you during an emergency by having a microchip placed and having an identification tag on their collar. Always keep your pet’s medical records with the rest of the important family records or on an electronic database for easy access during an emergency, just in case you need to travel during a disaster and you need to provide proof of your pets vaccines. It is especially necessary if the pet is on medication for a chronic illness. Have enough cages for your smaller pets for easier transportation and to provide shelter for them. Prepare a disaster contact list, including addresses of friends, relatives, your veterinarian and any other people or facilities that could help you during a disaster.


Just as families keep emergency kits ready for their humans, don’t forget about an emergency kit for your pet. This emergency kit should include most of the same things that a person would need, including the following: enough food and water to last at least 3 days, any medications the pet is currently on, a leash, collar, records, first aid kit, and a recent picture of the animal. Cats will need a litter pan and extra litter.


Locate an evacuation site for your family and pets outside of your immediate area. This may be a friend/relative or pet-friendly hotel.

Learn more by viewing the video Saving the Whole Family: Disaster Prep for your Pets


Remember that these pets are coming from states completely different than ours and they may have been living in poor conditions. When bringing a new pet into your home your should always quarantine them away from other animals in your home for at least 14 days. Monitor the new pet for coughing, sneezing, inappetance, vomiting or diarrhea. These pets could have been exposed to parvovirus, the influenza virus, kennel cough, intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, Lyme disease, or leptospirosis. These diseases could put you or your other pets at risk. Please talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate vaccines or medicastions that your new pet may need and plan on submitting a stool sample. This will ensure a safe transition into your family.


Should you vaccinate your dog against the flu? What you need to know.


Roundworms are large, white colored worms often visible in the stool. They live in the intestines of dogs and cats. Roundworms are extremely common parasites.


Pets can become infected by their mother during pregnancy or nursing. The environment will become infected from feces and pets will become infected from the contaminated soil by sniffing or licking the ground, grooming themselves and eating grass or feces outside. Pets can also become infected by eating prey, such as birds and rodents. Roundworms eggs are highly resistant and long lived in the environment.


Some pets will not show any symptoms at all. Puppies and kittens are usually the most severly affected and will often appear “pot-bellied”. Other signs include:

  • Coughing
  • Dull, thin coat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Failure to gain weight


Your veterinarian can diagnose a roundworm infection by finding microscopic roundworm eggs on a fecal exam. Sometimes pet owners will discover that their pet is infected when live roundworms are seen in vomit or stool.


Your veterinarian will prescribe a deworming medication to give to your pet. It is important to start heartworm prevention two weeks after giving the deworming medication to prevent any continued roundworm issue. A fecal sample should be rechecked 2 weeks after giving the deworming medication.


Roundworm eggs can remain in the environment for months to years so pet feces should always be removed and disposed of. Keep your dog on a leash while walking to prevent exposure to contaminated areas and to minimize the chances of your pet eating an infected rodent or bird. If possible, cats should be kept indoors to minimize their exposure.

Sharing litterboxes and outdoor bathroom areas can spread roundworms among your pets. Any new pets that are brought home should be tested for intestinal parasites before being introduced to other pets in the home.

A monthly heartworm prevention that includes medication for roundworms is great year-round protection from parasites. Since it’s easy to forget a monthly treatment, annual fecal exams are recommended.


Yes, roundworms can be transmitted to from animals to people. Children are most at risk for infection. They typically become infected by eating contaminated soil. In humans, roundworms are a significant cause of larva migrans, an illness cause by migration of young worms through body organs such as the liver, lungs, and nervous system. Young worms may also travel to the eye, where they can cause blindness.

Make sure children wash their hands after handling pets or playing on playgrounds. Keep sandboxes covered when not in use.

Your pet’s safety during the Fourth of July

Fireworks, social gatherings and other holiday traditions may be fun for us, but scary for animals. Noisy fireworks can frighten animals, party food can be unhealthy, and the summer heat can be dangerous. It’s important  to take extra precautions to keep your pet safe during any festivities.


  • Make sure your pet’s have ID tags with current information.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about microchipping, if your pet doesn’t already have one.
  • Take a current photo of your pet, just in case they get lost.
  • Make sure the environment is safe! Choose the safest area for your animals.
  • If your pet has a history of being anxious or scared consider consulting with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications.


  • Leave your pet at home when you go to parties, parades, or during fireworks. Unfamiliar gatherings can be scary to pets.
  • Consider having your pet stay in a escape-proof  room or crate during celebrations.
  • Keep horses in safely fenced areas and far away from the noise.
  • If guests are at your home, ask them to keep the doors closed so that pets don’t escape.
  • Keep your pets inside if neighbors are setting off fireworks.
  • Keep glow sticks, sparklers, fireworks, charcoal and kabob skewers away from pets.
  • Keep pets away from the grill while in use or while it’s still hot. Make sure to dispose of any grease residue they might find appetizing.
  • Avoid feeding table scraps to any pets. Make sure to keep them away from these toxic foods
  • Too much sun and heat can be dangerous! Keep them inside on hot or humid days. Make sure they can access shady spots and water. Know the signs that your pet might be overheating.
  • Never leave your pet in your car. Vehicle interiors heat up fast and even a short time in a car can be dangerous.
  • If your traveling out of town consider having them lodge at Loyal Companions or leaving your pet with a petsitter.


  • Check your yard for any debris leftover from fireworks. Curious animals may pick up or eat any debris in your yard.
  • If you hosted a party, check your yard for any food scraps that your pet may want to ingest.
aaha accredited

AAHA- The Standard of Veterinary Excellence


AAHA stands for American Animal Hospital Association. It is the only organization that accredits veterinary hospitals. To become accredited, companion animal hospitals undergo regular comprehensive evaluations by AAHA veterinary experts who evaluate the practice on approximately 900 standards of veterinary care that go above and beyond basic state regulations. They are considered the highest standard of care. Today, only 12-15% of veterinary practices in the United States and Canada are accredited.

To maintain accredited status, hospitals undergo comprehensive on-site evaluations every three years, which ensures that hospitals are compliant with the Association’s mandatory standards.

aaha accreditation


The mission for every AAHA accredited hospital is to enhance the abilities of veterinarians to provide quality medical care to companion animals and to enable veterinarians to successfully conduct their practices and maintain their facilities with high standards of excellence.

In January 2017 Loyal Companions became a AAHA accredited veterinary practice.


AAHA accreditation is considered the standard for veterinary excellence.

Our veterinarians and staff are dedicated to delivering excellent care for your pet. Because pets are our passion. And keeping them healthy is our number one priority. AAHA helps us stay prepared and equipped to provide the level of care your pet deserves. Here, we strive to deliver excellent care for pets. Because your pets deserve nothing less.

aaha accreditation

Learn more about AAHA accreditation and why our accreditation is important to you and your pet. Visit

Feline Leukemia and the risk to your cat

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats, affecting between 2 and 3% of all cats in the United States.


The virus is shed in saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk of infected cats. Cat-to-cat transfer of the virus may occur from a bite wound, hissing, during mutual grooming, and through casual contact via the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. It is important to keep new cats or kittens separated from cats already in the home until they have been tested negative for FeLV.

Cats at greatest risk of FeLV infection are those that could be exposed to infected cats, either via close or casual contact or through bite wounds. Such cats include cats living with infected cats, cats allowed outdoors unsupervised where they may be bitten by an infected cat, and kittens born to infected mothers.


Although many FeLV infected cats can lead long happy lives, FeLV is the most common cause of cancer in cats. It may cause various blood disorders, and may lead to a state of immune deficiency that hinders a cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. Because of this, common bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that usually do not affect healthy cats can cause severe illness in FeLV-infected cats.

A blood test is used to diagnose FeLV. One of these tests, called an ELISA test, is usually performed first as a screening tool, and can be run in a veterinarian’s office. It may take 8-12 weeks for a cat to test positive for the virus after potential exposure. It is recommended to perform the blood test 3 months after your cat has potentially been exposed to FeLV.

As always, consult with your veterinarian to determine which tests are appropriate for your cat.

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for FeLV. Veterinarians treating and managing FeLV-positive cats usually treat specific problems (like prescribing antibiotics for bacterial infections, or performing blood transfusions for severe anemia). Even in a FeLV negative cat, any medical condition that arises should receive prompt attention. Cats positive for the virus shoulder be kept strictly indoors in single cat households to prevent transmission to other cats. A raw food diet should never be feed to any cat with decreased immune function due to increased risk of serious infection.


The Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel recommends administering the FeLV vaccine to all kittens. The FeLV vaccine is a series of two vaccines, separated by 2-4 weeks. The vaccine is considered to be a non-core vaccine for adult cats, unless they are at risk of exposure. Vaccination of all kittens is recommended because a kitten’s status (indoor versus outdoor, low risk versus high risk) may change, and susceptibility to persistent infection is believed to be highest in kittens. Loyal Companions Animal Hospital carries a FeLV vaccine that only needs to be boostered every 2 years after the initial vaccine if it is determined that your cat may be at risk of contracting FeLV.

All cats should be tested for FeLV prior to introducing them into a home or kept separate until FeLV testing has been completed.

The only sure way to protect cats from contracting FeLV is to prevent their exposure to FeLV-infected cats. Keeping cats indoors, away from potentially infected cats is recommended. If outdoor access is allowed, provide supervision or place cats in a secure enclosure to prevent wandering and fighting.  Food, water bowls and litter boxes should not be shared between FeLV-infected cats and non-infected cats. Unfortunately, many FeLV-infected cats are not diagnosed until after they have lived with other cats. In such cases, all other cats in the household should be tested for FeLV. Ideally, infected and non-infected cats should then be separated to eliminate the potential for FeLV transmission.

Owners contemplating FeLV vaccination for their uninfected cats should consider the cats’ risk of exposure to FeLV infected cats and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination with a veterinarian. Preventing exposure remains important even for vaccinated pets.


It is important to realize that cats with FeLV can live normal lives for prolonged periods of time. Once a cat has been diagnosed with FeLV, careful monitoring of weight, appetite, activity level, elimination habits, appearance of the mouth and eyes, and behavior is an important part of managing this disease. Any signs of abnormality in any of these areas should prompt immediate consultation with a veterinarian.

Pet’s have teeth too

Pets Have Teeth Too!

Does your pet have bad breath?

If you are not welcoming the exuberant kisses for you favorite furry friend because of bad breath, then there is a problem. Bad breath is a sign that your pet has dental disease. The source of the bad breath is from bacteria that are present due to tartar, gum disease, or even an abscess. Believe it or not, dogs and cats will have significant dental disease and discomfort, but will only give us subtle signs that anything is wrong.

What you should know about bad dog breath.

How will I know that my pet has dental disease?

You will have to be on the look-out for tiny changes in your pet. It may be that they do not want to eat their favorite crunchy treat anymore or play with a hard toy. They may allow food to fall out of their mouth or resist petting around the mouth. In severe cases where a tooth root abscess has gone unnoticed, your pet may have a swelling develop under one eye or hold one eye closed.

In some circumstances your pet may not give you any clues that there is a problem! This is why a thorough dental exam by your veterinarian every 6 – 12 months is so important to detect dental disease.

If my pet is not acting any different, why should I worry about dental disease?

There are two reasons why you need to worry. The first is that your pet is in pain but cannot communicate this to you. I have had numerous geriatric canine patients needing extensive dental work due to years of decay. At the two week follow-up the owners are enthusiastically thanking me because their old senior dog is now acting like a puppy again. How long was this dog living in pain?

The second reason to worry is that dental disease will shorten your pet’s life span due to the bacteria and inflammatory components damaging other vital organs. Did you know that the simple act of flossing can add years to your life? Simple dental care for your pet can lengthen their life too. A healthy mouth = a healthy pet.

Is you pup not chewing anymore? What you should know.

What exactly is dental disease?

Dental disease is a general term used for periodontal disease. Perio – means around and -dontal means tooth so this medical term means disease around the tooth. This starts with the soft plaque that forms on the teeth. Plaque is not readily visible on the teeth but can begin to cause irritation or inflammation of the gums. This is called gingivitis. When the minerals in the saliva mix with the plaque it becomes very hard tartar. Tartar is something that we can all easily see on our pet’s teeth.

An important point to remember – 75% of the tooth lies below the gumline. That means what we see above the gum is only 25% of the problem.

What happens when my pet has gingivitis?

Inflamed gums begin to pull away from the tooth creating a pocket. The space of the pocket allows the bacteria to enter causing an infection that further disrupts the structures surrounding the tooth such as ligaments and bone. This is a very serious problem! The ligament and bone are what holds the tooth in the jaw bone. The periodontal disease can cause these to break down and then the tooth will be lost for good. There have been incidences where this infection has been so severe that the jaw bone begins to break down and results in a broken jaw.

Care for your pets' teeth like your own!

How can I prevent dental disease in my pet?

Taking care of your pet’s teeth the same way you take care of your teeth is the best way to prevent dental disease. This includes teeth brushing – yes teeth brushing! Use pet toothpaste that is flavored and does not need to be rinsed. Teeth brushing should be done once daily. If you try to brush your pet’s teeth at the same time each day and make it a positive experience they will look forward to it and can remind you that it is teeth brushing time.

The truth of the matter is that some pets and some owners will simply refuse teeth brushing. In this circumstance, the emphasis for dogs can be placed on giving them dental chew treats. It is best to reference the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) list of accepted treats (

Additionally consider a water additive called Healthy Mouth that can significantly reduce plaque build up.

Just like with your own oral care one of the most important things you can do for your pet is to have regular dental exams, cleanings and radiographs (x-rays).

Why are radiographs (x-rays) needed?

Remember that 75% of the tooth lies below the gumline and there is no way for your veterinarian to be sure the teeth are healthy without radiographs (x-rays). Our pets need to be under general anesthesia in order to receive proper radiographs and dental cleanings. The anesthesia is brief for a basic cleaning and the pets can go home the same day. Generally a pre-dental appointment will be needed to perform a pre-anesthetic exam and run blood and urine test.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.

Cats need dental care too!

Remember your cat! Cat’s have significant dental disease too and are even more effective at hiding their discomfort. Cat’s can frequently develop a very painful lesion on a tooth that is created by the tooth slowly dissolving itself and exposing the nerve. As you can imagine these cats are in pain as evident by their jaw chattering when the area is touched. Surprisingly these cats commonly show no signs of discomfort during their daily life at home. There are multiple medical names for this type of lesion but the easiest one to remember is a “neck” lesion. These lesions need to be treated with oral dental surgery while the cat is under general anesthesia.

If you can care for your pet’s teeth the same way you care for your own, you will be ensuring that you and your pet will have many happy years to share together and the puppy and kitty kisses will be welcomed!

Dental care keeps your dog’s breath fresh and kissable. Unsure about what happens during a dental procedure? Please visit our youtube page to learn about the dental process.

Get to the root of missing teeth

Did you know that adult dogs have 42 teeth? However, sometimes during a veterinarian examination some may be missing. They’re usually missing because of trauma, dental disease, or even a congenital abnormality. When teeth are still present in the mouth, but cannot be found during oral examination, they are called unerupted teeth.

dog mouth


First, dental radiographs are required to determine if your pet’s missing teeth are unerupted or simply just congenitally missing. An unerupted tooth in the mouth can predispose a dog to developmental abnormailities of the shape of the root, root resorption, inflammation of gum tissue, jaw fractures, and potentially the most dangerous, the development of dentigerous cysts.


These cysts are found surrounding an unerupted tooth. They are formed from the tissue remains of the structures of tooth development. They are diagnosed based on radiographs. Large lesions can cause destruction of the bone supporting surrounding teeth, resorption of surrounding tooth roots, and thinning of the bone. Nasal cavity invasion is possible. Advanced lesions can cause facial asymmetry, tooth displacement, and pain.

brushing dog teeth


Treatment for a dentigerous cyst involves extraction of the unerupted tooth and aggressive removal of the cyst. These cysts can recur. Follow up dental radiographs should be taken every 3-6 months for 2 years.

It is imperative that we investigate the cause of missing teeth with dental radiographs. In doing so, we can often prevent more serious complications from arising.