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Heartworm Prevention Not to Be Taken Lightly BY LEISA JENNINGS

Allergy Season Has Arrived BY MARK B. VAN DEUSEN, M.D.

More than 50 million Americans have a condition known as allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as hay fever or allergies. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can include nasal congestion, sneezing, increased mucous production, postnasal drainage, cough and itchy eyes. More severe symptoms include loss of sense of smell, chronic sinus infections, facial pain or pressure, headaches and chronic fatigue. Depending on the allergy, some people can have symptoms year round, while others have seasonal symptoms. Interestingly, allergy symptoms can develop at any age and symptoms can change over time. When a person has an allergy, it means their immune system reacts to inhaled, ingested or touched substances that should not typically cause a problem. Substances that cause this inflammatory response within the body are known as allergens. Common allergens include various tree, grass and weed pollens, molds, dog or cat dander, dust mites and various foods. In-office skin testing is an efficient and accurate way to test a person’s response to these allergens and grade their severity. This information is valuable for the patient and physician. Patients can attempt to avoid certain allergens (if possible) and the physician can plan the most effective treatment strategy. Treatments to control allergy symptoms include over-thecounter antihistamines, decongestants, steroid nasal sprays and antihistamine nasal sprays. Some medicines need to be prescribed by a doctor. Allergy immunotherapy is another treatment option. The goal of immunotherapy is to eliminate the body’s inflammatory response to allergens over time. Examples of immunotherapy include allergy shots or allergy drops. These are utilized to re-program a person’s immune system to become tolerant of allergens so they do not cause the inflammatory response that leads to symptoms. For spring and summer allergy sufferers, now is the time to set up an appointment with your ear, nose and throat doctor. Ideally, treatment should start before symptoms appear or soon after. A thorough history and physical exam is sufficient for an initial diagnosis and treatment plan. A discussion with your physician will help determine if allergy testing should be performed. A nasal and sinus examination can also identify any variations in anatomy that may be contributing to symptoms. Addressing allergies and contributing factors can lead to a significant improvement in quality of life. If you have never been evaluated for allergy symptoms, now is a great time to see your doctor and start feeling better. Dr. Mark B. Van Deusen enjoys treating patients with sinus disease, nasal obstruction and allergies at Northwest ENT and Allergy Center. He also practices head and neck surgical oncology, otologic surgery, and pediatric otolaryngology. He can be reached at (770) 427-0368.

“Hey doc, do I really need to give Fido that heartworm prevention every 30 days? I usually remember to administer it every other month, and sometimes I don’t give it in the winter. But that’s OK, right?” This is a dialogue that I encounter all too often, indicating that many people are aware of heartworms and prevention, but they do not truly understand the prevalence and ramifications of this devastating disease. It is a disease that takes time to produce clinical signs and is often not properly addressed until diagnosed. Perhaps we as veterinarians are not properly educating pet owners at the preventative stage. The American Heartworm Society has deemed April as National Heartworm Month to provide an opportunity to promote education regarding this prominent, potentially fatal but preventable disease. Heartworms, Dirofilaria immitis, are blood-borne parasites that affect dogs, cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and, very rarely, humans. The adult worms live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs. Victims acquire this infection through the bites of a mosquito that has feasted on an infected animal. Mosquitoes are required for transmission. Unfortunately, these winged Petri dishes are resilient and designed for survival, dating back to the Triassic Period. They can thrive in a variety of climates and environments, have an average flight radius of 1-3 miles, have no aversion to coming indoors, and can consume a blood-meal three times their body weight. With just a little information, we can resolve many misconceptions. This is a disease transmitted via direct contact with infected mosquitoes. Indoor isolation does not provide protection. Heartworms do not reside in the gastrointestinal tract, and thus are not found in stool. It is not a seasonal disease or only a concern for sub-tropical regions. Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states. The American Heartworm Society recommends that all dogs receive monthly heartworm prevention all year. Prevention is available in many forms. Most are administered every 30 days based on the biology and life cycle of the heartworm (I’ll spare you the details). However, the treatment is a prolonged, expensive, multi-step process that is not without risk. Even after the disease is successfully treated, long-term effects often remain. Prevention is far easier than treatment both medically and financially. Is your dog properly protected?

Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states.

Dr. Leisa Jennings received her doctor of veterinary medicine in 2006 at the University of Georgia. She currently works as a small companion animal practitioner at BridgeMill Animal Hospital. SIXES LIVING | April 2016

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