Huskies' Futures Looking Bright

The five Huskies have been in our care for almost a month now, and all are making great progress on their journey to wellness and adoption. Diesel was the last adult to undergo his physical examination and neuter surgery, and Ziggy, the puppy with an injured right eye, will see a specialist on Wednesday.

Veterinarian in Charge Dr. Rita Hemmings conducted Diesel’s examination and reported him to be in the best health of the four adults. Like the rest of his pack, he is heartworm positive. Bonnie, Diesel, Lillian, and Scout are scheduled for grooming Aug. 9-10 and are almost ready for socialization and transitions to foster homes.
Top: Vet Assistant Haley preps Diesel for his microchip while Dr. Hemmings examines his mouth. Bottom: Clinic Administrator Meagan takes Diesel out of surgery and into recovery.
Heartworm: A Primer

Heartworm infection has been a central part of each of the Huskies’ story. But what exactly is a heartworm? How is it treated and how can it be prevented? Let’s find out.

Heartworms are small, parasitic roundworms with a two-stage life cycle: the immature larva (microfilaria) and the adult worm. Mosquitoes ingest the microfilaria when they feed upon an infected animal. After about two weeks inside the mosquito, the microfilaria are ready to infect a new host. Once in the new host, the microfilaria slowly move towards the heart and lungs, where they take 6-8 months to mature into adult worms. The adult heartworms reproduce and flood the host’s bloodstream with more microfilaria, which are then ingested by a mosquito to continue the cycle.

Adult heartworms are not passive guests while in the host’s body. Their presence damages the lining of blood vessels, which can lead to the formation of blood clots that migrate to the lungs and pulmonary arteries. In addition, heartworm infection triggers an immune response that inflames the lungs, making it even harder for the lungs to properly function. An infected animal may show signs of coughing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. Severe infections can be fatal.
A diagram of a heart infected with heartworms.
Heartworm treatment is expensive and carries some risk to the infected animal. Infected dogs receive three injections of melarsomine to kill the adult heartworms. Typically, dogs receive the initial dose, wait for 30 days and then are given the second and third injections 24 hours apart. The injections are often accompanied by the antibiotic doxycycline to kill a bacteria that usually inhabits the heartworm.

The adult worms begin to die a few days after the final treatment. As they die, their bodies break up and end up in the small blood vessels of the lung, where the body eventually absorbs them. It can take several months for all of these fragments to be absorbed, and they pose a clotting risk inside the dog. Because of this, a dog is put on strict activity restrictions following treatment.
Heartworm treatment is quite expensive and can run into the thousands of dollars. These costs, and the heavy physical toll extracted on your pet, can be avoided with heartworm preventives that are available at your local vet’s office. Visit to learn more about our treatment services.

The Norfolk SPCA remains grateful to the many HOPE Fund donors who have given to this noble cause. You have enabled us to give these beautiful dogs the high-level care and affection that they deserve. We look forward to sharing more encouraging updates with you in the near future.