Louisiana to Tulsa to Richmond: Five dogs’ journey
On October 26, the BISSELL Pet Foundation’s Rescue Riders Pet Transport pulled up to our humane center with five dogs on board. These dogs had been part of a large evacuation effort from Louisiana shelters that were threatened by Hurricane Ida. The Richmond SPCA also assisted with that rescue effort, working with BISSELL Pet Foundation, Florida Urgent Rescue and Wings of Rescue to take 57 cats, kittens and dogs into our care.
However, these five dogs had remained in a Tulsa transport hub, seeking rescue. Placement with shelters proved challenging because they are all heartworm positive, a life-threatening condition that not all shelters are equipped to treat. They were transferred to the Richmond SPCA specifically because of our expertise in caring for and placing dogs in lasting homes following heartworm treatment.
In our most recent fiscal year, which ended on September 30, our shelter pet veterinary medical team successfully treated 182 dogs for heartworm infections. Philanthropist Cathy Bissell has invested in furthering that lifesaving work with a generous grant the BISSELL Pet Foundation made to the Richmond SPCA in August. This Healing Heartworm grant has already funded heartworm treatment for 48 dogs, including the five who arrived on October 26.
“Heartworm positive dogs are just like any other dog, and they deserve the same chance at a new life as any other pet, and that is why we are thrilled to provide much needed resources to shelters,” said Cathy Bissell, founder of BISSELL Pet Foundation. “Cost and care for infected dogs can be extensive, but together with these partners especially the Richmond SPCA, we can make a difference in the community and help these wonderful pets lead long, happy lives.”
Treatment for Benni, Madre, Martha and Olive began early last week. Our heartworm protocol, overseen by Associate veterinarian Dr. David Molinas, involves two doses of Immiticide. This carefully regulated poison is paired with a steroid to mitigate inflammatory response in the lungs as the parasites in the heart are killed, as well as relieving pain and swelling at the injection sites.
This treatment is not without risk, which is why veterinarians strongly advocate for patients to be on year-round preventative drugs. Heartworm treatment places significant strain on the dog’s body, and complications can occur as fragments of the dead worms circulate in the blood stream. Following treatment, they must be kept calm and quiet. We have made them available for adoption but with exercise restrictions remaining in place for four weeks after treatment. Gentle, blue-eyed Olive was the first to find a home.
We gave Valentina extra time to decompress after the transport because she was so timid when she arrived. She’s been getting extra attention from Behavior and Training Manager Jackie Laubacher, who excels at earning the trust of scared dogs and helping to build their confidence through positive reinforcement. As she made progress with Valentina, Dr. Molinas was able to draw blood for lab work to confirm her heartworm status. Jackie’s work with our veterinary team ensured that Valentina could be safely treated while also continuing her behavior improvement.
Valentina is now awaiting adoption to loving home with a patient and understanding guardian. Though still uncertain about unfamiliar sounds and people, Valentina warms up quickly and shows her puppy playfulness. Given time to go at her own pace, she will blossom into a happy and confident dog.
We are immensely grateful to the BISSELL Pet Foundation for partnering with us to save these precious lives. Look for the Healing Heartworm icon in the profiles of dogs awaiting adoption at the Richmond SPCA.
Tabitha Treloar joined the Richmond SPCA in 2005 as an admissions counselor and has been our director of communications since 2010. She and her husband live in Richmond with four Richmond SPCA alumni – two cats and two dogs.