Iowans rescued hundreds of dogs left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, but some of those animals had health problems. Local veterinarians like David Graeff in Cedar Rapids say some of the dogs are still here and could be a threat to your pet. “There are more positive heartworm dogs around eastern Iowa now than there was a year ago, and this puts your dog at an increased risk of getting heartworms,” Graeff says.

Michael Anderson, another vet in the Cedar Rapids area, explains that mosquitoes carry the heartworm disease and spread it from dog to dog. “These worms live inside the heart and it messes up the flow of blood through the heart and through the lungs, so it’s pretty debilitating if it gets advanced,” Anderson says. It takes less than ten minutes for veterinarians to draw blood and test dogs for heartworms, according to Anderson. The “snap” test also detects Lyme Disease.

David Spiegelhalter had his dog, Penelope, tested for the disease. “They just did the blood test on her, on her little paw, her little leg,” he said. The test came back negative.

Penelope does not have heartworms. “I just wanted to get her established and get tested and get her started on her pills,” he said. Penelope must take a pill once a month to prevent her from getting heartworm. Veterinarians say that’s the best way to keep your dog healthy. The heartworm blood test costs about 30 dollars. Pills typically cost about 15 bucks each. The disease usually cannot be spread without the help of a mosquito.