Mapping, Geography & Heartworms: Cornell’s Dwight Bowman


When it comes to mapping, geography and heartworms, Cornell’s Dwight Bowman is your guy: He will discuss forecasting and prevention June 5 at 2015 ACVIM Forum, Indianapolis

ACVIM1(Denver, Colo.) Many of us aren’t the least bit concerned about parasites and our pets until we’re impacted.

Are they headed our way? Who knows? But one veterinarian who might have an answer is Dr. Dwight Bowman, a Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine professor of parasitology, who will be addressing the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Indianapolis June 5.

Bowman, whose presentation is entitled “Forecasting of Heartworm Prevalence and the Impact of Prevention,” has been one of the country’s strongest advocates of year-round broad spectrum parasite control for three decades.

“No matter where you live, there is no excuse for not doing so,” he emphasizes.

Bowman is a kind of Mr. MapQuest and has been following and tracking the spread of these pesky creatures via data maps from the hard-hit Southeast to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, which are beginning to see an increase in reports.

acvimWhen asked why owners in high-incident states don’t protect their animals, Bowman responds, “It is probably fiscal. However, they also do not understand the serious consequences of heartworms in their pets, either. The development of the disease is insidious and hidden from the owner. These are foot-long worms that live for years swimming about within the pulmonary arteries of the lungs. Dogs can have anywhere from a few to more than 100. It takes a good while for disease to develop in most dogs, and sometimes they present as medical emergencies. Treatment is difficult, potentially dangerous, and expensive relative to prevention.”

He characterizes the heartworm as “sneaky,” after seeing it gradually spread across the United States the last half century. “People are slow to see the need for prevention until after the worm has turned up several times within an area,” he adds.

Getting owners to understand that transmission may happen any time of the year is equally frustrating for professionals. “They are mistakenly locked into believing that there is a given transmission window and that protection does not need to be longer than a few months here or there, and well, they miss it,” the speaker argues. “People do not understand that roundworms, whipworms and hookworms can also be transmitted during the winter, and that ticks are happy as can be any day that the temperature rises above freezing.”

The bulk of data he studies is supplied by IDEXX Laboratories (Mukilteo, Wash.) and ANTECH Diagnostics (50 locations in the U.S. and Canada), although some comes from veterinary clinics and testing laboratories. “It would be great if we could get results from more clinics,” Bowman says, “but there is the question of how to make it happen and how to assess the quality of that collected.”

With help from statistic partners in the data mapping, he notes that veterinarians are doing a solid job preventing disease in their patients and serving their clients well. However, at the same time he is “hoping to be able to show them where slight increases in efforts at prevention are likely to have a maximal effect on reducing diseases in their patients.”

If you are ever on a TV game-show contest dealing with geography, Bowman is a guy you’d want to have alongside, since he has been analyzing Companion Animal Parasite Council nationwide mapping data with a firm grip for years.

“Forecasting,” he emphasizes, “is a word that worries many when it is discussed in terms of disease mapping. People are concerned about the value of the information and the fact the information may be more a supposition than a guess.” He cites weather and economic forecasts as cases in point.

“Now it is possible to begin to forecast what might be and to compare it to the data on the basis of what actually takes place,” he explains. “The council has begun an effort to try such forms of forecasting, although it is just in its formative stages.

“Every year now with our collection of millions of data points our maps are getting better. We can see trends, and we are working on moving beyond past trends to suggest what future ones might be. In the world of disease control, the next step is to begin to understand what would be required to reduce infection levels. The most important thing the maps can ultimately do is assess the impacts of intervention,” Bowman concludes.

Media Attendance: Accredited members of the media may attend the 2015 ACVIM Forum at no charge. However, you are required to register with ACVIM. For media registration, please contact Laurie Nelson at or 303.231.9933 Ext. 101.

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About the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM)

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through education, training and certification of specialists in veterinary internal medicine, discovery and dissemination of new medical knowledge, and increasing public awareness of advances in veterinary medical care.

ACVIM hosts the ACVIM Forum, an annual continuing education meeting where cutting-edge information, technology and research abstracts are showcased for the veterinary community. More than 3,200 veterinary specialists, veterinarians, technicians and students attend.

“Visit Indy is thrilled to welcome the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine to Indianapolis for their 2015 ACVIM Forum,” said Chris Gahl, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Visit Indy. “We look forward to welcoming more than 3,200 attendees who will generate more than $4.2 million in economic impact for central Indiana.”

ACVIM is the certifying organization for veterinary specialists in cardiology, large animal internal medicine, neurology, oncology and small animal internal medicine.

To find out more about ACVIM specialists and the 2015 ACVIM Forum, please visit



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