As you may have read in the Center’s press release, we euthanized Boltz at approximately 7 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2020. His condition really declined in the last week, not only physically, but behaviorally.

 

While the lack of mobility and swaying of his back legs didn’t seem to elicit a pain response, he began to fall more frequently, began dragging his feet and he started to struggle to get up.  Initially, his mobility would noticeably decline when stress would seem to exacerbate the condition.  So we modified the wolf yard access, cancelled programs and did whatever possible to keep him calm. Surveillance video was reviewed each morning to assess how long he rested and his posture upon rising in the morning.

 

In the last few days, we saw a decline in mobility that was independent with any external activity in the wolf yard that may trigger stress.  Our biggest concern was that he would seriously injure himself falling as the colder weather and snow on Tuesday created icy conditions.  The other concern that is equally important as the physical was the psychological.  This condition seemed to cause confusion and panic when he didn’t have the strength to support himself.  His struggles were heartbreaking and we were helpless to find him any relief.

 

Boltz deserved better than to struggle and panic through this decline.


Since this condition was first identified on Aug. 23, he had a Thoraco-lumbar and brain MRI, CerebroSpinal Fluid cytology, CerebroSpinal Fluid infectious disease assessment, protein tests, cancer cell tests, and a genetic screen for Degenerative Myelopathy and all were inconclusive. We assessed and used possible treatments in the absence of a diagnosis in hopes that we would see some response or improvement.  Despite our Veterinarians dedicated efforts, we had no improvement.  When the decision was made to go forward with the USDA Animal Welfare Act Euthanasia protocol, we consulted with the University of Minnesota pathologist to discuss all sampling that could be performed at the necropsy and made sure we did everything possible to find an answer.  We also sent nerve and muscle biopsies to a specialist at the University of California San Diego Neuromuscular Lab.  Their reputation has been described as: “…an international reference center dedicated to the diagnosis and study of spontaneous neuromuscular diseases in companion animals. Specialized testing performed in this laboratory includes evaluation of muscle and peripheral nerve biopsies by state-of-the-art methods, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence staining and immunoblotting for the diagnosis of various muscular dystrophies and other congenital myopathies.”

 

As is standard protocol for any wolf mortality at the International Wolf Center, we did allow all the remaining ambassador wolves to see and smell the body through the fence.  This has been a practice recommended by our Veterinarian years ago to help the other wolves process the loss of a pack member.  All the wolves showed interest, but Grayson had the strongest whining and licking response, and had a significant amount of bark howling throughout the day.  Staff spent time with Grayson to help calm him and also transitioned Grizzer and Denali into the Pack Holding Area where Boltz had been residing. Boltz’s body will be cremated at Pets Remembered in the Twin Cities and his ashes will be spread with his pup mate Luna’s, who succumbed to cancer on Nov. 26, 2019.

 

I am grateful to all of the people who emailed me with comments, suggestions and their own pet’s medical histories.  I wish we had more time to try every procedure, but without any diagnosis, we couldn’t let him suffer without any treatment nor continue with invasive procedures that had limited outcome.  We hope to learn of his condition through the final necropsy and tissue samples provided.  Boltz’s legacy will be to help us learn all that we can about his condition and serve the ambassador wolves to the best of our ability for generations to come.

 

– Lori Schmidt