The last log referenced some tests that run on the spinal fluid sample that was collected on October 15th.  All of the samples came back negative, except some back negative, except some bacteria was identified on the aerobic culture.  The lab reran the sample and determined that the aerobic culture were bacterial isolates due to contamination.
While we await the DNA test to see if Boltz carries a mutated gene associated with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), we proactively started Boltz on a vitamin protocol recommended by the University of Florida study on Degenerative Myelopathy in dogs.  Our intention was to strengthen his immune system as we go through this diagnostic process. We are seeing the results in a very sleek, thick winter pelage, making him look extremely healthy.  Through this entire process, Boltz remains alert, has a great respiration rate, a good appetite and doesn’t appear to show a pain response.  All appearances show a healthy wolf, but he just has no strength in his back legs to support himself and is frequently falling.  We put him back on Prednisone, but his condition has been so challenging because he has good days and bad days and despite a significant amount of video correlations, it is hard to pin point if the prednisone is working.  We can honestly say that there is no significant improved response with prednisone, but it could be helping, so we are keeping him on a low dose right now.  We have ruled out all of the potential issues except DM and a remote chance that this is a disease called Myasthenia Gravis.  Some of the symptoms are voice changes (BZ lost his high pitch howl over 2 years ago with no definitive issues noted with an endoscope of his throat ) progressive weakness and exercise-related collapse.  These symptoms fit Boltz condition, especially the collapse with more movement.
Our vet just treated a dog for myasthenia and it was 100 percent improved with 4 days of treatment, and response to treatment was pretty much immediate.  To diagnose this condition, a blood draw is typically required.  We have chosen not to put him through the stress of the blood draw.  There was less risk in starting him on the treatment than to do an immobilization in these cooler, wet temperatures.  While we have reversible drugs that would be out of his system in an hour, there is also a risk of Boltz panicking during the injection and injuring himself in this vulnerable state.  We are also concerned about Boltz’s negative association with staff that need to care for him during this critical time.    So, today is the start of the treatment.  If it is  Myasthenia Gravis, we will have good news to report over the weekend.

After Denali’s retirement on October 16th, Axel and Grayson needed some time to adjust to the change.   I made the decision to retire Denali based on his advanced age needing some time to recuperate from a paw wound.  On a younger animal, this would have been something that we would have treated within the pack, but an injury at this age increased his vulnerability.  Since Denali’s retirement was not a situation where the arctics forced him out of the pack, we saw more stress howling, especially from Grayson.  After about a week, the howling seemed to subside and Grayson has increased his displays of dominance, especially on the weekly deer carcass.  Based on our experience with Shadow and Malik, the last pair of arctic wolves we managed, we know the winter will certainly be active for these two.

I don’t have anything to post on Boltz today, we are waiting for additional spinal tap test results to come in (if you recall, there were 3 tests). So, far everything has been negative and bloodwork is all in normal range. I have copied one of the reports here to see all the things that have been ruled out in this challenging time trying to get a diagnosis.  The Vet put him back on prednisone as his condition was declining since we weaned him off of the prednisone to do the spinal tap. Now, we are closely monitoring him by camera and visual checks to assess if prednisone is working. Staff are diligent in reducing any distractions in the wolf yard that might impact his ability to comfortably rest.   I hope to have more answers by the Monday Working for Wolves webinar at 5 pm Central time.  There are still spots available for this webinar if you would like to register check our our Programs – Webinar tab on the website at www.wolf.org.

If you are a webcam viewer, you may have noticed that Denali and Grizzer are sharing the East Side Retirement and the Back Habitat.  While reuniting the retired pack members was in my ongoing management plan, we had planned to wait until Denali was done with his antibiotics later this week to avoid food competition with medications.  Apparently,  Denali didn’t think much of my plan.

At 3:36 am this morning, In less than 30 seconds and with no agitation, Denali grabbed the gate frame, twisted the hinge on the gate (which staff couldn’t move with a pry bar and sledge hammer) and joined Grizzer in the Back Habitat.  As a management policy, all external gates and gates between retirement and the Exhibit Pack are chained so if a gate hinge is compromised, the gate is still secure (we had an issue in 2008, where Lakota was reunited with the Exhibit Pack, led by Aidan and Denali).  We also chain all external gates in the East Side Retirement area and Pack Holding Area, but since Grizzer has a history of grabbing chains in his younger years, we hadn’t used chains on the internal gates in retirement, except where Grizzer shares a gate with Boltz.  The gate that Denali opened was an internal gate into the transition area. We have been watching Grizzer and Denali since last friday and all indications were good for a compatible introduction, the surveillance video confirmed our thoughts.  Once again,  we are so grateful for those of you who support our camera upgrades and robust surveillance system through generous donations.  After this morning’s events, wolf care staff are now placing gate chains on ALL gates.  One can’t assume that because wolves are older, that they won’t still act like wolves.

As Walter, one of our camera wolf watchers states:   “They are not old, they are seasoned: as in there is very little you can throw at them or put in front of them they haven’t seen before or know how to deal with, including (apparently) wood reinforced chainlink metal framed gates”

If we find that Grizzer doesn’t like the arrangement, we will go back to keeping them separate, with a bolted gate.  So far, Grizzer is following Denali around and it hasn’t impacted Grizzer from claiming his favorite spot in front of the Back Habitat den. Although since the weekend, he is not using the cover hay, so he may be getting some pain relief from the cold ground on his tendon.  It is a form of self-medicating; Luna used to do the same thing.

Boltz is still being maintained separately in the Pack Holding Area until we have additional test results back.  We ruled out cancer of the spine, bacterial or fungal issues, no meningitis, no tick related issues, no blastomycosis, the list is getting shorter.  We will continue to host a separate log for Boltz under the Meet our Wolves section of the website

 

So far, the test results we are getting don’t show any abnormalities in the bloodwork.  As I said in previous logs, he is otherwise in good health and doesn’t appear to be having a pain response, but his strength in his back legs is compromised.  We received some preliminary results on the spinal tap and according to the lab report

” No obvious infectious etiologic (causing or contributing to the development of a disease or condition.) agents, malignant neoplastic cell populations (cells that could potentially invade and metastasize into cancer) , or atypical particulate matter are identified.  The critical thinking and waiting game on additional samples continues.

With the Retirement of Denali on Friday, Grayson has increased his howling, intensified to more bark howling when there is any activity in the wolf yard and even got his brother Axel to bark howl with him today.  Wolves are neophobic (hesitant about new things) and they don’t like change, especially Grayson.  But, change will happen.  Cold weather arrived on Saturday putting a layer of ice on the pond and reminding us that winter is upon us and we can expect wolf behavior to increase.  Another change is that without Denali to possess food, Grayson is free to take the lead on the carcass.  The following was a daily report from the Center educators that monitor the pack dynamics on a daily basis:

” Axel and Grayson played a lot of “hide and go seek” on the big den along with some play chase. They continued to rest on the pumphouse when they were done. They were continuing to mill around up front before What’s For Dinner, and showed some more playful behavior with one another. During What’s For Dinner, Axel and Grayson both moved in to eat at the fawn. Grayson defended from Axel, and Axel soon backed off while Grayson ate. Grayson ate for about 15 minutes (did not check time, so this is an educated guess). After Grayson moved off, Axel came in to eat and dragged the carcass partway across the viewing area, then fed until about 8:15 pm”

As you may have read in the Exhibit Logs, we retired Denali on Friday.   Denali came to us in 2008 from the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake and has been an active part of the Exhibit Pack for 12.5 years.  From what we can see from the surveillance cameras, there was some dominance over the deer carcass that resulted in Denali getting a bite on his back right leg near his Achilles tendon and his paw.  The vet was here doing an assessment on Boltz and she advised that Denali needed a treatment of antibiotics, some rest to heal his pad, since these are notoriously hard to heal if activity isn’t restricted. With colder temperatures and snow predicted for the weekend, we knew activity was only going to increase with the younger pack mates and food possession, so we decided to move him into the East Side Retirement area permanently.  Another additional circumstance related to Denali’s overall health.  In May’s medical exam the vet identified one of his five biopsies showed a potential mast cell tumor, so this is an appropriate time to begin the next stages of his medical care.  Since this was not a forced retirement, meaning the other wolves didn’t force him out, there is some bark howling behavior coming from Grayson and Axel due to the change in pack dynamics.  Denali is transitioning to the new location, but in order for him to take his antibiotics, he is restricted to smaller meals twice a day.   We would like Denali to lose a bit of weight and want to make sure he is always willing to take his medication.  This was a bit of a problem when he was in the Exhibit.  He would gorge on a deer carcass, then become finicky about his daily meds.  Today is the 4th day of his retirement and so far the plan is working.  We anticipate Boltz and Denali can share the same area, but we need to wait for results from the recent tests on Boltz before we change anything in his life.

We are reconfiguring our gate system to allow for Grizzer to resume access to the front of the Pack Holding Area. As winter advances, we definitely want him closest to the heated building.  Until then, Grizzer is very content in the back habitat and Boltz is content in the Pack Holding Area enjoying the new cover hay placed by the wolf care staff over the weekend.

   

 

The tension of the last 24 hours seems to have resulted in some dominance from Grayson towards Denali that made Denali less mobile and more vulnerable to the heightened activity of the younger pack mates, especially with the first ground covering snowfall of the season.  We made the decision to retire Denali this morning.  He will be in the East Side Retired Area, Boltz will be in the Pack Holding Area and Grizzer will be in the transition area and back habitat.  We will use this weekend to get everyone situated in the new arrangement and will keep the cameras off.  At this time, we do not know compatibility for the wolves to join each other, we definitely need answers on Boltz before we add any activity to his life.  I can tell you that all 3 have good cover and will have the full focus of the wolf care on duty.  Boltz is recovering extremely well, actually better than we expected.  When he was released back into the Pack Holding Area from the Wolf Care Center, the first thing he did was find Denali’s cached beaver tail and take it to the stump (he has become a stump eater lately, he doesn’t like dirt on his food). Grizzer has his favorite Back Habitat Den and the entire transition area.

  

 

 

Bolz did well through the procedure that started with a drugging at 3:50 and the reversal drug at 6:22 pm.  He will have 2 shave marks, the lumbar area didn’t yield clear enough fluids for a sample, so the vet needed to go  higher on the spine.  She successfully got enough samples to run all 3 tests – The Neurologic RealPCR, Fluid Analysis with Cytology, and Aerobic and Anaerobic cultures and we got enough bloodwork for a full panel, CBC and the Degenerative Myelopathy DNA test.  He got a good dose of Cefazolin antibiotic to reduce the risk of the spinal injection site getting infected.

He is remarkably healthy considering this odd neurological issue.  His heart rate during the whole procedure was between 52 and 56 and his respiration was between 12 – 16…these are the vitals of a good cardiovascular system.  He’s resting on some blankets and pillows in the Wolf Care Center, although he prefers the cooler floor.  He has a very thick winter coat already.  I will stay with him all night and will transition him outside later tomorrow.  We will not have the cameras on through the weekend as we suspect he will need some time to adjust.  If you watch the cameras closely, you may notice that the noise of the camera movement does impact the wolves, even Grizzer who is hard of hearing, will lift his head when I zoom the camera.  We want to keep Boltz calm, he’s had a rough day.

The Center offered a Photography Weekend, taught by our Wolf Care Staff member, Kelly Godfrey.  During the session, we asked participants to review the Center’s Ethogram and identify behaviors that gives us an assessment of pack dynamics.  Often when we do wolf care, the staff’s presence in the enclosure can create competition for attention and doesn’t give us true sense of dynamics.  Here are the results of their observations:

Denali – Still in the Mix:

Written by Dana Pond, Christina Rizzo and Sheri Kreager

This weekend, we observed Denali very focused on pack interactions and engaging in many social encounters with Axel and Grayson.  He played with his ears pricked forward (showing no submission).  Clearly stimulated, he would rise from a resting position to join in on the play sequences.  On several occasions, we also observed Axel “Invite Chase” (a behavior where a wolf rest down on the front legs, then springs upward and away).  Denali would willingly, all be it slowly, join him in a chase up the hill.

Photo by Ron Kalin – showing the pack rally with Grayson on the left, Axel on the right with the high tail and Denali facing them, wagging his tail.

 

Written by Bill Brandon, Deb Hyde

Grayson was the most vocal among the three wolves remaining in the Exhibit Pack.  He howled quite frequently on this particular day.  However, the other wolves didn’t seem to pay attention to him. No other wolf as observed returning his vocalizations.  Grayson’s howls were short duration, but he continued to howl for an extended period of time.  Perhaps he is missing former pack member, Boltz (wolf care staff should note, that the vet was on site to assess Boltz and Grayson has a particular bark-howl warning for the vet).