Genetic Disease Assessment

As part of the assessment of the viability of Mexican wolves for the 1996 SSP meeting, Linda Munson, a veterinary pathology adviser examined the incidence of possible genetic diseases in the captive population. Because the genetic diversity of this population is so low, any genetic diseases could be devastating.

Dr. Munson examined four dead wolves and found that two of them died of gastric torsion, which results from eating massive quantities and then exercising heavily. She suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition toward gastric torsion, but does not see it as a serious problem since careful management should prevent this from occurring.

The other two died from pyelonephritis related kidney failure and the other from crypt necrosis in the small intestines, consistent with parvoviral infections. The wolf that died of kidney failure had kidney stones which were probably the root of the problem. These were shown to be made of struvite crystals which usually occur as a result of chronic infections. There are genetic defects in other species of wolves that cause kidney stones but the composition of the stones is quite different (for example cysteine uroliths in Maned wolves). The crypt necrosis in the other wolf was probably induced by capture stress rather than viral infection, but neither case would indicate a genetic problem.

Overall, Dr. Munson was unable to detect any serious genetic or infectious diseases in the captive Mexican wolf population.

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