Diseases and parasitesEdit
Because wolves travel great distances, they may play an important role in spreading and maintaining diseases in certain areas, some of which can be potentially fatal to humans. However, most gray wolf populations are remarkably resilient against outbreaks, for there are no records of wolves being decimated by disease. Usually, a wolf displaying the first symptoms of disease leaves its pack, thus preventing the sickness from spreading to its pack mates.
Viral and bacterial infectionsEdit
Viral diseases carried by wolves include rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis, papillomatosis, and canine coronavirus. Wolves are a major host for rabies in Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and India. In wolves, the incubation period is 8–21 days, and results in the host becoming agitated, deserting its pack, and travelling up to 80 km a day, thus increasing the risk of infecting other wolves. Infected wolves do not show any fear of humans, with most documented wolf attacks on people being attributed to rabid animals. Although canine distemper is lethal in dogs, it has not been recorded to kill wolves, except in Canada and Alaska. The canine parvovirus, which causes death by dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and endotoxic shock or sepsis, is largely surviveable in wolves, but can be lethal to pups. Wolves may catch infectious canine hepatitis from dogs, though there are no records of wolves dying from it. Papillomatosis has been recorded only once in wolves, and likely doesn't cause serious illness or death, though it may alter feeding behaviors. The canine coronavirus has been recorded in Alaskan wolves, with infections being most prevalent in winter months. Bacterial diseases carried by wolves include brucellosis, lyme disease, leptospirosis, tularemia, bovine tuberculosis, listeriosis, anthrax and foot and mouth disease. Wolves can catch Brucella suis from wild and domestic reindeer. While adult wolves tend not to show any clinical signs, it can severely weaken the pups of infected females. Although lyme disease can debilitate individual wolves, it does not appear to have any significant effect on wolf populations. Leptospirosis can be contracted through contact with infected prey or urine, and can cause fever, anorexia, vomiting, anemia, hematuria, icterus, and death. Wolves living near farms are more vulnerable to the disease than those living in the wilderness, probably due to prolonged contact with infected domestic animal waste. Wolves may catch tularemia from lagomorph prey, though its effect on wolves is unknown. Although bovine tuberculosis is not considered a major threat to wolves, it has been recorded to have once killed two wolf pups in Canada.
Wolves carry ectoparasites and endoparasites, with wolves in the former Soviet Union having been recorded to carry at least 50 species. Most of these parasites infect wolves without adverse effects, though the effects may become more serious in sick or malnourished specimens. Parasitic infection in wolves is of particular concern to people, as wolves can spread them to dogs, which in turn can carry the parasites to humans. In areas where wolves inhabit pastoral areas, the parasites can be spread to livestock. Wolves are often infested with a variety of arthropod exoparasites, including fleas, ticks, lice, and mites. The most harmful to wolves, particularly pups, is Sarcoptes scabiei (or mange mite), though they rarely develop full blown mange, unlike foxes. Lice, such as Trichodectes canis, may cause sickness in wolves, but rarely death. Ticks of the genus Ixodes can infect wolves with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The tick Dermacentor pictus also infests wolves. Other ectoparasites include biting lice, sucking lice and the fleas Pulex irritans and Ctenocephalides canis. Endoparasites known to infect wolves include protozoans and helminths (flukes, tapeworms, roundworms and thorny-headed worms). Of 30,000 protozoan species, only a few have been recorded to infect wolves: Isospora, Toxoplasma, Sarcocystis, Babesia, and Giardia. Wolves may carry Neospora caninum, which is of particular concern to farmers, as the disease can be spread to livestock, with infected animals being 3–13 times more likely to miscarry than those not infected. Among flukes, the most common in North American wolves is Alaria, which infects small rodents and amphibians, which are eaten by wolves. Upon reaching maturity, Alaria migrates to the wolf's intestine, but harms it little. Metorchis conjunctus, which enters wolves through eating fish, infects the wolf's liver or gall bladder, causing liver disease, inflammation of the pancreas, and emaciation. Most other fluke species reside in the wolf's intestine, though Paragonimus westermani lives in the lungs. Tapeworms are commonly found in wolves, as their primary hosts are ungulates, small mammals, and fish, which wolves feed upon. Tapeworms generally cause little harm in wolves, though this depends on the number and size of the parasites, and the sensitivity of the host. Symptoms often include constipation, toxic and allergic reactions, irritation of the intestinal mucosa, and malnutrition. Infections by the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus in ungulate populations tend to increase in areas with high wolf densities, as wolves can shed Echinoccocus eggs in their feces onto grazing areas. Wolves can carry over 30 roundworm species, though most roundworm infections appear benign, depending on the number of worms and the age of the host. Ancylostoma caninum attaches itself on the intestinal wall to feed on the host's blood, and can cause hyperchromic anemia, emaciation, diarrhea, and possibly death. Toxocara canis, a hookworm known to infect wolf pups in utero, can cause intestinal irritation, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Wolves may catch Dioctophyma renale from minks, which infects the kidneys, and can grow to lengths of 100 cm. D. renale causes the complete destruction of the kidney's functional tissue, and can be fatal if both kidneys are infected. Wolves can tolerate low levels of Dirofilaria immitis for many years without showing any ill effects, though high levels can kill wolves through cardiac enlargement and congestive hepatopathy. Wolves probably become infected with Trichinella spiralis by eating infected ungulates. Although T. spiralis isn't known to produce clinical signs in wolves, it can cause emaciation, salivation, and crippling muscle pains in dogs. Thorny-headed worms rarely infect wolves, though three species have been identified in Russian wolves: Onicola skrjabini, Macrocantorhynchus catulinus, and Moniliformis moniliformis.