Washington Zoo’s Endangered Red Wolf Gets New OSU Surgery



CORVALLIS, Ore. (KTVZ) – Specialists at Oregon State University Veterinary Hospital on Tuesday operated on a rare red wolf from the breeding program of Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Washington.

Chester, who was born at the Tacoma Zoo in Washington state almost two years ago is one of only 260 red wolves remaining in the world.

The procedure went well and on Wednesday morning, Chester was back at his home in Tacoma, eyes shining and very excited about his breakfast.

“We feel really excited and hope this will give her a good quality of life and help her feel better,” said Dr Kadie Anderson, Associate Veterinarian at Point Defiance and 2011 OSU graduate. Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine.

Chester was born with a birth defect in the liver known as a shunt, where a blood vessel bypasses the liver and allows unfiltered blood and toxins to flow throughout his body. To remedy this, doctors had to block the stray vessel and circulate blood through his liver’s filtration system.

Doctors at Lois Bates Acheson University Hospital within OSU’s Veterinary College perform six or seven bypass procedures each year on dogs, but this was the first time they had operated on a wolf. Doctors have confirmed that this is the first time in history that a red wolf has had a shunt repaired with this technique.

The nonsurgical procedure is similar to a coronary angioplasty in men: doctors insert a catheter through a vein up to the liver, place a tubular mesh stent through the opening of the affected blood vessel, and then gradually spirals against it. the stent to stimulate coagulation upon opening. Over time, the vessel will be completely blocked, so blood will flow directly through the liver rather than bypassing it.

Although he performed the procedure several times, the director of the veterinary hospital, Dr Helio de Morais, said the operation on an endangered species was particularly stressful.

“I don’t want to be solely responsible for the fact that there are only 259 left,” he said.

In the end, everything went as planned during the three-hour procedure on Tuesday.

“I think the procedure went very well,” said de Morais. “It may be the easiest we have done.”

The anatomy of a red wolf is very similar to that of a dog, so doctors were in familiar territory, said Dr. Kate Scollan, an associate professor at the veterinary college who also worked on the procedure.

“It was definitely fun doing this in a new species for us,” she said. “And hats off to our anesthesia team and the zoo team working together on the anesthesia part – everything seemed to have gone really well there too, which is always one of the big challenges.”

Chester, who turns 2 in May, is one of a litter of eight puppies born under Point Defiance’s Red Wolf Conservation Program in 2019. There are currently six female wolves at the zoo itself and around 50 wolves at its off-site breeding facility, in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Red wolves are the only carnivorous species unique to the United States, but aggressive hunting nearly killed them in the 1970s. Thanks to conservation efforts by zoos and the Fish and Wildlife Service, there are now around 250 in the United States. zoos, although fewer than 20 red wolves remain in the wild.

Point Defiance staff knew something was wrong when Chester was only 3 or 4 months old, but despite extensive testing, they could not determine the source of his gastrointestinal discomfort until October, when blood tests eventually indicated the problem was with a liver shunt.

“Your liver is doing so much work for your body, but if it doesn’t have the capacity to filter your blood, it won’t be able to do its job,” Anderson said.

Because his condition may be genetic, the zoo plans to sterilize him after the stent procedure so that he does not contribute to the breeding program. But it will still play an important role as a pet for other wolves that are not recommended for breeding, helping to socialize when pack members need to be separated during breeding season.

From the start, Chester has been easy to spot as he’s always been one of the most confident wolves, Anderson said. If a visitor took a photo of the Cubs, Chester was probably in the foreground.

“We are really looking forward to seeing him recover,” she said.

And Chester can look forward to celebrating his next birthday with a meat cake from his Guardians.

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