World-wide concern over emerging vector-borne diseases has increased in recent years for both animal and human health. In the United Sates, concern about vector-borne diseases in canines has focused on Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and heartworm which infect domestic and wild canids. Of these diseases, Lyme and anaplasmosis are also frequently diagnosed in humans. Gray wolves (Canis lupus) recolonized Wisconsin in the 1970s, and we evaluated their temporal and geographic patterns of exposure to these four vector-borne diseases in Wisconsin as the population expanded between 1985 and 2011. A high proportion of the Wisconsin wolves were exposed to the agents that cause Lyme (65.6%) and anaplasma (47.7%), and a smaller proportion to ehrlichiosis (5.7%) and infected with heartworm (9.2%). Wolf exposure to tick borne diseases was consistently higher in older animals. Wolf exposure was markedly higher than domestic dog (Canis familiaris) exposure for all 4 disease agents during 2001-2013. We found a cluster of wolf exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi in northwestern Wisconsin, which overlaps human and domestic dog clusters for the same pathogen. In addition, wolf exposure to Lyme disease in Wisconsin has increased, corresponding with the increasing human incidence of Lyme disease in a similar time period. Despite generally high prevalence of exposure none of these diseases appear to have slowed the growth of the Wisconsin wolf population.
Jara, R. F., Wydeven, A. P., & Samuel, M. D. (2016). Gray Wolf exposure to emerging vector-borne diseases in Wisconsin with comparison to domestic dogs and humans. PLoS ONE, 11(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0165836