Like the humans and other mammals, giant pandas suffer from a variety of diseases; internal, surgical, obstetrical, communicable, and parasitic. Due to long-term evolution and the changes in the environment, giant pandas have gradually adapted from being carnivorous to almost a herbivore, the physiological characteristics with bamboo, a kind of vegetable food, as the principal food. However, giant pandas are still classified as carnivorous in terms of taxonomy, as they have well-developed sharp canines teeth and agile claws.
Though giant pandas are charmingly naive and gentle when calm, they are very fierce and unmanageable. Even the sick giant pandas are usually inaccessible, and scientists first have to sedate the ursus individual, and then perform examination, diagnosis and treatment. For this reason, the giant panda doctor must have a good command of giant panda anesthetic technique.
Internal diseases of giant pandas
Giant pandas internal diseases are primarily in the digestive, respiratory, urinary, nervous, hemopoietic system, etc. Common diseases include; acute gastroenteritis, chronic gastroenteritis, cold, and pneumonia. The most threatening diseases for giant pandas are; sunstroke, ileus (blockage of the intenstines), volvulus (bowel obstruction), intussusception, (where a segment of the intestine is pulled into itself) acute pancreatitis, and kidney failure.
The common surgical diseases of giant pandas include trauma, fracture, craniocerebral injury and tumour, which can only be treated via surgical operation. Because giant pandas would scratch the wound on and on, which prevents healing, therefore the key of success of surgical operation lies in the post-operative care.
Giant Panda Obstetrical Diseases
Obstetrical diseases of giant pandas mainly include pseudopregnancy, abortion, dystocia, edema of pudendum (swelling of the vulva), endometritis, ovarian cyst, obstruction of fallopian tube, and infertility. Pseudopregnancy and abortion are the most common. The weight of the newborn panda cub is only 1/1000 of the female panda (or sow), so the possibility of dystocia (obstructed labor)due to oversize of fetus is extremely small, and the most likely is that the mother is subject to dystocia due to abnormal uterine action because of weak uterine contraction during delivery. Presently, only one case of giant panda dystocia was reported internationally. The only case was Er Yatou (Pedigree No.: 401#) living in the Chengdu Panda Base in 2004. At that time, she did not show any contractions or straining within 14 hours after the amniotic fluid broke for the first time, and experts conducted B-ultrasonic examination and found that the fetus was still in the uterus. Finally, via the conservative therapeutic method with combination of Chinese and western medicine, the dead fetus was delivered from the mother, a surgical operation was avoided, and Er Yatou was protected.
Infectious or Communicable Diseases of Giant Pandas
Communicable diseases of giant pandas are diseases greatly threatening the population health and life safety of giant pandas. Before scientists completely know the new communicable disease, giant pandas are impossible to defend effectively such disease, which causes serious loss or even devastating blow to the entire giant panda captive population, just like the panic among human beings caused by SARS and bird flu when they just appeared. In the history of giant panda captivity, the hemorrhagic enteritis triggered by the invasive escherichia coli O152 introduced to the captive population due to rescue of wild pandas in 1980s resulted in death of nearly 20 giant pandas within 2 years; the intractable dysentery and chronic malnutrition syndrome of post-weaning giant panda cubs caused by rotavirus, canine distemper caused by canine distemper virus, viral enteritis caused by parvovirus, etc. brought harm to the entire captive population.
Through concerted efforts, scientists all over the world have made major breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of known giant panda communicable diseases. Experts have succeeded in finding effective therapeutic methods and preventive measures against hemorrhagic enteritis caused by the invasive escherichia coli O152, the intractable dysentery and chronic malnutrition syndromes of post-weaning giant panda cubs caused by rotavirus, and tests to screen, and vaccines to prevent against canine distemper virus.
Parasitic diseases of giant pandas
Giant panda parasites are classified into endoparasites and ectoparasites. Presently scientists have found 22 different kinds of parasites on giant pandas. The most common parasitic diseases are ascariasis (rash from mites), psoroptic acariasis, demodicidosis (from the Demodex mite), and ixodiam.
In terms of the infection rate and infection intensity of parasitic diseases, captive giant pandas and wild giant pandas are quite different. In captivity giant pandas receive excellent veterinary care, resulting in minimal rates of infection, and intensity of parasitic diseases, yet these rates aresubstantially higher amongst wild giant pandas, and parasites have become the main cause of emaciation and death, Scientists found through research that one wild giant panda has up to 1605 roundworms, and their infection rate of wild giant pandas reached 100%.
Between the 1980s to 1990s, the Chengdu Panda Base was dedicated to the rescue of wild giant pandas, and 63 and 58 giant pandas were rescued and cured successively. These giant pandas have been sent to the giant panda captivity organizations at home and abroad, forming the foundation of the current captive giant panda population domestically.
In terms of prevention and control of giant panda diseases, difficult problems successively overcame by the Chengdu Panda Base include:
1. Prevention and cure technique of hemorrhagic enteritis of giant panda (caused by an infection of invasive escherichia coli EIEC O152);
2. Prevention, cure and purification technique of parasitic diseases of captive giant panda;
3. Prevention and cure technique of chronic malnutrition syndrome of giant panda;
4. Prevention and cure technique of viral myocarditis of giant panda;
5. Prevention and cure technique of the cute intractable dysentery (caused by infection of rotavirus) of post-weaning giant panda cub;
6. Evaluation on immunoprotection effect of canine distemper attenuated vaccine against canine distemper virus infection of giant panda;
7. Evaluation on immunoprotection effect of canine parvovirus attenuated vaccine against canine parvovirus infection of giant panda;
8. Evaluation on immunoprotection effect of canine parainfluenza attenuated vaccine against canine parainfluenza virus infection of giant panda;
9. Evaluation on safety of ferret canine distemper recombinant vaccine for giant panda population;
10. Prevention and cure technique against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus pneumonia of giant panda;
11. Radical treatment technique against pulpitis of giant panda;
12. Verification of infectious hematuria pathogeny of giant panda and prevention and cure;
13. Monitoring technique for inhalation anesthesia and anaesthesia of giant panda.