THE VETERINARY RECORD
APRIL 1st. 1972
Some Observations on the Diseases of Brunus edwardii (Species nova)
D. K., BLACKMORE, B.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.C. V.S., D. G. OWEN, M.Sc. and C. M. YOUNG, M.A., Vet..M.B., M.R.C.V.S.
Woodcote Avenue, Wallington, Surrey
Vet. Rec. (1972). 90. 382-385
SUMMARY.-The correct specific and generic terminology for Brunus edwardii is discussed, and. the results given of a survey involving 1,599 complete specimens and 539 miscellaneous appendages. These results indicate that primary infectious agents do not occur, and that the species is safe for children to handle. Suggestions as to the future role of the profession in relation to this species are made.
FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, this species has been commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America. Although there have been numerous publications concerning the behaviour of individuals (Milne, 1924; 1928; Daily Express (numerous editions)), there have been no serious scientific contributions, and a careful search of the literature, using abstracting journals and computerised data retrieval systems has failed to reveal any comprehensive survey of the diseases of these creatures. A few of these previous publications include references to certain disease syndromes, and Milne (1928) refers to obesity associated with the excessive intake of honey, and to psychological disturbances associated .with territorial disputes with Tiggers, Heffalumps and even small children. One publication (Bond, 1958) concerning a certain individual known as Paddington refers to the animal receiving treatment from medical practitioners without a veterinary qualification, These records emphasize two disturbing factors, firstly, the obvious need for treatment of diseased individuals, and secondly, the infringement of the Veterinary Surgeon's Act of 1966 that would presumably be involved if such animals were treated by any person not on the Veterinary Register.
The British Veterinary Association has many non-territorial divisions, and it would have been logical to assume that either the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, or the British Veterinary Zoological Society would have shown an interest in this species. It is unfortunate that apparently none of the Officers of these associations had either the mentality or the foresight of the present authors to instigate a study similar to that published in this paper.
Pet ownership surveys have shown that 63.8 per cent. of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals, and there is statistically significant relationship between their population and the number of children in a household. The pubic health implications of this fact are obvious, and it is imperative that more be known about their diseases, particularly zoonoses or other conditions which might be associated with their close contact with man. The resu1ts of this survey may also be relevant to the recent Rabies (Importation of Mammals) Order (1971), and could necessitate possible changes in the quarantine regulations.
The importance of avoiding the use of colloquial names in scientific contributions has been stressed by Keymer et al. (1969), but previous publications have apparently only used the term "teddy bear." Preliminary studies have suggested that this term might include several different strains, if not species. However, it was found that teddy bears will accept cutaneous and even limb grafts from other bears without showing any signs of rejection. These findings obviously indicate that all teddy bears are genetically homozygous and of the same species. We therefore consider the correct generic and specific terminology to be Brunus edwardii.
Materials and Methods
Source of material for survey
A total of 1,598 specimens of Brunus cdwardii was examined. Of the 1,600 owners approached, 1,599 agreed to examination of their bear, and the majority were able to provide a comprehensive case history. One specimen was eventually unavailable, as it was in quarantine because its owner was affected with rubella.
A further 539 miscellaneous appendages were made available for examination by nurseries, schools and children's hospitals in the London area. These specimens were in a dilapidated condition, but careful grafting restored 136 intact bears, with only one surplus ear, which has been stored in liquid nitrogen for future use. No case histories were available from this latter group.
Examinations were carried out as quickly as possible, because many owners were reluctant to be parted from their bears for long. No restraint was necessary, as the bears showed no apprehension and were obviously used to being handled. An attempt was made to record body temperature, but this was abandoned, as all specimens appeared to be homoeothermic. Each bear was given a thorough external examination, and data were collected on approximate age, weight, condition and colour of coat and physical disabilities. Stuffing condition was assessed by careful palpation. Where necessary, radiographs were taken, and biopsies obtained to identify the stuffing material. Sub-cutaneous and deeper tissues often protruded from superficial abrasions and, where necessary, a small seam incision was made, a sample taken, and the opening sutured with Coates Machine twist 30, using a standard Miilwards darning needle. Voice boxes, where present, were tested by percussion and auscultation.
The psychological state of the bear was assessed by examining the facia1 expression and also by investigating the case history with special reference to the frequency and duration of association with children.
Results of the Survey
One thousand five hundred and ninety-eight animals, plus miscellaneous appendages were examined. Classification of the findings was attempted but almost all cases were of multifactorial aetiology, and it was impossible to determine the primary agent. Similar lesions occurred at many different sites, making systematic tabulation of results impracticable. No primary pathogens were isolated: and the predominant cause of pathological change was external mechanical trauma, which was either severe and sudden in onset, causing loss of limbs and appendages, or more insidious giving rise to chronic wear and tear.
Commonly-found syndromes included coagulation and clumping of stuffing, resulting in conditions similar to those described as bumble foot and ventral (rupture in the pig and cow respectively) alopecia, and ocular conditions which varied from mild squint to intermittent nystagmus and luxation of the eyeball. Microplhalmus and macropthalmus were frequently recorded in animals which had received unsuitable ocular prostheses.
Ninety-eight per cent of the cases examined were jaundiced, but as no samples could be obtained for the Van den Bergh tests, the reason for this condition remained obscure, and it was concluded that icterus was probably a normal state for this species.
The following case notes illustrate the complexity of both the causes and resulting manifestations of disease in this species.
Case 1: A six-month-old bear, owned by a four-year o1d male, was found to be suffering from acute dysla1ia, torticollis and loss of one lower limb. The general condition of the animal was good, with a normal thick pelage. The injury had been the result of disputed ownership. Treatment of the torticollis by manipulative therapy and surgical replacement of the limb, were uncomplicated. The dumbness was the result of a ruptured acoustic membrane, and complete renewal of the voice box was necessary. This involved laparotomy, removal of the damaged organ from its surrounding viscera, and careful positioning of the replacement so that the acoustic membrane faced ventrally to prevent the development of muffled speech.
Case 2: A young bear owned by a child of six months was found to be suffering from "soggy ear” when removed from the owners cot one morning. Oedema of the pinna was a commonly recurring condition in bears belonging to children under 18 months, who slept with an ear firmly clamped in their mouths.. Treatment consisted in removal from the owner, lavage and drying in an airing cupboard.
Case 3: A ten-year-old bear, which had been owned successively by three siblings. The normal yellow coat colour had changed to a dirty grey, there was extensive a1opecia which had progressed to “thread-bearness" over the ears, nose and limb extremities. The auxiliary and inguinal seams were weak, resulting in intermittent dis1ocation of the limbs, but there was no herniation of stuffing. Old age and persistent handling with transport by one limb were the main reasons for the chronic debility, for which there is no satisfactory' treatment.
Case 4: A six-year-old bear belonging to an aspirant nurse. The animal had a distinctive cheesy odour and there was a dried white oral and nasal discharge on the facial fur. This was the only case where a bacteriological examination resu1ted in the iso1ation of an organism, Lactobacillus acidophuilus, which was obviously an opportunist invader of the contaminated coat. There was no evidence of digestive disturbance. The owner was encouraged to treat the animal herself by washing it thoroughly.
Case 5: A 16-year-old bear with an asymmetrical expression and obvious emotional disturbance, found at the back of a cupboard. After the removal of superficial dust, the coat condition was seen to be good, but the animal had a permanent squint, due to care1ess rep1acement of the right eye with a shoe button. Tracing of the case history revea1ed that this bear had suffered recurrent unilateral ocular prolapse, which had progressed to total rupture of the filamentous orbital attachments, and loss of the eye. It was hoped that a new owner might be found for this animal, and that with a newly-matched pair of eyes his expression and psycho1ogical state might improve.
Case 6: An aged, cobweb-covered bear, found in an attic. Its general condition was poor, with loss of a forelimb and hernation of stuffing. The frontal seam was ruptured, exposing a rusted voice box with helical weakness. The animal was heavily infested with commensals, which included a pair of Musmusculus with two generations of young, a total of 23 individuals. Specimens of Loeplaps hilaris, Leptosylla segnis, Nosopsyllus, fasciatus and Lepismaz saccharina were: found in the right inguinal region and the border of the left pinna was being eroded by clothes moths (Tineola bissilliella). Treatment of this case included vigorous shaking, dusting with pyrethrum, a stuffing transfusion, and a forelimb graft.
This survey revealed many factsof' interest to both the comparative pathologist and the clinician. It is with considerable relief that it can be recorded that Brunus edwardii appears to be resistant to any pathogenic organisms and cannot, therefore, be affected by any zoonotic condition. However, this species can be involved in a variety of commensal relationships, as illustrated by Case No. 6. Future investigations, using gnotobiotic techniques, might provide further fascinating information on such associations.
. Teddy bears can act as transitory mechanical vectors of human pathogens. Although superficial contamination with rubella virus has no direct effect on the bear, the unskilled treatment of carrier teddies can result in serious secondary disease. Examples found included a singed integument caused by overheating during decontamination in a domestic oven, and coat discolouration due to treatment with an unsuitable disinfectant.
True diseases of Brunus edwardii can therefore be classified as either traumatic or emotional. Acute traumatic conditions, characterised by loss of appendages, are often the result of disputed ownership. Chronic traumatic conditions are usually associated with normal wear and tear, and are not necessarily detrimental, as there appears to be a statistical relationship between the presence of such lesions, the lack of emotional disturbance, and the affection given by the owner.
. Emotional disturbances are either apparent or inapparent. Apparent emotional disturbances are recognised by changes in facial expression, and in almost all cases the condition is the result of unskilled remedial surgery. Inapparent emotional disturbances are not fully understood, but seem to be related to the fact that an unloved teddy is an unhappy teddy. Few adults (except perhaps the present authors) have any real affection for the species, and as children mature, their teddy bears may be neglected and relegated to an attic or cupboard, where severe emotional disturbances develop. The authors consider it significant that B. edwardii appears to be classless in both the taxonomic and socioeconomic sense.
The authors believe that their time, effort and skill will have been completely wasted if these findings do not stimulate the practitioner to take a greater interest in the clinical problems described. It is hoped that this contribution will make the profession aware of its responsibilities, and it is suggested that veterinary students be given appropriate instruction and that postgraduate courses be established without delay.
Acknowledgment.- The authors wish to thank Miss H, M. Conn for her valuable help and advice in the preparation of this paper.
BOND. M, (1958), "A bear called Paddington." Collins. London.
KEYMER. I. F. MANTON. V. J. A., APPLEBY. E. C. BLACKMORE. D. K. BRANCKER, W. M., DALL. J. A. GRAHAM-JONES. O. MESSERVY, A. W., & SENIOR, M. (1969). Puma, American Lion. Cougar or Fdis concolor? Vet. Rec. 85. 352.
MILNE, A. A. (1924). "When we were very young." Methuen & Co. Ltd. London. (1928).
"The house at Pooh Corner." Methuen:& Co, Ltd. London.