GuideHow to treat Rheumatoid arthritis (geriatric care)
Target GroupCorvids
AuthorsSharman M. Hoppes > DVM, ABVP (Avian), Texas A and M University;
NOTE: In all my guides, I start from a situation where a rehabilitator takes his responsibility to take care of the animals in an ethically correct way. You should always try to minimize stress for the bird and since the birds, just like humans, are not the same, it can mean that you handle a problem in different ways by being creative! If I see different ways of doing the same thing, I try to write it down in my guides, but it is always up to the rehabilitator to take their own responsibility.
I do not have to write “I recommend putting the bird down” or “contact a veterinarian” or “according to law, you should …” because I start from the situation where you do the best for the bird and that you as a rehabilitator have learned to draw the line so that you do not end up in an unwanted or illegal situation. There may be an eternal battle between what you want and what is best for the bird.
There are also many factors where a similar situation can give different results. For example: access to a veterinarian, lack of time, lack of knowledge and previous experience can include cause large differences in the treatment and decision-making process and indirectly also the end result. Knowledge of basic things can make a huge difference in the stress level of the crow. For example. avoid anything that is black or checkered. They do not like it instinctively and it creates stress when they see that you are dealing with something that is black.
I put energy into my guides to make it easier for a rehabilitator to find information and to spread knowledge.
Do you see a way to improve my guides or do you see a mistake or do you want to add something, feel free to inform me!
If you are worried about doing something because it is new, ask other rehabilitators or a veterinarian for help.
The guides are continuously updated, so make sure to always download the latest version from

This guide describes what to do with birds that have had rheumatoid arthritis (also known as rheumatoid arthritis)
All information comes from Sharman M. Hoppes , a Texas veterinarian who specializes in the subject and we have received explicit permission from her to publish her work. However, the information may not be disseminated on the internet.
However, it is okay to print this page for your own use / use in the clinic

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How it looks like on an X-ray


Septic and traumatic arthritis can occur at any age. Septic arthritis is most common in the toes. Osteoarthritis is also common in geriatric birds and can lead to other problems such as pododermatitis (“bumblefoot”) if it is not detected early and treated. The weight of the bird, its general physical condition, previous injuries and any concomitant medical conditions can all contribute to the onset and severity of arthritis.
The fact that the bird also has pododermatitis can be both a cause and a result of reduced activity.
Malnutrition, which reduces the integrity of the “plantar epithelium” (= the pads under the foot), and at the same time obesity often occurs in affected birds.
The cage environment, especially the variety, diameter and structure of perches, can be important in providing comfort and stability for arthritic birds while preventing or minimizing pododermatitis. If possible, the claws should be left with sharp tips to give strength and stability to the grip.

The clinical signs vary depending on the location of the arthritis and the severity of the disease. Birds may be lame or less active. A flying bird may not want to fly or may not fly as well. The bird may not sit normally or may fall off perches.
Other signs of arthritis are swollen or hot joints, decreased range of motion, plucking or mutilation or excessive vocalization.

What does it look like in crows?


The diagnosis is based on clinical signs, physical examination findings and images (X-rays or computed tomography). Radiographic lesions include narrowing of the joint space, sclerosis of the subchondral bone, misalignment of the joint, and osteophyte formation. CT scans help determine the severity of the bone changes. Commonly affected joints are the tarsus, hind knee (stifle) and phalangeal joints (see photos below). The joints in the sternum appear to be less commonly affected.


A multimodal treatment plan is recommended, which includes both medical and non-medical modalities . Medical treatment includes the use of NSAIDs, chondroprotectants and possibly opioids. The most common NSAID used in avian medicine is meloxicam, a COX-2 inhibitor. Potential side effects of NSAIDs are renal ischemia, so these drugs should be used with caution in the long term and at the lowest possible therapeutic dose. Anecdotally, glucosamine or polysulfated glycosaminoglycan has been used successfully. The latter should be used with caution, as some birds have developed fatal coagulopathy (bleeding disorders) from the injections. Gabapentin in combination with NSAIDs has been effective in relieving arthritic pain.

Opioids may be necessary for acute exacerbations of a chronic arthritic condition or for conditions that do not initially respond to NSAIDs. Tramadol or butorphanol can be used until the NSAIDs take effect.

Additional management includes changes in animal husbandry, a weight loss and exercise plan, a healthier diet (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) and physiotherapy. Encouraging flying birds to fly in a safe environment is the best form of exercise. Searching for food by placing several feeding boxes on opposite sides of the cage or fence promotes exercise. If the bird is overweight, weight loss is important, as studies have shown that obesity is a risk factor for osteoarthritis in many species.
Fatty acids can have an anti-inflammatory effect and be kidney-protective. Flaxseed oil or an omega supplement is recommended as the best source of fatty acid supplementation for birds. Other breeding changes, such as changes in the structure or diameter of the perch or padded perches, can be helpful for birds with weak or painful legs or feet.

NOTE: Arthritis is also common in older birds. Differentiation between arthritis and articular gout is crucial due to the large differences in progression, quality of life and prognosis.