Definition of Arthritis

From the elephant glossary Section: disease

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Also called Septic arthritis, Reactive arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, Felty's syndrome, Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Still's disease - crystal (Gout, Chondrocalcinosis) - Osteoarthritis (Heberden's node, Bouchard's nodes)

Records about Arthritis from the Gone Astray: Elephant care manual for Mahouts and camp managers (Thailand)

Arthritis is a painful condition affecting the joints that comes from both internal causes, such as old age or being overweight or being fed insufficient or poor quality food, and from external causes, such as an elephant being worked beyond its capacity or doing inappropriate work.

Arthritis comes in both acute and chronic forms. The chronic form is very difficult to heal completely, especially because the condition is very difficult to diagnose accurately and because treatment requires such a long period of time. Veterinarians treating chronic cases generally recommend taking the elephant off of work and stopping all activities that might pose danger to the joints and cause the arthritis to worsen.

As for acute cases of arthritis, the onset can happen very quickly. Acute arthritis is usually brought about by overwork or by inappropriate work such as hind-leg walking, head stands, etc. Arthritis can also occur as the side effect of an injury to the Feet or legs.

Clinical Signs: The elephant will not use the affected limb or will do so only with great difficulty. The affected area is often swollen.


If the case is new, in the first 24 hours, take the elephant off work.

Have the elephant be still and apply cold compresses, a clean cloth wrapped around ice or a cloth dipped in cold water over the swollen area or to the area where the elephant seems to be having pain.

If the condition has not resolved after 24 hours, apply hot compresses or hot fomentation every day.

Quickly consult a veterinarian.

Elephant care manual for Mahouts and camp managers, Preecha Phuangkum, Richard C. Lair and Taweepoke Angkawanith

Reference list Koehl, Dan, (2024). Arthritis. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 20 September 2021 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

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  • Elephant care manual for mahouts and camp managers, Preecha Phuangkum, Richard C. Lair and Taweepoke Angkawanith

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Categories glossary | disease

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