Evaluation of Atherosclerotic Lesions and Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis in Raptors in Northern California

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Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that has been reported to affect the cardiovascular system of many avian species. However, atherosclerosis in raptor species has not been fully evaluated. The aim of this study was to histologically characterize central and peripheral atherosclerotic lesions in raptors that were submitted to a pathology service in Northern California from 1986 to 2013. We also evaluated risk factors, including age, gender, origin, and avian family. Atherosclerotic lesions were categorized as minimal, mild, moderate, or severe, based on the severity of the lesions and their distribution within the arterial wall. Among the central arteries, lesions were determined to be of greater severity in the aorta than in the pulmonary artery. More than 50% of the peripheral arteries were affected, including 53.1% (17/32) myocardial, 52% (13/25) coronary, 62.9% (22/35) arteries in the kidney, 52.2% (12/23) gonadal and 51.7% (15/29) splenic arteries; however, hepatic and pulmonary arteries were uncommonly affected. Atherosclerosis was diagnosed in 17 raptor species representing 4 families: Accipitridae, Cathartidae, Falconidae, and Strigidae. The overall prevalence (95% CI) of atherosclerosis in raptors was 2.3% (36/1574; range, 1.63%-3.19%) with the Falconidae having the highest prevalence at 7.4% (9/122; range 3.64%-13.93%) and with 0% detected in the Tytonidae and Pandionidae families. A multiple logistic regression model that jointly accounted for differences in risk by family, age, and gender found that the risk in Accipitridae was significantly less than that of Falconidae, that adult raptors were at greater risk of atherosclerotic lesions than juveniles were, and that females were more frequently affected than males were.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Avian Medicine and Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 30 2021


  • atherosclerosis
  • avian
  • central artery
  • peripheral artery
  • raptors
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Small Animals


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