Acid – A fluid containing a high proportion of hydrogen ions, giving the liquid a sour taste. Measured by pH units, with 1 the most acid, and 14 the least acid. Chemical reactions in the body have to take place at or near neutrality, pH 7.
ACTH – Adrenocorticotropic hormone. A hormone, secreted by the pituitary gland, which stimulates the adrenal gland to work.
Activated charcoal – Charcoal which has been treated to increase its adsorptive power (ability to have chemicals adhere to it); used to treat various forms of poisoning.
Active immunity – Immunity produced when an animal’s own immune system reacts to a stimulus e.g., a virus or bacteria, and produces antibodies and cells which will protect it from the disease caused by the bacteria or virus. Compare with ‘passive immunity.’
Acute – Having a sudden and generally severe onset. See also Chronic.
Addison’s disease – the pituitary gland produces a hormone that triggers the adrenal gland to produce corticosteroids. If there is a problem with the adrenal gland, or a pituitary tumor, the process breaks down and not enough corticosteroids are produced. Characterized by weakness, weight loss, anorexia, and fatigue.
Adjuvant – A substance added to killed vaccines to stimulate a better immune response by the body. Common adjuvants contain aluminum compounds.
Adrenal glands – Two small glands near the kidneys that produce many hormones required for life.
Adrenaline – A hormone produced by the adrenal glands that elevates heart and respiration rates; also called ‘epinephrine.’
Adrenergic – Communication between the nerves and muscles that uses epinephrine as the ‘messenger.’ Adrenergic stimulation is what is involved in the ‘flight or fight’ response, which means the body is alerted to a danger of some sort and prepares to basically run or fight. Adrenergic stimulation results in an increased heart rate, sweating, and increased blood pressure.
Adsorbent – A solid substance which attracts other molecules to its surface.
Adulticide – Medication formulated to kill adult forms of a parasite.
Aerobic – Needing oxygen to live. See also Anaerobic bacteria.
Aerobic bacteria – Bacteria that require oxygen to survive and grow.
Agglutination – Clumping together.
Albino – An animal that is completely white because it lacks the ability to make pigment. Its eyes are pale blue or pink.
Albumin – A protein in the blood responsible for the maintenance of osmotic (water) pressure in the blood; also binds (attaches) to large molecules in the blood and serves to transport them; produced by the liver; also called ‘serum albumin.’
Aldosterone – A hormone secreted by the adrenal gland that stimulates sodium (and therefore water) retention and potassium excretion; important in blood pressure maintenance.
Alimentary – Pertaining to food or the digestive tract.
Alkaline – A substance with very few hydrogen ions, and a pH over 7. Lye is strongly alkaline.
Allergen – A substance that causes an allergic reaction, e.g., pollen.
Allergy – immunological hypersensitivity to certain foreign antigens.anemia – reduction of red blood cells or hemoglobin. The red cells contain the protein ‘hemoglobin’ which binds oxygen in the red blood cell. This allows the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Symptoms include weakness, reluctance to exercise, pale mucus membranes, and tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate).
Alopecia – A loss of hair or baldness.
Alopecic syndrome, color dilution alopecia – deficiency of the hair, caused by a failure to grow or regrow after loss. Signs may include bacterial folliculitis, scaling and hair loss. Caused by the dilution gene at the D locus.
Alveoli – The tiny microscopic areas of the lung where the actual exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide into and out of the blood occurs. Also called alveolus and alveolar sacs.
Aminoglycoside – A class of antibiotics which act by interfering with bacterial protein synthesis within the bacteria which results in the death of the bacteria. Antibiotics in this class include gentamicin (Gentocin), kanamycin, neomycin, streptomycin, tobramycin, and amikacin. Many of these antibiotics are not well-absorbed from the animal’s digestive system, so are often administered as injections, or used topically.
Amylase – Digestive enzyme, produced by the pancreas which breaks down carbohydrates and starches.
Anabolic steroid – A type of steroid (not a corticosteroid like prednisone, cortisone, or dexamethasone) which promotes the building of tissues, like muscle.
Anaerobic bacteria – Bacteria which only live in an environment in which there is no or little oxygen, e.g., Clostridium tetani which causes tetanus.
Analgesia – Pain relief.
Anamnestic response – The faster and greater immune response produced by an animal who has previously encountered that specific antigen. Memory cells are responsible for this more efficient response. Also called ‘secondary response.’
Anaphylaxis – Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening, immediate allergic reaction to something ingested or injected. If untreated, it results in shock, respiratory and cardiac failure, and death. See article: Anaphylaxis in Dogs and Cats. May also be referred to as anaphylactic shock or anaphylactoid reaction.
Anatomy – The physical structure of the body. Understanding the words used to express positioning on a dog’s body helps a great deal in understanding veterinary lingo. For the directions below, the dog is standing in the center of a room with his head facing the north wall.
- On the body:
- Dorsal – toward the ceiling or back
- Ventral – toward the floor or belly
- Cranial, or anterior – toward the north wall or head
- Caudal, or posterior – toward the south wall or butt
- Lateral – toward the east or west wall or side
- Medial – toward the midline, away from the east or west walls
- On the limbs:
- Proximal – toward the body
- Distal – away from the body
- Palmar – the front foot pads
- Plantar – the rear foot pads
- Flexion – decreasing a joint’s angle
- Extension – increasing a joint’s angle
Androgen – A hormone which produces male sexual characteristics, e.g., testosterone.
Anemia – A condition in which the number of red blood cells present in the blood is lower than normal.
Anesthesia – Loss of sensation or feeling; induced artificially with drugs to permit painful procedures such as surgery.
Angiography – The x-ray of vessels after injecting a contrasting fluid.
Angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor(ACE inhibitor) – Drug which decreases the function of this particular enzyme. The angiotensin-converting-enzyme changes a compound called angiotensin I to angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is a potent blood vessel constrictor. ACE inhibitors, then, have the effect of dilating blood vessels, since less Angiotensin II is produced.
Anisocoria – A condition in which the pupils of the eyes are not of equal size.
Anorexia – Loss of appetite.
Anterior – Positioned in front of another body part, or towards the head of the animal. Opposite of posterior.
Anthelmintic – Medication which kills certain types of intestinal worms; dewormer.
Antibiotics – Usually refers to drugs administered to kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria; not effective against viral infections.
Antibody – Small disease-fighting proteins produced by certain types of cells called ‘B cells.’ The proteins are made in response to ‘foreign’ particles such as bacteria or viruses. These antibodies bind with certain proteins (antigens) on foreign particles like bacteria, to help inactivate them. See also Antigen.
Antibody titer – A measurement of the amount of antibodies in the blood. The test to measure antibodies is usually performed by making a number of dilutions of the blood and then measuring at what dilution there is sufficient antibody to react in the test. For example, a titer of 1:8 (one to eight) means the blood can be diluted to one part blood and seven parts saline and still produce a positive reaction in the test. The higher the titer (1:16 is higher than 1:8), the more antibody is present.
Anticholinergic – Stopping the communications between certain nerves and muscles of the body including those of the gastrointestinal tract and heart. These nerves are called ‘parasympathetic’ nerves and do such things as constrict the pupils of the eye, stimulate contractions of the muscles in the intestine, and slow the heart rate. Anticholinergic drugs would have the effect, then, of dilating the pupil, slowing contractions of the intestines, and increasing the heart rate.
Anticholinesterase – A drug that blocks the enzyme acetylcholinesterase; this results in stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Anticoagulation – Stopping the blood clotting process.
Anticonvulsant – A drug used to prevent or decrease the severity of convulsions.
Antidiuretic hormone – A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that reduces the production of urine in the kidneys and therefore prevents water loss; also called ‘vasopressin.’
Antiemetic – An agent that decreases or stops vomiting.
Antifungal – Drugs administered to kill or inhibit the growth of fungi (plural of fungus).
Antigen – A molecular structure on surfaces of such particles as bacteria and viruses. This structure is recognized by the body as ‘foreign’ and stimulates the body to produce special proteins called antibodies to inactivate this foreign invader. See also Antibody.
Antiprotozoal – An agent that kills protozoa, which are one-celled organisms such as Giardia.
Antipruritic – Relieves itching.
Antipyretic – A substance used to relieve fever.
Antiseptic – A substance which inhibits the growth of bacteria, but does not kill them.
Antispasmodic – An agent that relieves or decreases spasms in muscle. The muscle could include ‘smooth muscle’ which is the type of muscle in intestines that causes them to contract and move food through the digestive system.
Antitussive – Cough suppressant.
Anuria – The condition of complete failure in the function of the kidneys such that no urine is produced.
Anus – A muscular opening at the end of the digestive tract where fecal waste is expelled.
Aplastic anemia – A serious condition in which red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are not produced in sufficient quantity.
Aquaculture – The (usually commercial) captive raising of fish, corals, and other aquatic life for aquariums, food, and scientific purposes.
Aqueous humor – The fluid found within the eyeball which provides nourishment to the interior eye structures and keeps the eyeball inflated.
Arrhythmia – A variation from normal heart rhythm.
Arteries – Thick walled vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the lungs and body tissues; the pulmonary arteries carry deoxygenated blood to the lungs, but all other arteries carry oxygenated blood.
Arthritis – inflammation of a joint. Caused by abnormal stress on a normal joint, or by normal stress on an abnormal joint. Polyarthritis is immune mediated, and is arthritis in multiple joints.
Articular – Pertaining to a joint.
Ascarid – Roundworm.
Ascites – Fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
Aspirate – Withdraw fluid or cells through the use of suction – usually the suction produced by pulling back on the plunger of a syringe attached to a needle which is inserted into the area to be sampled. Also the breathing in of a fluid or foreign substances.
Asymptomatic – A term used to decide a condition in which no symptoms are present.
Ataxia – A lack of muscle coordination, usually causing an abnormal or staggered gait.
Atoll – A coral island consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon.
Atopy – An allergy to something that is inhaled such as pollen or house dust. Also called ‘inhalant allergy.’ See articles in the Allergies section.
ATP – Adenosine triphosphate; a compound used for energy by cells.
Atrial fibrillation – A heart condition in which the atria (chambers of the heart that receive the blood) contract rapidly, irregularly, and independently of the ventricles (the chambers of the heart that pump the blood). This greatly decreases the efficiency of the heart and its ability to move blood.
Atrial flutter – A heart condition in which the atria (chambers of the heart that receive the blood) contract rapidly, irregularly, and independently of the ventricles (the chambers of the heart that pump the blood). This greatly decreases the efficiency of the heart and its ability to move blood.
Atrium(Plural atria) – The two chambers of the heart that receive blood. The right atrium receives blood from the body. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs.
Atrophy – An abnormal decrease in size of an organ or tissue.
Attenuated – Weakened. An attenuated virus is one which has been changed such that it will no longer cause disease. An attenuated virus would be used in a modified live vaccine.
Auscultate – To listen for sounds produced within the body, usually with the aid of a stethoscope.
Autoimmune disease – failure of the immune system to differentiate the body’s own cells from foreign substances, triggering an inflammatory response against self. This can be in the form of a very specific immune attack, such as the destruction of pancreatic islet cells resulting in diabetes mellitus, or a broad immunologic injury such as lupus.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia – the body produces antibodies directed against its own red blood cells, causing their destruction. FYI: Many if not all of the autoimmune anemias have antibodies that attack related, similar blood types, donor RBC’s too.
Autosomal – any of the chromosomes other than the sex pair, the ‘X’ or ‘Y’ chromosomes. benign – not cancerous or malignant.
Axilla – Armpit.
Azotemia – The presence of increased nitrogenous (containing nitrogen) waste products in the blood as a result of kidney malfunction.
B B cell – Also called ‘B lymphocyte.’ The type of lymphocyte which produces antibody. Compare with ‘T cells.’
Bacteriocidal – A description of an agent that kills bacteria.
Bacteriostatic – A description of an agent that stops the growth (reproduction) of bacteria, but does NOT kill them.
Bacterium – Microscopic organisms that lack nuclei and other organelles; pathogenic species cause disease, while nonpathogenic species are harmless.
Benign – A mild illness or non-malignant form of a tumor. Benign tumors usually have well defined edges and tend to grow slowly.
Beta blockers – Heart medications which block certain receptors in the heart called beta receptors. The beta receptors receive signals which generally increase the heart rate. If the heart rate is abnormally fast and uneven, beta blockers will help stabilize the rate and rhythm of contractions.
Beta-carotene – A plant pigment which can be converted to Vitamin A by many animals, but not by cats.
Beta-lactamases – Enzymes produced by some bacteria which inactivate certain types of penicillin, thus making the bacteria resistant to them.
Bilateral – On both sides.
Bile – A liquid produced by the liver, stored in the gall bladder, and dispensed into the small intestine as needed; aids in the digestion and absorption of fats.
Bile acids – Certain compounds produced by the liver, bound to amino acids, and excreted in the bile to aid in the digestion of fats.
Bilirubin – An orange-yellow pigment in bile that is a product of red blood cell breakdown; it is normally excreted with the urine or feces, and a buildup in the body can cause jaundice.
Biopsy – The surgical removal of a small amount of abnormal tissue, usually of tumors, for diagnosis.
Bitch – A female dog.
Bladder – A sac that receives and holds a liquid until it is excreted, e.g., urinary bladder, gall bladder; in fish, the swim bladder holds air.
Blepharospasm – Spasm of the eyelids often resulting in complete closure of the lids due to eye pain, such as seen with a scratch on the cornea.
Bloat – Filling of the stomach with air.
Blood gases – Gases, such as oxygen or carbon dioxide, that are in the blood.
Blood glucose – A graph of blood glucose levels over time. At the time of insulin injection, and at regular intervals throughout the day, the level of glucose in the blood is determined through laboratory testing.
Bone marrow – A soft tissue composed of blood vessels and connective tissues found at the center of bones; the primary function is blood cell production.
Bone marrow suppression – A condition in which the cells of the bone marrow which produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are inhibited. This may result from the use of certain drugs, such as anti-cancer agents.
Borborygmus – The sound of gas moving through the intestine; bowel sounds.
Bradycardia – An abnormal slowing of the heart rate.
Bronchi – The plural of bronchus, the large air passages of the lungs.
Bronchiole – The small airways in the lung that come off of the larger bronchus; bronchioles are 1 mm or less in diameter.
Bronchodilator – Medication which opens up the main air passages to the lungs.
Bronchoscope – A tool designed to facilitate inspection of the trachea and bronchi; used in both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
Bronchoscopy – The internal inspection of the trachea and bronchi using a bronchoscope.
Bronchospasm – A condition in which the muscles surrounding the air passages to the lungs contract, narrowing the passages.
BUN – Short for ‘blood urea nitrogen,’ a blood test that estimates kidney function.
C Cachexia – Extreme weight loss.
Calcified – The hardening of tissue through the influx of calcium, usually as a result of chronic inflammation.
Calcinosis circumscripta – deposits of calcium found in small lumps under the skin, in the tongue, or attached to tendons or in joint capsules.
Calculus (Plural calculi) – Abnormal stone-like structure(s) usually composed of mineral salts, e.g., a bladder calculus is the same thing as a bladder stone.
Calorie – The unit of measurement of energy derived from digested food. Fat contains about twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrate.
Cancer – a group of diseases caused by transformation of normal cells into malignant ones. When these cells shed and travel to other areas of the body, the cancer is said to metastasize. As the cancerous growth draws nutrients, and the general lack of well-being diminishes the appetite, the resultant emaciation is called cancer cachexia.
Candida – A certain genus of yeast which can cause disease in humans and animals; an infection with Candida is called candidiasis.
Canine – Pertaining to dogs.
Carapace – The upper shell of a turtle or tortoise.
Carbohydrate – Compounds made up of chains of sugar units. Simple carbohydrates include table sugar (sucrose), milk sugar (lactose), and fruit sugar (fructose). Complex carbohydrates are very long chains held together by bonds that may not be digestible in the stomach and intestine of a carnivore. Starch is a digestible complex carbohydrate. Seed hulls such as oat bran are digestible by ruminants and horses, but not carnivores.
Carcinogen – A substance which causes cancer.
Carcinoma – A malignant cancer that arises from the epithelial tissues of the body such as the skin, intestinal tract, and bladder.
Cardiac – Related to the heart.
Cardiomyopathy – Diseases of the heart muscle; does not include diseases of the valves of the heart or congenital defects.
Cardiopulmonary – Relating to the heart and lungs.
Cardiovascular – Related to the heart and blood vessels.
Carnivore – An animal whose natural diet includes meat.
Carpus – The wrist (front leg) of dogs and cats.
Carrier – An animal which harbors an infectious organism, such as a virus, bacteria, or parasite. The animal does not appear ill, but can still transmit the organism to other animals by direct contact or releasing the organisms (bacteria, protozoa, viruses) into the environment in the stool, urine, respiratory secretions, or vaginal discharges.
Castration – The removal of the sex organs making the animal incapable of reproduction; the correct use of the word can be used to describe both male and female animals, but it is commonly used to describe only males.
Cataracts – Loss of transparency of the lens of the eye. Can be genetic or acquired as the result of injury or diabetes, etc. Also associated with PRA which is inherited.
- juvenile – develops in dogs less than 6 months old.
- punctate – small points.
Caudal – A directional term used to refer to an area more toward the cauda, or tail region; opposite of cranial.
Caval syndrome – Disease caused by large numbers of worms in the right side of the heart and vena cava, which results in blood circulation problems in the liver leading to the breakdown of red blood cells, anemia, weakness, and collapse.
Cecum – A blind sac that opens into the colon; found in many animals.
Cell-mediated immunity – The immunity that is the result of either special lymphocytes directly killing the foreign invader, or lymphocytes (T cells) releasing special chemicals which activate macrophages to kill the invader. Compare with ‘humoral immunity.’
Centrifuge – A machine that rapidly spins liquid samples and separates out the particles by their density.
Circling – a condition where an animal will continuously move around in a circle. This looks like VERY slow motion tail chasing. Usually in the same direction each time it happens. As a rule, circling is usually a sign of brain or inner ear disease.
Cerebellum – A portion of the brain, located on the brainstem, that controls coordination.
Cerebral – Relating to the part of the brain known as the cerebrum.
Cerebellar degeneration – degeneration of the cerebellar portion of the brain.
Cerebrum – The largest portion of the brain that performs all higher cognitive functions and is situated in the front part of the cranial cavity.
Cervical vertebral instability (wobblers) – compression of the cervical (neck) spinal cord caused by instability or malformation of the cervical vertebrae. Dogs show lack of muscle coordination in the back legs and possibly neck.
Chelation – Binding of a substance to a metal, thus helping the body to remove it.
Chemotherapy – Treatment of a disease with chemical agents (drugs); the term is most commonly used to describe the treatment of cancer with medication.
Choana (Plural choanae) – An opening between the nasal cavity and oropharynx (mouth) in birds and reptiles.
Cholangiohepatitis – Inflammation of the gall bladder, bile ducts, and liver
Cholangitis – Inflammation of a bile duct; see cholecystitis.
Cholecystitis – Inflammation of the gallbladder; see cholangitis.
Chondroitin – Decreases the activity of enzymes which break down cartilage in a joint.
Chondroprotective agent – A nutritional supplement that protects cartilage.
Chronic – Of a long duration: a chronic illness persists for weeks, months, or even for the life of animal. See also acute.
Chronic superficial keratitis – A chronic condition of the eye in which blood vessels grow across the cornea (the clear surface of the eye). The cornea looks hazy and sometimes reddened; it may eventually take on a dark pigment. This condition is also called pannus.
Cirrhosis – A liver disease caused by the replacement of damaged cells with connective tissue; severe scarring can eventually cause liver failure.
Class I, II, III, IV medications – Drugs are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration of the Department of Justice depending upon such criteria as the potential for human abuse.
Cleft palate – a congenital split involving the hard or soft palate in the mouth. May cause nasal regurgitation in newborns. Known to be inherited in some breeds, may also be caused by environmental factors.
Clinical study – A planned examination of the effectiveness of a new drug or treatment for a disease as compared to a control group not receiving the treatment; also called a clinical trial.
Cloaca – A common tube-like structure through which feces, urine, and reproductive fluids/eggs pass in birds, turtles, and other lower vertebrates.
Clotting factors – Protein components in the blood which help it to clot. Clotting is a complex mechanism. In addition to platelets, clot formation is the result of a long chain of chemical reactions carried out by individual molecules called ‘clotting factors.’ Each factor is numbered such that factor I leads to a reaction with factor II forming a new substance. This then reacts with factor III and so on to factor XII.
Clutch – The uninterrupted series of eggs laid by a hen, usually 2-6 depending on the bird species.
CNS – Central nervous system. Includes the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves leading from them.
Coagulation – The process of clotting.
Coagulopathy – A condition affecting the blood’s ability to form a clot.
Coccidia – A one-celled parasite in the category of protozoa. In dogs and cats, coccidia are generally parasites of the intestinal tract. See article: Coccidia in Dogs and Cats.
Cognitive dysfunction – A common medical condition in older dogs that results from abnormal brain function, causing certain behavior changes such as disorientation, housebreaking problems, and changes in sleeping patterns and interactions with others.
Cold-blooded – Having a body temperature that is not regulated internally, but varies with the environmental temperature. Turtles, lizards, and snakes are cold-blooded.
Colitis – An infection or inflammation of the colon.
Collagenous nevi – benign, focal, developmental defects associated with increased deposition of dermal collagen. They are common in dogs, uncommon in cats, and rare in large animals. They generally are found in middle-aged or older animals, most frequently found on the head, neck, and areas prone to trauma. Excision (removing by cutting) is generally curative although, infrequently, expansive forms have been identified that may grow too large to be surgically removed.
Colon – A part of the digestive tract, specifically the part of large intestine that extends from the cecum to the rectum.
Colostrum – The antibody-rich first milk produced immediately before and after giving birth.
Coma – Being in a state of unconsciousness.
Comedo – A blackhead, usually the result of a plugged gland within the skin.
Complete blood count – A count of the total number of cells in a given amount of blood, including the red and white blood cells; often referred to as a ‘CBC,’ it is one of the most common tests done to check for abnormalities of the blood.
Computerized tomography scan (CT scan) – A radiological imaging procedure that uses x-ray pictures to produce “slices” through a patient’s body; also called a computerized axial tomography (CAT).
Conception – The onset of pregnancy, when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus.
Congenital – A characteristic of an animal that is present at birth. It may be inherited or induced by events that occur during pregnancy.
Conjunctiva – A thin membrane which lines the inside of the eyelids and covers part of the eyeball.
Conjunctivitis – An inflammation of the lining of the eyelids; may cause pain, redness, itching, and a discharge.
Constipation – A condition in which the movement of food through the digestive system is longer than normal; often results in hard, dry stool.
Contrast agents – A substance given orally or injected into a patient that makes the affected tissue easier to identify on an x-ray.
Contusion – An injury to underlying tissues without breaking the skin; a bruise.
Coprophagia – Eating dung or fecal matter; normal behavior in some animals, such as rabbits.
Core vaccine – Vaccine which should be given to all animals of certain species, example, parvovirus vaccine in dogs or panleukopenia in cats (see noncore vaccine).
Cornea – The clear part of the front of the eye which allows light in.
Corticosteroid – Hormones produced by the adrenal gland which are important to almost every function of cells and organs. They are divided into two groups: glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Glucocorticoids regulate protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism. Mineralocorticoids regulate electrolyte balances.
Cortisol – The main glucocorticoid; a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal gland; it is synthesized commercially as hydrocortisone and is used to reduce inflammation.
Coumestan – Estrogen-like substance produced by certain plants such as alfalfa; types of phytoestrogen.
Coumestral – Estrogen-like substances produced by certain plants such as alfalfa; types of phytoestrogen.
Cranial – A directional term used to refer to the area near the cranium, or head region; opposite of caudal.
Crop – An organ between the esophagus and stomach of many domestic birds, which serves as a temporary food storage organ.
Cruciate – shaped like a cross. Cruciate ligaments are found on the front (cranial or anterior) and the back (caudal or posterior) of the stifle (‘knee’) joint.
Crust – Area of dried fluid or cells on the skin. The fluid may have been blood, serum, pus, or medication.
Cryptorchid – an animal with one or two undescended testicles.
Culture – The process in which a sample of fluid or tissue is taken from an animal and placed in special media which allows the bacteria, virus, etc., to grow (reproduce) in the laboratory.
Cushings disease – Cushing’s disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism. It is a disease that results from an increase in corticosteroid secretion from the adrenal gland.
Cutaneous – Relating to the skin.
Cyanosis – Bluish or grayish color to the skin and gums which occurs when the animal has insufficient oxygen.
Cyst – An abnormal sac-like structure that is lined with cells which produce a liquid or thick material.
Cystitis – Inflammation of the urinary bladder.
Cytokines – Compounds produced by certain cells, which act as messengers to control the action of lymphocytes and other cells in an immune response.
Cytology – The study of cells; often refers to the microscopic examination of a sample taken from the skin or lesion to look for the cause of a condition.
Cytoplasm – Substances which make up the inside of a cell and surround the nucleus of the cell which contains the genetic material.
E Ear canal – The tube that connects the external ear with the ear drum.
Ear drum – The membrane that divides the outer ear from the inner ear, where the mechanism of hearing takes place. The membrane prevents infection from reaching the inner ear, as well as vibrating to amplify sounds.
Ear mites – Small parasitic insects that live in the ear canal of an animal, and that are able to survive outside the ear for only very short periods of time.
Ecdysis – Shedding of the external layers of the skin in reptiles.
ECG – A printout of an analysis of the electrical activity in the heart.
Echocardiogram – The image produced by performing an ultrasound examination of t he heart.
Ectoparasite – A parasite that lives on the outside surface or skin of another animal. Ectoparasites include fleas, ticks, lice, and mange mites.
Ectopic – Non-malignant tissue growing in an unusual location (e.g., an ectopic pregnancy is conception of a normal embryo outside the normal location, which is the uterus).
Ectopic cilia – hairs on the inside of the eyelids causing irritation to the eye.
Ectropion – eyelid turns outward. Allows for the accumulation of foreign matter causing eye irritation.
Edema – A condition in which the tissues of the body contain too much body fluid. The fluid accumulation may cause swelling in the affected area.
EKG – A printout of an analysis of the electrical activity in the heart.
Elbow dysplasia, ED – asynchronous growth of the bones of the foreleg causing the joint to meet improperly.
Electrocardiogram – A printout of an analysis of the electrical activity in the heart.
Electrocautery – An instrument with a very hot tip, heated by electricity, is applied to a tissue. Electrocautery may be used to make an incision, remove a mass, or to stop bleeding.
Electrolyte – Chemically, an element when dissolved in water, will cause the solution to transmit electricity. In medicine, certain elements in the blood which are critically important to life, including sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorous.
Electroretinography – The recording of electrical changes in the retina of the eye in response to stimulation by light.
Elizabethan collar – A large, plastic, cone-shaped collar used on cats, dogs, and birds to prevent them from licking or biting at skin, wound dressings, or casts.
Emaciation – The severe loss of body weight; body weight is generally less than 50% of that in a normal animal.
Emesis – Vomiting.
Encephalitis – Inflammation of the brain; often caused by a virus.
Encephalopathy – Any degenerative disease of the brain. Causes include liver disease resulting in the buildup of toxic by-products of metabolism, heavy metal (e.g., lead) poisoning, and loss of blood supply.
Endocrine – Pertaining to the secretion of hormones. The endocrine system consists of various glands which produce hormones.
Endoscope – A long flexible instrument which can be passed into the body to view various structures through the use of fiber optics.
Endotracheal tube – This tube is placed into the animal’s trachea (windpipe) to allow the oxygen and gases to be breathed into the lungs.
Enteral feeding – A method to feed an animal in which a tube is placed through the body wall into the intestine, and a nutritious liquid is forced through the tube into the intestine.
Enteritis – An inflammation of the intestines.
Entropion – eyelids turn inward causing hair to irritate the surface of the eye. Normally requires surgical correction, and sometimes requires multiple surgeries.
Envenomation – The act of injecting a poisonous material (venom).
Enzyme – Enzymes are special proteins produced by cells which cause chemical changes in other substances, but which are not themselves changed in the process.
Eosinophil – A type of white blood cell that commonly increases in numbers as a response to parasites and allergies.
Eosinophilia – A condition in which there are more than the usual number of eosinophils in the circulating blood.
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency. The agency of the federal government which licenses pesticides and herbicides.
Epidermis – The top layer of the skin.
Epilepsy – abnormal electrical function of the brain causing disturbances of the nervous system.
- acquired – Acquired due to injury to the brain at birth, tumor, blow to the head, endocrine (hormonal) disorder, etc.
- idiopathic – no demonstrable cause, may be genetic.
Epiphora – An overflow of tears upon the cheeks due to a blockage or narrowing of the tear ducts.
Epistaxis – Bleeding from the nose.
Erosion – A shallow defect in the skin. When healed, it will not cause a scar.
Erythema – Redness of the skin caused by blood clogging in small blood vessels.
Erythrocyte – Red blood cell; contains hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the tissues.
Esophageal reflux – A condition in which stomach contents move backward into the esophagus, i.e., heartburn.
Esophagusv – The muscular tube for the passage of food from the mouth to the stomach.
Estrogen – A female hormone produced by the ovaries, which results in the onset of estrus.
Estrus – The time when a female animal is fertile and receptive to the male. Also known as a heat period.
Exophthalmos – The abnormal outward protrusion (bulging) of the eye.
Exotic – An animal not native to the geographical area where it is living.
Extensor rigidity – A condition in which muscles contract and tend to straighten the limb, prevent it from relaxing.
Extracranial – Originating external to the cranial (brain) cavity.
Extrahepatic – Outside of the liver.
F Fading puppy syndrome – an apparently normal puppy gradually weakens and dies within a week or two of birth. Not a specific disorder, but generally applied to infectious causes.
False negative test result – The result of a diagnostic test is negative; but the animal actually does have the condition tested for.
False positive test result – The result of a diagnostic test is positive; but the animal actually does not have the condition tested for.
Feces – Body wastes excreted through the anus from the large intestine; also called stool.
Feline – Pertaining to cats.
Fetal – Pertaining to an unborn animal, or fetus.
Fetus – The developing young in the uterus before birth.
Fibrosarcoma – a malignant tumor arising from collagen-producing fibroblasts (an immature fiber-producing cell of connective tissue).
Fine needle aspirate – Suction is applied to a hollow needle which has been inserted into tissue and a core of the tissue is withdrawn to culture and/or examine microscopically.
First generation – First generation: A description of medications developed from an earlier form of the medication. First generation medications were developed from the original form of the drug; second generation medications are adaptations of first generation drugs; third generation drugs are adaptations of second generation, etc.
Flea dip – A solution made to kill fleas, applied to an animal and not rinsed off, to allow it to have residual action.
Fluoroscopy – An x-ray procedure in which x-rays are transmitted through the body onto a fluorescent screen; beneficial in that movement of joints or organ systems can be observed (e.g., the movement of material through the esophagus, stomach, and intestines).
FLUTD – Feline lower urinary tract disease; a condition in cats characterized by blood in the urine, urination outside of the litter box, and straining to urinate. The name for this condition was previously called feline urological syndrome (FUS).
Fly-snapping – repeated snapping at non-existent flying object has been associated in BMDs with partial seizures, in some cases with ear infections, and in a few cases with food allergies. Some forms may be alleviated by seizure medications. A few have been alleviated with behavioral modification techniques, which may indicate that some forms are simply behavioral problems often caused by boredom.
Follicle – The group of cells in the skin in which a hair or feather develops.
Foreign body – Any abnormal substance within the body. Examples include wood slivers, ingested cloth or balls, glass in the feet, etc.
Fracture – A break in the bone; generally caused by trauma, twisting, or weakened bone structure due to disease.
Fragmented coronoid process, FCP – the coronoid process fragments forming a loose body in the elbow joint, called a joint mouse. See elbow dysplasia.
Fungicide – A drug that kills fungi.
FUS – Feline urological syndrome; a condition in cats characterized by blood in the urine, urination outside of the litter box, and straining to urinate. The name for this condition is now called feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
G Gait – The manner or style of movement; often used to assess horses or dogs for lameness.
Gastric – Relating to the stomach.
Gastric dilatation-volvulus, bloat – Gastric dilatation means stomach distention or enlargement, caused by expanding gas. This may or may not be accompanied by volvulus, or torsion, or twisting of the stomach on its long axis.
Gastric lavage – To flush out the stomach.
Gastritis – Inflammation of the stomach.
Gastrointestinal – Also known as GI. Pertaining to the stomach and intestines. The term ‘digestive system’ includes the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, anus, pancreas, and liver.
Germs – Any microscopic organism that can potentially cause disease; includes viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Gestation – Pregnancy.
Gingival – Relating to the gums.
Gingivitis – Inflammation of the gums.
Glaucoma – Increased pressure within the eye caused by an accumulation of fluids; can lead to blindness if left untreated.
Glipizide – An oral medication that can be used to control blood glucose levels in some diabetic cats who still have some insulin production.
Glomerulus – This literally means a small cluster; commonly used to refer to the renal glomerulus, the area of blood filtering in the kidney.
Glomerulonephritis – Inflammatory disease of the glomerulus, part of the kidney, which filters toxic waste from the blood. Tests of the urine can show a variety of abnormalities. Complete loss of kidney function can occur.
Glucocorticoid – Hormones produced by the adrenal gland which regulate protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and are important to almost every function of cells and organs. They also stabilize cell membranes which is an important part of their function in treating allergic reactions. Also called glucocorticosteroids.
Glucocorticosteroid – Hormones produced by the adrenal gland which regulate protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and are important to almost every function of cells and organs. They also stabilize cell membranes which is an important part of their function in treating allergic reactions. Also called glucocorticoids.
Glucosamine – One of the building blocks the body uses to make new cartilage.
Glucosuria – Glucose in the urine. (Also called glycosuria.)
Glycogen – A storage form of glucose in the body.
Glycosaminoglycans – Compounds which serve as the building blocks of cartilage, which covers the ends of bones within a joint. Glucosamine and chondroitin are necessary for the body to make glycosaminoglycans.
Gram – A measure of weight. 28 grams = 1 oz.; 454 grams = 1 lb.
Gram negative – A classification of bacteria based upon their lack of retention of a certain stain in the laboratory. The staining quality is based on the structure of the cell wall surrounding the bacteria. This structure of the cell wall influences which antibiotics will kill the bacteria. This laboratory staining method was developed by Hans Gram in 1884.
Gram positive – A classification of bacteria based upon their uptake of a certain stain in the laboratory. The staining quality is based on the structure of the cell wall surrounding the bacteria. This structure of the cell wall influences which antibiotics will kill the bacteria. This laboratory staining method was developed by Hans Gram in 1884.
Granuloma – The formation of a nodule as a result of inflammation.
Gulps – exaggerated swallowing movements.
H H2 antagonist – A compound which binds (attaches) to the area on a cell at which histamine also binds. By binding at the same site, the antagonist blocks histamine from binding and prevents histamine from producing its effects, which include the production of stomach acid.
Half-life – The time required for the level of a substance in the body (e.g., a drug or toxin) to be reduced by half.
Head pressing – Pressing the head against a wall or other hard object.
Head Tilt – see Torticollis
Heart block – A condition in which the electrical impulses of the heart are not properly conducted from the atria (chambers which receive the blood) to the ventricles (chambers which pump the blood).
Heartworm – A species of parasitic worm (Dirofilaria immitis) that lives and reproduces in the chambers of the heart of an animal. Microscopic, immature worms (microfilariae) circulate in the blood and are taken in by mosquitoes that bite the animal. Microfilariae mature in the mouthparts of the mosquito and infect another susceptible animal bitten by the same mosquito.
Heinz body – A condition in which the red blood cells are destroyed and this results in anemia. The specific type of anemia is called ‘Heinz body anemia’ because the red cells develop an abnormality called a ‘Heinz body’ which can be seen under the microscope. This anemia can occur as a reaction to certain medications and also in cats who eat onions.
Hemangiosarcoma – A malignant tumor of the blood vessels, usually occurring in the skin, liver, spleen, right atrium of the heart, and muscle; also called angiosarcoma.
Hematocrit – PCV (Packed Cell Volume), hematocrit: A laboratory test to monitor relative number of red blood cells present in the blood. A blood sample is placed in a tiny glass tube and spun in a centrifuge. The cells are heavier than the plasma and are compacted at one end of the tube. After the tube is spun, it is examined and the packed cell volume is determined as the percentage of the red cellular portion relative to the total amount of blood in the tube (i.e. remainder being the plasma). The normal for dogs is 40-59 and cats is 29-50.
Hematology – The study of blood, its physiology and pathology.
Hematoma – A mass of blood within the tissues. Generally, the result of trauma to the blood vessels or abnormal blood c lotting.
Hematuria – A condition of blood in the urine.
Hemodialysis – A process used to remove waste products from the blood.
Hemoglobin – A protein inside of red blood cells, responsible for the binding and transport of oxygen to the body tissu es (Hb).
Hemolytic – Causing the red blood cells to break open.
Hemophilia – the blood lacks coagulating factors, causing a strong tendency to bleed, and difficulty in getting the bleeding to stop. hepatitis – inflammation of the liver. This can result from a variety of causes including infections (particularly viral), drugs, autoimmunity and genetics. The liver stores and filters blood, secretes bile, converts sugars, processes fat, produces proteins which help to control blood volume, and produces some of the clotting factors.
Hemoptysis – Blood in the sputum.
Hemorrhage – To bleed excessively; may be the result of injury or blood clotting abnormalities.
Hemostat – A small surgical instrument used to clamp blood vessels to prevent bleeding.
Hepatic – Pertaining to the liver.
Hepatic fibrosis – Scarring of the liver
Hepatitis – An inflammation or infection of the liver.
Hepatocerebellar degeneration – death of liver cells causing poisoning of the white matter of the brain.
Hepatomegaly – Enlargement of the liver.
Herbivore – Animal that eats primarily plants and vegetation.
Hernia – The protrusion of an organ through an abnormal opening.
High titer vaccine – A modified live vaccine that contains a higher number of virus particles than the ‘average’ vaccine. High titer vaccines can generally elicit an immune system response in young animals who have a maternal antibody level that would prevent them from responding to an ‘average’ vaccine.
Hip dysplasia, CHD, HD – improper development of the hip joint, typically, the acetabulum (socket) is not deep enough for the femoral head (ball) to fit fully into place.
Histamine H2 receptor antagonist – A compound which binds (attaches) to the area on a cell at which histamine also binds. By binding at the same site, the antagonist blocks histamine from binding and prevents histamine from producing its effects, which include the production of stomach acid.
Histiocytomas – a small wart-like skin growth that will eventually disappear.
Histiocytosis – abnormal appearance of histiocytes in the blood. (Histiocytes are produced by the bone marrow and are normally immobile until stimulated by inflammation. They are a type of antigen presenting cell.)
- cutaneous – benign proliferation of nodules in or under the skin
- malignant – a rapidly invasive proliferation of neoplastic (new growth) histiocytes. No known treatment, always fatal.
- systemic – proliferation of histiocytes invading the skin and lymph nodes. Can go into remission for years, or progress to the malignant form. Can be treated, but not cured.
Hob – A male ferret.
Hormone – Chemical substance produced by one part of the body which serves as a messenger to or regulator of the processes of another part of the body.
Host – The organism in or on which a parasite lives. For example, dogs and cats are hosts for fleas and roundworms.
Hot spots – inflammation of the skin, dermatitis. Frequently caused by flea bites, or a hypersensitivity to an allergen. Can also be caused by bacteria building up in an area that the dog bites or scratches. Some owners have linked it to the dog having wet fur for prolonged periods of time.
Humoral immunity – The immunity that is the result of antibody production by B cells. Compare with ‘cell-mediated immunity.’
Hybrid – An animal that has parents of two different species, for instance, a mule’s mother is a horse and its father is a donkey.
Hydrocephalus – A condition of fluid accumulation in the ventricles (spaces) of the brain; the swelling generally creates pressure on the brain tissues and can cause severe damage if not treated properly.
Hyper – A prefix meaning abnormally high or excessive.
Hypercalcemia – An increased level of calcium in the blood.
Hyperesthesia – Abnormal sensitivity to touch, pain, or other sensory stimuli.
Hyperglycemia – Higher than normal blood glucose level.
Hyperkalemia – Increased level of potassium in the blood.
Hyperphosphatemia – Elevated blood phosphate levels.
Hyperpigmentation – An increased dark color in the skin caused by the pigment ‘melanin.’
Hyperplasia – An increase of the number of cells within an organ.
Hyperplastic – Abnormal increase in the amount of tissue, e.g., a hyperplastic ear would have increased numbers of cells in the ear canal, sometimes to the point of closing off the ear canal. In prostatic hyperplasia, the prostate enlarges due to an increased number of normal, not cancerous, cells.
Hyperreactive – Producing an exaggerated, or greater than normal response to a stimulus.
Hypersensitive – A type of allergic condition in which the body overreacts to a certain agent such as a bee sting or medication.
Hypertension – Blood pressure above normal.
Hyperthermia – An increase in body temperature above normal.
Hyperthyroidism – A condition, more commonly seen in cats, in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. See article: Hyperthyroidism in Cats.
Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, HOD – inflammation of the growth plates, and can be accompanied by depression, weight loss, and fever. The joints may be swollen and feel hot. Mild cases usually resolve with no lasting ill effects. However, in the rare case of severe HOD, permanent damage to the bone joints can result in limb deformities.
Hypertrophy – An increase in the size of a tissue or organ due to the enlargement of existing cells.
Hyperventilate – An increase in the rate and/or depth of respiration such that the body loses too much carbon dioxide.
Hyphema – refers to the presence of blood in the anterior chamber of the eye. The condition is usually due to blunt trauma of the eye, although it may occur following surgical procedures or even spontaneously as a result of other underlying disorders. The condition is often obvious to the casual observer as blood beneath the cornea obscuring the view of the iris (colored part of the eye).
Hypo – A prefix meaning abnormally low or deficient.
Hypoglycemia – Lower than normal blood glucose level.
Hypokalemia – Lower than normal level of potassium in the blood.
Hypomyelination, tremblers – reduction in the amount of myelin (cover or sheath) on the nerves.
Hypoplasia – Inadequate or defective development of tissue.
Hypotension – Blood pressure below normal.
Hypothermia – A decrease in body temperature below normal.
Hypothyroidism – A condition, more common in dogs, in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.
Hypovitaminosis A – A condition in which the body suffers from a deficiency in Vitamin A.
Hypoxia – Low oxygen level in blood and tissues.
I Iatrogenic – A condition resulting from the action of the doctor; e.g., an allergic reaction resulting from administration of an injection by a veterinarian.
Icterus – Commonly referred to as jaundice. A yellowing of the tissues, usually as a result of abnormal liver function.
IDDM – Insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM): A form of diabetes in which so little insulin is produced that supplemental insulin must be given for the animal to live. Also called Type I diabetes mellitus.
Idiopathic – Of unknown cause.
Ileus – A condition in which there is an absence of muscular contractions of the intestine which normally move the food through the system; can result in an intestinal obstruction.
Immune system – The body’s defense system which recognizes infectious agents and other ‘foreign’ compounds (such as pollen), and works to destroy them.
Immune-mediated – Immune-mediated reaction or disease: A condition or disease caused by abnormal activity of the immune system in which the body’s immune system either over-reacts (e.g., immune-mediated contact dermatitis) or starts attacking the body itself (e.g., autoimmune hemolytic anemia). See also autoimmune.
Immunity – A condition in which the animal’s immune system has been primed and is able to protect the body from a disease-causing agent such as a certain virus or bacteria. An animal could have immunity to one agent, such as parvovirus, but not have immunity to another agent, such as rabies.
Immunization – The process of rendering an animal protected (immune) against a certain disease. Vaccination is a way to produce immunization. However, just because an animal has been vaccinated (received a vaccine) does not necessarily mean the animal is immune. If the body did not correctly react to the vaccine or if the vaccine was defective, immunity would not occur. No vaccine produces immunity in 100% of the population to which it was given. ‘Vaccination’ is not the same as ‘immunization.’
Immunodeficiency – Reduced function of the immune system of an animal, making it more susceptible to infectious disease. Can be an inherited defect or caused by drugs, radiation, or viruses.
Immunostimulant – A compound which stimulates the immune system to work more effectively to kill bacteria, viruses, or cancer cells.
Immunosuppressive – Something, for instance a drug, hormone, or virus, that reduces the function of the immune system of an animal. An animal with reduced function of its immune system is called ‘immunosuppressed.’
Incontinence – The inability to control the excretion of wastes; generally used to describe the inability to control urination.
Incubation period – The time between the exposure to a disease, causing agent, and the onset of signs of the disease.
Infection – The invasion and replication of microorganisms in tissues of the body; generally causes disease or local inflammation.
Infectious agents – The organisms that cause infection; can be viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites.
Infestation – A term used to describe an invasion of parasites.
Inflammation – A condition in which tissue reacts to injury and undergoes changes during the healing process. As an example, a toe with a sliver of wood in it would be inflamed and show the signs of inflammation which include redness, increased temperature, pain, swelling, and a loss of or disordered function. The toe is swollen, red, hot, painful, and the animal is reluctant to walk on that toe.
Infusoria – Microscopic organisms which are cultured as a food for the fry of freshwater fish.
Inherited – A trait passed from one generation to the next in the genes from each parent.
Innate – A permanent characteristic that is present because of the genetic make-up of the animal.
Insoluble carbohydrate – Also, insoluble fiber. Fiber that resists enzymatic digestion in the small intestine.
Insulin – A hormone produced by the pancreas which is necessary for glucose to be able to enter the cells of the body and be used for energy.
Insulin resistance – A condition in which the blood glucose level remains higher than it should at an insulin dosage of 2 units/pound of body weight per day in cats.
Insulinoma – Insulin-producing tumor of the pancreas; the increased production and blood level of insulin resulting from these tumors can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Intermediate Host – In the life cycle of some parasites, the immature form of the parasite must pass through a different type of host (animal, insect, snail, etc.), called the intermediate host, before it can re-enter and infect the type of animal it came from. An example would be heartworms. The adult worm lives in the dog or cat. The immature form, laid by the adult heartworm, is taken up by the mosquito. The immature form develops within the mosquito, and is then reintroduced into another dog or cat where it develops into the mature adult and the cycle repeats itself. The intermediate host for heartworms, then, is the mosquito.
Interstitial – Between parts or within the spaces of tissue.
Intervertebral disk disease, IVDD – pain and often paralysis resulting from displacement of the center of a vertebral disk.
Intestine – The part of the digestive system extending from the stomach to the rectum; includes both the small and large intestines and functions in the absorption of water and nutrients; also called bowel or gut.
Intracellular – An action taking place within a cell.
Intracranial – Originating within the cranial (brain) cavity.
Intramuscular -Into the muscle (IM).
Intranasal – Into the nose.
Intravenous – Into the bloodstream via a vein.
Intussusception – A condition in which one part of the intestine ‘telescopes’ into another.
Iris – The colored portion of the eye is called the iris. As with humans, dogs’ iris colors vary. In the center of the iris is the black opening called the pupil. This opening can be made larger or smaller by muscles called ciliary bodies, that attach to the colored iris, causing it to expand or contract.
Irritable bowel syndrome – soft or watery feces, often with mucus. Associate
Isoflavone – An estrogen-like substance produced by pasture plants; a type of phytoestrogen.
J Jaundice – The condition in which there is a buildup of waste products in the body called bilirubin. Bilirubin is yellow in color, therefore, an animal with jaundice will have yellow gums, skin (often seen on the inside flap of the ear), and a yellowish cast to the ‘whites’ of the eyes. It can occur if a large number of red blood cells are destroyed, the liver is not functioning normally, or the bile ducts are blocked.
Jejunum – The longest part of the small intestine extending from the duodenum to the ileum.
Jill – A female ferret.
Jugular – Referring to the neck; specifically, the large jugular veins that return blood from the head and neck to the heart.
K KCS – Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is the technical term for a condition also known as ‘dry eye.’ It occurs because of inadequate tear production. Symptoms include a thick, yellowish discharge from the eye.
Keratitis – Inflammation of the cornea of the eye; may be caused by infection, trauma, or an allergic reaction.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca – Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is the technical term for a condition also known as ‘dry eye’. It occurs because of inadequate tear production. Symptoms include a thick, yellowish discharge from the eye.
Keratolytic – Softens and loosens crusts and scales on the skin.
Ketoacidosis – A life-threatening condition in which ketones, which result from the breakdown of fat for energy, accumulate in the bloodstream and the pH of the blood decreases.
Killed vaccine – Vaccines which are made by taking the real, disease-causing viruses (or bacteria), killing them, and putting them into a liquid base. Compare with ‘modified live vaccine’ and ‘recombinant vaccine.’
Kinetic skull – Having mobile joints between various parts of the skull, e.g., being able to unhinge the jaws. This allows the mouth of the animal, e.g., snake, to open wider so that it can eat large prey.
L Lactating – Producing milk.
Large intestine – The lower part of the intestinal tract, usually made up of the colon, cecum, and rectum. Bacteria that live harmlessly in the large intestine help to digest complex carbohydrates.
lateral torsion – twisted or rotated out.
Larva – The worm-like offspring of an insect (plural larvae).
Larynx – The larynx is a muscular tube in the neck that allows air to pass from the throat to the trachea (windpipe). The larynx contains the vocal cords, which allow people and animals to make sounds. The larynx has cartilage that opens to allow air into the trachea.
Latent – A dormant stage of disease; the patient is infected with an organism, but is not yet ill.
Leukemia – a cancerous proliferation of one of the subsets of White Blood Cells.
Leukopenia – A condition in which the numbers of white blood cells in the blood are lower than normal.
Lichenification – Thickening and hardening of the skin.
Lipase – Digestive enzyme, produced by the pancreas, which breaks down fat.
Liver – The largest organ in the abdomen, responsible for producing enzymes required for digestion of food, and bile that helps to digest fat. The liver also detoxifies the blood and may be damaged in the process.
Low passage vaccine – A low passage vaccine contains virus particles which have been attenuated, or weakened, less than those in the ‘average’ vaccine. Low passage vaccines can generally elicit an immune system response in young animals who have a maternal antibody level that would prevent them from responding to an ‘average’ vaccine.
Luxating tarsus – dislocation of the ‘ankle’
Lymph nodes – Part of the immune system of an animal. Small masses of tissue that contain white blood cells called lymphocytes. Blood from the nearby area is filtered through the lymph node allowing foreign or infectious material to be recognized and destroyed if possible.
Lymphocytes – The class of cells in the body which are responsible for mounting an immune response. Two main types are B cells and T cells.
Lymphokines – Chemicals produced by T lymphocytes. Some lymphokines signal macrophages and other phagocytes to destroy foreign invaders.
Lymphoma, lymphosarcoma – malignant tumor that arises from cells of the lymphoreticular system. Commonly presents with swollen lymph nodes, masses, enlarged liver or spleen, fevers, weight loss.
M Macrophage – A type of phagocyte (cell in the body which ‘eats’ damaged cells and foreign substances such as virus and bacteria).
Malabsorption syndrome – Maldigestion syndrome: A condition involving the intestine in which food may not be properly digested or the nutrients not absorbed.
Malignant – A process that does harm to nearby tissues. Usually synonymous with cancer, a tumor that grows quickly and spreads into other tissues.
Malnutrition – Ill health due to dietary deficiency or imbalance.
Mammary – Pertaining to the breast.
Mandible – Lower jaw.
Mange – Any of several skin and ear conditions caused by a variety of mites.
MAOIs – Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Substances that inactivate the enzyme monoamine oxidase which regulates certain transmitter chemicals between nerves. These compounds include certain types of antidepressants and also insecticides containing amitraz (such as Mitaban and Preventic collars).
Marsupial – An order of mammals including kangaroos, opossums, and sugar gliders in which the female has a pouch on the abdomen which holds the young and has nipples for the young to nurse.
Mast cell tumor, Mastocytoma – A nodular growth, usually on the skin, which involves cells (mast cells) which contain large amounts of histamine and normally play a role in allergic reactions. All mast cell tumors in dogs should be considered potentially malignant.
Masticate – Chew.
Mastitis – An infection or inflammation of the mammary glands.
Maternal antibody – Antibody in a newborn animal which the newborn acquired through the placenta or colostrum (the first milk).
Meal – When referring to food ingredients, meal means a ground-up preparation. Chicken meal is ground up chicken, which might include bones and feathers. Meat meal means ground up muscle meat.
Median survival time – Time at which 50% of the animals had died.
Megacolon – A condition in which the colon enlarges and dilates, which results in feces accumulating in the colon. Constipation then occurs. This condition is more common in cats than dogs.
Megaesophagus – overly enlarged esophagus causing buildup of food and saliva and regurgitation. Associated with aspirative pneumonia from an early age.
Melena – Darkening of the stool due to the presence of digested blood, which indicates bleeding is occurring in the stomach and/or beginning of the small intestine. The feces generally look black and tarry.
Memory(Immunologic) – Memory: When an animal mounts an immune response against a foreign substance, some cells are created to ‘remember’ the antigens on that substance. If the animal is again exposed to the substance, these cells will help the body respond much faster and to a higher degree.
Meningitis – not a disease, but a symptom, the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, the meninges. This can be caused by bacteria, virus, fungi, or chemical toxins.
- aseptic meningitis – is inflammation of the meninges for which no identifiable infectious agent can be cultured or tested for, and is probably genetic.
Metabolic acidosis – A condition in which the pH of the blood is too acidic because of the production of certain types of acids.
Metabolize – To have molecules transformed within the body tissue through chemical processes.
Metabolize energy (ME) – (ME) is the net energy available to an animal from a certain food.
Metacarpus – The front limb between the carpus and the phalanges (toes).
Metastasis – Spread of a tumor from its original location to a remote one, by tumor cells that are carried in the blood.
Metatarsus – The part of the rear limb between the tarsus and the phalanges (toes).
Methemoglobin – An altered hemoglobin which does not carry oxygen.
Methemoglobinemia – A condition of the blood in which there are large amounts of methemoglobin which is an altered hemoglobin which does not carry oxygen.
Microfilaremia – The presence of microfilariae in the blood.
Microfilaria – The larval form of some parasitic worms, for example heartworms. These worms do not lay eggs, they produce microfilariae (plural of microfilaria) instead.
Microfilaricide – Compound which kills microfilaria, the immature forms of heartworms which circulate in the blood.
Microorganism – A single-celled life form that is invisible to the naked eye and that may cause disease in man or animals.
Mineralization – The process in which minerals are laid down within tissue in an abnormal pattern causing a hardening of the tissue.
Mineralocorticoids – Hormones produced by the adrenal gland which regulate the amounts of sodium, potassium, and chloride in the blood.
Miticide – An agent that kills mites.
Mitochondria – Parts of the cell which are responsible for providing the cell with energy.
Mitral valve defect – a defect in the heart valve that separates the left atrium and the left ventricle.
mL – Short for milliliter. A liquid measure, the same volume as a cc. 28 mL = 1 liquid oz.
Modified live vaccine – Vaccines which are made by taking the real, disease-causing virus and altering (attenuating) it in a laboratory to a non-disease causing virus. Compare with ‘killed vaccine’ and ‘recombinant vaccine.’
Monoamine oxidase inhibitor(MAOI) – Substances that inactivate the enzyme monoamine oxidase which regulates certain transmitter chemicals between nerves. These compounds include certain types of antidepressants and also insecticides containing amitraz (such as Mitaban and Preventic collars).
Monovalent vaccine – A vaccine that is manufactured to stimulate the body to produce protection against only one disease, e.g., rabies vaccine. Compare with ‘multivalent vaccine.’
MotilityMovement – intestinal motility is the muscular contractions of the intestines which move the food from the stomach to the anus.
Mucolytic – Breaks down mucous.
Mucopolysaccharide – A carbohydrate which also contains a hexosamine molecule and is a component of mucous.
Mucosa – Specialized membrane which covers various passages and cavities exposed to the air such as the mouth, nose, inner portion of the eyelids, vagina. Examination of the mucous membranes can provide important information: if they are dry, the animal is likely dehydrated; pale, and the animal may be anemic or in shock; yellow, and the animal is said to jaundiced due to accumulation of waste products which should be eliminated by the liver. Mucous membranes.
Mucous membranes – Specialized membrane which covers various passages and cavities exposed to the air such as the mouth, nose, inner portion of the eyelids, vagina. Examination of the mucous membranes can provide important information: if they are dry, the animal is likely dehydrated; pale, and the animal may be anemic or in shock; yellow, and the animal is said to be jaundiced due to accumulation of waste products which should be eliminated by the liver.
Multivalent vaccine – A vaccine that combines two or more components to stimulate the body to produce protection against all the components. Most ‘distemper’ vaccines for puppies are of the multivalent type, and commonly include distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus cough, hepatitis, and parainfluenza. Compare with ‘monovalent’ vaccine.
Murmur – an abnormal heart sound associated with the opening or closing of a heart valve. This may indicate a structural or functional abnormality.
Musculoskeletal – Pertaining to the muscles and skeleton.
Myasthenia gravis – Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disease in which there is a failure of the nerves’ ability to stimulate and control the actions of certain muscles.
Mycosis – Disease caused by a fungus such as blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, and ringworm.
Mydriasis – Small pupil size.
Myelogram – Radiograph (x-ray) of the spinal cord taken after a contrasting dye has been injected into the space around the spinal cord.
Myocardium – The middle layer of heart muscle.
N Nauplii – Newly hatched brine shrimp.
Nebulize – Convert into a fine spray form.
Necropsy – Postmortem examination.
Necrosis – The death and breakdown of cells.
Nematodes – A common name for any roundworm of the phylum Nematoda.
Neoplasia – Abnormal growth and accumulation of cells. Neoplasias may be benign or malignant.
Nephropathy – Any disease or abnormal functioning of the kidney.
Nephrotoxic – Destructive to kidney cells.
Neuropathy – Abnormal functioning of nerves.
Neurotransmitter – Chemical used as a messenger from one nerve cell to another.
Neuter – Sterilization by surgical removal of the testicles of a male animal or ovaries of a female animal.
Neutralize – To change from acidic or alkaline to a neutral pH.
NIDDM – Non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM): A type of diabetes mellitus in which although the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, they are not immediately life-threatening, and the animal can survive without supplemental insulin. Also called Type II diabetes.
Nocturnal – Animals that are active during the night and sleep during the day.
Nodule – Solid bump or lump in the skin that is over 1/3 inch in diameter.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory – NSAIDS: Agents which reduce inflammation, but are not in the class of drugs known as steroids. Examples include aspirin, Rimadyl, and phenylbutazone.
Noncore vaccine – Vaccine which should only be given to animals at increased risk of exposure to a disease, example, leptospirosis in dogs or feline leukemia in cats (see core vaccine).
Nonpathogenic – Not causing disease. Some bacteria, such as those that normally live in an animal’s intestines, are nonpathogenic.
Nonseptic – A condition not caused by an infection. For example, septic arthritis is caused by an infection with bacteria, yeast, or other agent; a case of nonseptic arthritis may be caused by injury or cancer.
Nucleated erythrocytes – Immature form of red blood cells.
Nutraceutical – A very broad term describing certain components in food (plant or animal) or nutritional supplements, which contain substances normally present in the body that aid in the proper functioning of body systems.
Nutrient – Compounds in foods which are essential for life. Nutrients include protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, etc.
Nystagmus – Constant involuntary movement of the eye, often from side to side.
O Obligate carnivore – An animal that requires in its diet nutrients that are found in sufficient quantities only in meat or other animal products.
Obsessive compulsive – A behavioral condition in which a pet repeatedly performs an action out of context. It is thought that the behavior is an expression of stress, frustration and/or conflict. Certain breeds are more prone to these behaviors. The behaviors include tail-chasing, some cases of excessive barking, continual licking, and biting the air as if snapping at an invisible fly.
Occult – Indicating a disease or condition that is clinically not apparent.
Ocular – Relating to the eye.
Off label – Term used to describe the use of a medication for a condition for which it was not FDA approved. A large number of medications used in veterinary medicine are used ‘off label.’ If veterinarians only used FDA approved medications, options for treatments of certain conditions would be severely limited or nonexistent. The safety and efficacy of off-label uses of medications is often determined in university research settings, but the manufacturer of the drug does submit the results or go through the elaborate FDA approval process.
Offal – Animal organs rejected at slaughter as unfit for human consumption, e.g., spleen, intestine, brain, lungs.
Omnivore – Animal that eats both flesh and plants.
Opioid – Narcotic drug which has an activity similar to that of opium.
Optic nerve hypoplasia – incomplete development of the optic nerve.
Oral hypoglycemic – A medication, given by mouth, which lowers the level of glucose in the blood. Example: glipizide.
Osmotic diuretic – A compound that increases the amount of urine formed and rids the body of excess fluid by being filtered through the kidney into the urine in concentrated amounts and carrying water with it.
Osteomyelitis – An inflammation and infection of the bone.
Osteochondritis dessicans, OCD – a piece of cartilage tears away forming a flap. The flap may reattach to the bone on its own, or it may tear away, becoming a joint mouse in the joint cavity. Symptoms include pain and limping. Often requires surgery.
Otic – Pertaining to the ear.
Ototoxic – Destructive to the structures of the ear.
Over the counter – Can be purchased without a prescription, like aspirin and vitamins.
Ovulate – The release of an egg from the ovary of the female.
Oxidize – To combine with oxygen.
Oxytocin – A hormone that stimulates milk flow in lactating mammals (females nursing their young), and contractions of the muscles of the reproductive tract in many species.
P Packed cell volume (PCV), hematocrit – A laboratory test to monitor the relative number of red blood cells present in the blood. A blood sample is placed in a tiny glass tube and spun in a centrifuge. The cells are heavier than the plasma and are compacted at one end of the tube. After the tube is spun, it is examined and the packed cell volume is determined as the percentage of the red cellular portion relative to the total amount of blood in the tube (i.e., remainder being the plasma). The normal for dogs is 40-59 and cats is 29-50.
Pain, chronic – persisting for a long time
Palatable – Tasty; refers to food that is readily accepted.
Palpation – To examine with the hands or fingers.
Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas due to a variety of causes such as infections and drugs. The pancreas produces enzymes and bicarbonate important in digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as insulin. Chronic, severe pancreatitis can result in malabsorption and diarrhea as well as diabetes mellitus.
Patent ductus arteriosus, PDA – the normal opening between the aorta and pulmonary artery, which allows blood to bypass the unoxygenated lung in utero, fails to close after birth.
Pancytopenia – a shortage of all types of blood cells, including red and white blood cells as well as platelets.
Pannus – A chronic condition of the eye in which blood vessels grow across the cornea (the clear surface of the eye). The cornea looks hazy and sometimes reddened; it may eventually take on a dark pigment. This condition is also called chronic superficial keratitis.
Panosteitis, pano – inflammation of the bone, particularly the long bones in growing dogs. Causes pain and limping.
Papule – Solid bump on the skin, less than 1/3 inch in diameter.
Paralysis – Loss of motor function (movement) in a certain part of the body. Paralysis may be flaccid, in which muscles are weak and have little or no tone; or spastic, in which the muscles are tight.
Parasiticide – Medication formulated to kill parasites.
Parasympathetic – The portion of the nervous system which stimulates the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes and stimulates many of the smooth muscles in the body including those of the stomach and intestine. It also tends to slow the heart rate.
Parenterally – A term used to describe the administration of a drug by means other than by mouth.
Paresis – Slight or incomplete paralysis.
Parthenogenesis – A form of reproduction in which the egg develops into a new individual without fertilization by sperm. Parthenogenesis has been observed in many lower animals, including some snails and insects.
Parturition – The act of giving birth.
Passive immunity – Immunity produced by providing an animal with antibodies or immunologic cells from another source, such as colostrum. Compare with ‘active immunity.’
Patellar luxation – dislocation of the ‘knee’ cap, causing mild to severe, continuous or intermittent pain.
Pathogenic – Causing disease.
Pathologist – A specialist in veterinary medicine who examines the changes in body tissues and organs caused by disease.
PCV – Packed cell volume. PCV, hematocrit: A laboratory test to monitor the relative number of red blood cells present in the blood. A blood sample is placed in a tiny glass tube and spun in a centrifuge. The cells are heavier than the plasma and are compacted at one end of the tube. After the tube is spun, it is examined and the packed cell volume is determined as the percentage of the red cellular portion relative to the total amount of blood in the tube (i.e., remainder being the plasma). The normal for dogs is 40-59 and cats is 29-50.
Pediculosis – An infestation of lice.
Pemphigus foliaceus – a generalized scaling disease, with hair loss, and sometimes with the formation of heavy crusts. Involvement of a nail bed leads to loss of the nail.
Penicillinase – An enzyme produced by some bacteria which inactivates certain types of penicillin thus making the bacteria resistant to them.
Perianal fistula – A deep infection around the anus which often results in ulcers and deep draining tracts, most commonly seen in German Shepherds.
Perineal – The area between the anus and the genital organs.
Peritoneal dialysis – A process used to remove waste products from the body. Electrolyte fluids are administered into the abdomen, waste products of the body enter the fluids, and then the fluids are removed.
Peritoneum – The membrane lining the wall of the abdominal cavity.
Peritonitis – Inflammation of the lining of the abdomen.
Petechia – A small red or purple spot on the body, caused by a minor hemorrhage (broken capillary blood vessels). Forceful coughing or vomiting can cause facial petechiae, especially around the eyes. Newborns often have facial petechiae from the tight squeeze through the cervix. Thus petechiae are fairly common and in general of no concern.
Heavy lifting may lead to petechiae that resemble thin red lines on the shoulders. Petechiae are also often found in cases of manual or ligature strangulation.
Petechiae are a sign of thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts), other disorders of coagulation. If they appear during illness, especially illness with fever, they may be a sign of septicemia (blood-borne bacterial infection), especially of Meningococcus (a causative agent of meningitis). The presence of petechiae in a sick child is therefore an important warning sign.
Phagocyte – Cell in the body which ‘eats’ damaged cells and foreign substances such as virus and bacteria. A macrophage is a type of phagocyte.
Phalanges – Toes.
Pheromone – Chemical secreted by an animal and sensed by another animal of the same species, and often causing behavior change in that animal.
Photoperiod – The number of hours of light per 24-hour period.
Photosensitivity – A condition in which the skin reacts abnormally to light, especially ultraviolet light or sunlight. It is usually caused by the interaction of light with certain chemicals in the skin such as antibiotics, other medications, hormones, or toxins.
Phytochemical – Substances in plants which affect a body system and may promote health and decrease the risk of a disease such as cancer.
Phytoestrogen – Substances which have an activity similar to estrogens and are produced by plants.
Pica – chronic eating of non-food materials.
Pituitary gland – a hormone secreting (endocrine) gland at the base of the brain; it regulates growth as well as regulating the proper functioning of many other glands and processes.
Placebo – A substance which is given that has no therapeutic value; often called a ‘dummy pill’ or ‘sugar pill.’ Often given to half of the patients in a trial of a new drug, to better assess the effectiveness of the new drug.
Plantigrade stance – Standing and walking with the hocks on or almost touching the floor.
Plaque – A build-up of bacteria, saliva, and food on the teeth. See also Tartar.
Plasia – growth
Plastron – The lower hard shell-like structure which protects the abdomen of a turtle or tortoise.
Platelets – Cellular components found in the blood which help clots to form. In the body, microscopically small vessels often break in the normal course of events. Platelets and a protein called fibrinogen ‘plug’ the break in the vessel and prevent blood from leaking out.
Polyarthritis – Arthritis which involves two or more joints.
Polyarteritis nodosa – an inflammatory disease of small and medium sized arteries.
Polydactyl – The presence of extra toes.
Polydipsia – Excessive thirst resulting in excessive drinking.
Polyestrous – During one sexual season, continuing to come into heat if not bred. Cats are polyestrous, dogs are not.
Polyp – A small growth from mucous membranes such as those lining the nasal cavity and intestinal tract.
Polyphagia – Excessive ingestion of food.
Polyuria – Excessive urination.
Portosystemic shunt, PSS – abnormal blood vessels in the liver preventing normal circulation and functioning of the liver.
Posterior – Positioned in back of another body part, or towards the rear half of the animal. Opposite of anterior.
Postoperative – After surgery.
Prepuce – The sheath of skin which covers the penis.
Proestrus – The stage of the estrus cycle, right before an animal comes into heat.
Progesterone – A hormone produced by the ovaries which is responsible for the continuation of pregnancy.
Prognosis – The forecasted outcome and recovery.
Progressive retinal atrophy, PRA – any of a number of inherited diseases of the eye leading to blindness. Generally starts with difficulty seeing in the dark followed by a loss of vision in the daylight. In the BMD it is an autosomal recessive trait.
Prolactin – Hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates the growth of mammary tissue and the production of milk.
Prolapsed rectum – Because of irritation or injury, the inner part of the rectum is pushed out so that it is visible as a pink mass protruding from the anal opening.
Prostaglandin – Several types of chemicals made by cells which have specific functions such as controlling body temperature, stimlating smooth muscle, and influencing heat cycles.
Prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate gland.
Protease – Enzyme which breaks down protein.
Protozoans – Single-celled animals invisible to the naked eye. Most are free living and a few are parasites in animals or man.
Pruritus – Itching.
Psittacine – Birds that belong to the order Psittaciformes. Common psittacines include budgies, cockatiels, lories, cockatoos, conures, amazons, African greys, lovebirds, senegals, and jardines.
Pulmonary – Relating to the lungs.
Pulmonary arteries – The large vessels leading from the heart to the lungs.
Pulmonary edema – Fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Pulmonary emboli – Pulmonary embolism: Blood clot that travels to the blood vessels in the lung and obstructs them.
Pupa – A dormant form of an insect (plural pupae). A larva spins a cocoon to protect itself, and becomes a pupa. The pupa does not feed, but gradually changes form and becomes a new adult.
Pustule – Small elevated area on the skin filled with pus.
Pyloroduodenal – An obstruction in the area where the stomach and small intestine meet.
Pyoderma – any purulent (containing or forming pus) skin disease
Pyometra – pus accumulation in the uterus, normally caused by bacterial infection.
Q Queen – A female cat used for breeding.
Queening – In cats, the act of giving birth.
R Rabies – A fatal virus disease of warm blooded animals including man, that affects the brain and is spread in the saliva of infected animals. Rabid animals have a temperament change. Wild creatures become bold enough to attack human beings, and docile domestic animals may turn on their owners.
Radiology – X-ray.
Reagent grade – A compound with the purity and quality that allows it to be used in a laboratory.
Recessive – requires a copy of the gene from both parents to exhibit the trait. Having only one copy of the gene makes the dog a carrier of the trait, and he will never exhibit the trait – unless the gene is located on the ‘X’ or sex chromosome. sarcoma – tumor formed of connective tissue cells: bone cartilage, muscle, blood vessel, or lymphoid tissue.
Recombinant vaccine – There are certain antigens on viruses and bacteria which are better at stimulating an antibody response by the animal than others. The genes for these antigens can be isolated, and made to produce large quantities of the antigens they code for. A recombinant vaccine contains these antigens, not the whole organism. Compare with ‘modified live vaccine’ and ‘killed vaccine.’
Recumbency – Lying down.
Reflex ovulator – Only ovulating after being bred. Cats are reflex ovulators, dogs are not.
Registry – A database of health information
- open registry – repository of health test results, allows full access to the information.
- closed registry – repository of health test results, but allows access of information only about normal results.
- OFA – Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, closed registry of hip, elbow, heart, thyroid, and other results.
- PennHIP – Penn Hip Improvement Program – closed registry of hip laxity measurements. Uses a DI (distraction index), a number from 0.0 – 1.00 with the lower the number the better the hip.
- CERF – Canine Eye Registry Foundation – closed registry of eye test results.
Regulation – Using insulin to maintain the blood glucose level of an animal within the acceptable range.
Regurgitation – Expelling food from the esophagus.
Renal – Pertaining to the kidneys.
Renal insufficiency – The decreased ability of the kidneys to rid the body of wastes.
Resistance – A term used to describe bacteria which have mutated or changed so they are not affected by an antibiotic that previously killed them or slowed their growth. As more bacteria become resistant to various antibiotics, there are fewer antibiotics which will have an effect on them, thus newer and stronger antibiotics will need to be developed. Inappropriate use of antibiotics (using them too often, for too short a duration or in insufficient dose) may promote the development of resistance.
Resorption – In pregnancy, a condition in which the fetus dies, and instead of being aborted, the fetal tissue dissolves within the uterus and is absorbed by the mother. The mother will show no outward signs of a fetal resorption.
Respiratory – Relating to breathing or the lungs.
Respiratory depression – Decrease in the rate or depth of respiration.
Retina – The rear interior surface of the eyeball is called the retina. The retina contains nerve cells referred to as rods and cones. The rods are sensitive to light and the cones to color. The retina receives the light and color and converts them into nerve impulses which go to the brain.
Ringworm – A type of fungal infection of the skin. See article: Ringworm in Dogs and Cats.
S Sarcoptic mange – skin disease characterized by extreme itching, hair loss, and secondary infection. Usually widespread, but often seen on the belly and inner thighs. Can be treated, but spreads easily.
Scale – Accumulation of loose fragments of the top layer of the skin.
Schiff-Scherrington posture – A condition, caused by a lesion in the spinal cord, in which the front legs are held rigid and straight, and the rear legs are weak or paralyzed. Sometimes, the neck may be hyperextended, with the head held up and over the back.
Sclerosis – A hardening of tissue, usually the result of chronic inflammation.
Scute – In turtles and tortoises, the plates which cover the bony portion of the shell. In snakes, the larger, thicker scales on the underside of the body which provide support, protection, and traction.
Sebaceous adenitis – Inflammation of a sebaceous (oil-producing) gland. In dogs, sebaceous glands are found on the top of the tail near its base, and at the junction of mucous membranes with skin. In cats, these glands are found on the chin, lip margins, and the top of the tail.
Sebaceous gland – A gland in the skin which produces an oily substance.
Seborrhea – abnormal secretion of the sebaceous glands at the base of hair follicles causing anything from dandruff to greasy scales and crust.
Second generation – A description of medications developed from an earlier form of the medication. First generation medications were developed from the original form of the drug; second generation medications are adaptations of first generation drugs; third generation drugs are adaptations of second generation, etc.
Secondary infection – Infection which occurs because the tissue and its natural defenses have been damaged by another condition.
Secondary response – The faster and greater immune response produced by an animal who has previously encountered that specific antigen. Memory cells are responsible for this more efficient response. Also called ‘anamnestic response.’
Seizure threshold – The level of stimulation at which a seizure is produced. Raising the seizure threshold makes it less likely a seizure will occur.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor(SSRIs) – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: Medications which slow down the ability of nerve cells to absorb serotonin, a neurotransmitter (chemical that serves as a messenger between nerves). Example: Prozac.
Selective IgM deficiency – a deficiency in the production of the IgM antibody, one of the body’s five classes of immunoglobulins, the proteins produced as antibodies to fight infection and toxins.
Separation anxiety – A behavioral condition in which the pet becomes anxious when separated from the owner. Dogs with separation anxiety tend to ‘shadow’ their owners, greet them exuberantly when they return after being gone, and sometimes vocalize, chew destructively, and urinate or defecate when separated from their owners.
Sepsis – The presence of toxins in the blood or other tissues; the toxins are produced by bacteria or other microorganisms.
Septic – A condition caused by an infection e.g., with bacteria or fungi, or toxins they produce.
Septicemia – A disease affecting many organ systems due to toxins in the blood which are released by bacteria or other microorganisms. Signs include fever, pinpoint bruises on mucous membranes, and lesions in the joints, heart valves, eyes, or other organs.
Serology – Laboratory testing for antibody-antigen reactions and antibody levels.
Serotype – A subdivision of a species of microorganism, e.g., a bacteria, based upon its particular antigens.
Serous – Thin and watery.
Serum – The fluid portion of the blood after it has clotted and the cells have been removed.
Shedding – Shedding (of organisms): A term used to describe the release of organisms (bacteria, protozoa, viruses) into the environment from an infected animal. The organisms may be in the stool, urine, respiratory secretions, or vaginal discharges. The ‘shedding’ animal may or may not be showing symptoms of disease.
Skin cytology – Examination, with a microscope, of a skin scraping or material from swabbing the skin. The material may be stained and checked for the presence of yeast, bacteria, tumor cells, etc.
Skin scraping – Scraping some material from the surface of the skin and looking at it under a microscope, e.g., to check for skin mites.
Smooth muscle – The type of muscle found in the internal organs such as stomach and intestines (not the heart).
Soluble carbohydrate – Also, soluble fiber. Easily digested carbohydrates like starch.
Somnolence – Sleepiness, a condition of semiconsciousness approaching coma.
Somogyi effect – A condition in which the blood glucose level increases if too much insulin is given. It occurs when insulin causes the blood glucose level to go so low it stimulates the production of other hormones in the body such as epinephrine, which promote the breakdown of glycogen (the chemical compound which the body uses to store glucose) and increases the blood glucose level above normal. It is also called rebound hyperglycemia or insulin-induced hyperglycemia.
Spay – Sterilization by surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female animal.
Sphincter – A ring-like band of muscle that constricts a passage or closes an opening, e.g., the anal sphincter constricts to close the anus and relaxes when the animal is passing stool. The urethral sphincter closes the urinary bladder.
Spirochete – A type of bacteria which is long, slender, and assumes a spiral shape. Leptospira species and the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) are spirochetes.
Snow nose – loss of pigmentation on the nose, usually in winter.
Spinal myelopathy – disease of the myelin, or covering (sheath) of the spinal nerves (the spinal cord).
Spleen – Part of the immune system of an animal. A large, tongue-shaped organ in the abdomen containing many lymphocytes. The spleen filters blood and removes damaged cells. It can also manufacture new blood cells if the animal’s bone marrow is damaged.
Squamate – Scaly-bodied reptile including lizards and snakes.
SSRI – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: Medications which slow down the ability of nerve cells to absorb serotonin, a neurotransmitter (chemical that serves as a messenger between nerves). Example: Prozac.
Staph taphylococcus – a type of bacteria. Normally found on the skin and upper respiratory tract, but can occasionally cause localized suppurating infection.
Stasis – In the gastrointestinal tract, a condition in which the food does not move through normally, but remains in one section, e.g., food does not pass from the stomach into the intestine.
Status epilepticus – A condition in which the animal exhibits one severe (Grand Mal) seizure right after another, with no time to recover in-between.
Stenosis – a narrowing or contraction of an opening.
- aortic stenosis – obstruction of the blood flowing from the left ventricle to the aorta.
- mitral stenosis – narrowing of the mitral valve that separates the left atrium and the left ventricle.
- pulmonary artery stenosis – narrowing of the outflow from the lungs.
- subaortic stenosis – narrowing of the aorta just below the semilunar valves. Severity increases with age.
Stones – a mass, usually formed from mineral salts, occurring within the hollow organs: kidney, gallbladder, urinary bladder.
Stress-induced hyperglycemia – A condition in cats in which the blood glucose level becomes abnormally high when the animal is stressed, e.g., in the veterinarian’s office.
Stricture – The narrowing of an organ of passage such as a blood vessel or intestine.
Struvite – A chemical compound, magnesium ammonium phosphate, which is made by the body and can form crystals and stones in the urinary bladder.
Subcutaneous – Under the skin; often called ‘sub Q.’
Subluxation – A partial dislocation of a joint in which the bones become out of alignment, but the joint itself is still intact.
Substrate – Relative to the husbandry of reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals, the substrate is the material that lines the bottom of a cage.
Sulfonamides – A class of antibiotics which contain sulfur. They are bacteriostatic (they stop the growth (reproduction) of bacteria, but do NOT kill them).
Superfecundation – Having a litter with more than one father (or breeding).
Supraventricular tachycardia – A condition in which the heart beats very rapidly because of signals coming from the atria (chambers of the heart that receive the blood) or near the junction of the atria with the ventricles (the chambers of the heart that pump the blood to the body or lungs).
Sympathomimetic – Producing effects similar to the ‘flight or fight’ response, which means the body is alerted to a danger of some sort and prepares to basically run or fight. Sympathomimetic effects include increased heart rate, sweating, and increased blood pressure.
Syncope – The temporary loss of consciousness; fainting.
Synergist – An agent that enhances the action of another.
Synovial – Pertaining to a joint made up of bone ends covered with cartilage, ligaments, a cavity filled with synovial fluid (joint fluid) and an outside fibrous capsule, e.g., hip joint, elbow joint.
Systemic – Throughout the body.
Systemic lupus erythematosis, SLE – an autoimmune disease in which the immune system sees its own body as foreign matter. Characterized by polyarthritis, hemolytic anemia, skin disease, among many other symptoms.
T T cell – Also called ‘T lymphocytes.’ The type of lymphocyte which is responsible for cell-mediated immunity. T cells may directly kill a cell or produce chemicals called lymphokines that activate macrophages which will kill the cell. Compare with ‘B cell.’
Tachycardia – An abnormally high heart rate.
Tachypnea – Rapid breathing.
Tarsus – The ankle (rear leg) of dogs and cats; also called the hock.
Tartar – A build-up of bacteria, saliva, and food on the teeth which becomes mineralized, forming a hard coating and eventually causing gum disease and tooth loss. See also ‘Plaque.’
Temporomandibular joint – The joint between the lower jaw and the skull.
Third generation – A description of medications developed from an earlier form of the medication. First generation medications were developed from the original form of the drug; second generation medications are adaptations of first generation drugs; third generation drugs are adaptations of second generation, etc.
Thrombocytopenia – A lower than normal number of platelets in the blood. Platelets, which are actually fragments of specific types of cells, are necessary for blood to clot. Signs of thrombocytopenia include bruising and bleeding from the nose, into the gastrointestinal tract, etc.
thrombocytopenic purpura – is a disease characterized by the formation of platelet clots in the microcirculation (very small vessels). Exact cause is unclear but thought to be due to infections, inherited conditions or immunologic abnormalities. Results in bleeding with a low platelet count, anemia, neurologic symptoms kidney disease and fever.
thyroid – the largest of the hormone secreting (endocrine) glands located in the neck; it regulates metabolism.
- hyperthyroid – excessive production of thyroid hormones, often seen in older dogs, causing excessive thirst, weight loss, increased appetite and restlessness.
- hypothyroid – decreased production of thyroxine, causing poor coat, weight gain, mental dullness, fatigue, cold intolerance, and infertility.
Thyrotropin releasing hormone – Hormone produced by the hypothalamus that stimulates the pituitary gland to produce thyrotropin (thyroid stimulating hormone-TSH), which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. Also called TSH releasing factor or TSH releasing hormone.
Tissue – A group of specialized cells that together perform a particular function, e.g., muscle tissue, nerve tissue, bone.
Titer – A measurement of the amount of antibodies in the blood. The test to measure antibodies is usually performed by making a number of dilutions of the blood and then measuring at what dilution there is sufficient antibody to react in the test. For example, a titer of 1:8 (one to eight) means the blood can be diluted to one part blood and seven parts saline and still produce a positive reaction in the test. The higher the titer (1:16 is higher than 1:8), the more antibody is present. (NOTE: The word ‘titer’ may also be used when discussing the amount of antigen present, e.g., a high titer vaccine has a large number of virus particles.)
Topical – To be used on the skin.
Torticollis – Torticollis is also known commonly as “wry neck.” It is a deformity of the neck in which the head tilts toward one shoulder and is simultanously the chin rotates toward the opposite shoulder. It can be caused by:
- Middle/inner ear infection (otitis media /interna)
- Stroke (cerebrovascular accidents)
- Cancer (neoplasia)
- Cervical muscle contraction
- Cerebral larva migrans
Torsion – The twisting of an organ.
Toxemia – A condition in which toxins move into the bloodstream.
Tracheobronchitis – Inflammation of the trachea and bronchi.
Transient – Temporary.
Transport host – An animal or insect which carries an immature parasite from one mammalian host to another.
tricuspid valve defect – a defect in the heart valve that separates the right atrium and the right ventricle.
Tricyclic antidepressant – A class of antidepressants which work by decreasing the amount of certain chemical transmitters taken up by specific nerve cells. The tricyclic antidepressants include clomipramine, amitriptyline, and nortryptyline and are often used to treat behavioral problems in small animals.
Tubule – Microscopic ducts. The tubules in the kidneys help to concentrate the urine.
Tumor – Abnormal growth or swelling; term often used to designate cancer.
Type I diabetes – A form of diabetes in which so little insulin is produced that supplemental insulin must be given for the animal to live. Also called insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).
Type II diabetes – A type of diabetes mellitus in which although the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, they are not immediately life-threatening, and the animal can survive without supplemental insulin. Also called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).
U Ulcer – A lesion in which the tissue surface is eroded away.
Ultrasound – Ultrasound/ultrasonography: A technique used to get the image of a deep structure within the body by directing ultrasound waves at it and recording the reflections (echoes) from it.
Umbilicus – The area of the body where the umbilical cord is attached; the belly button.
Ununited anconeal process, UAP – the anconeal process never unites with the ulna, can detach and form a loose body in the joint, called a joint mouse. See elbow dysplasia.
Urate – A chemical compound which contains uric acid and is made by the body, and can form crystals and stones in the urinary bladder. Uric acid is a waste product from the breakdown of certain proteins.
Urea – Wasteproduct of protein metabolism that is removed from the body by the kidneys.
Urease – An enzyme that breaks down urea. Urea is a wasteproduct of protein metabolism that is removed from the body by the kidneys.
Urinary incontinence – A phrase used to describe the inability to control urination.
Urinary obstruction – A blockage in the urinary system, most often occurring in the urethra, the tube that leads from the urinary bladder to the outside of the body.
Urinary retention – A condition in which the urinary bladder does not rid itself of all urine it contains during the process of urination.
Urticaria – Hives; development of small swellings which may itch; usually caused by an allergic reaction.
USP – United States Pharmacopeia – a drug regulating agency.
Uveitis – Inflammation of the eye.
Uveodermatologic syndrome, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome – depigmentation of the skin and hair, and of the nose, lips, eyelids, footpads and anus. (In humans this disease is believed to be immune-mediated.)
V Vaccination – The act of giving a vaccine. See also ‘immunization,’ since the two words have different meanings and are often confused.
Vaccine failure – A term often used to describe a condition in which an animal who was vaccinated against a disease still gets the disease. In truth, there is usually nothing wrong with the vaccine, but for some reason, the animal’s immune system did not adequately react to it.
Vasculitis – Inflammation of blood vessels.
Vasoconstriction – A decrease in the diameter of blood vessels.
Vasodilator – Agent which dilates, or increases the diameter of blood vessels.
Vena cava – Either of two large veins carrying blood to the right atrium of the heart. The cranial vena cava brings blood from the head region, front legs, and upper chest to the heart; the caudal (or posterior) vena cava carries blood from the areas of the abdomen and hind legs to the heart.
Vent – The outside opening of the cloaca, which is a common passageway for feces, urine, and reproduction.
Ventricle – The chambers of the heart that pump the blood to the body or lungs.
Ventricular arrhythmia – A heart condition in which the heart beats irregularly and/or at an abnormal rate because of signals coming from the ventricles (chambers of the heart that pump the blood).
Vertebrate – Animal with a vertebral column (spine); includes such animals as fish, birds, turtles, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
Vesicle – Small elevated area on the skin filled with a clear fluid.
Vestibular system – Portions of the inner ear, nerves, and brain which help the body maintain balance.
Villi – Microscopic projections which cover the intestine, greatly increasing the surface area and therefore, increasing the ability to absorb nutrients. Singular: Villus.
Virus – The smallest form of life, invisible with an ordinary microscope. An infectious unit that enters and uses cells of plants or animals for replication. Some viruses cause disease in animals or plants.
Viscerocutaneous – Pertaining to the internal organs and skin.
Viscosity – Thickness of a fluid, e.g., molasses is more viscous than water.
Vital signs – The signs of life which are pulse, respiration, and temperature.
Volvulus – Twisting of the stomach or intestine, which often has the effect of cutting off the blood supply to it.
Vomeronasal organ – Sensory organ also called ‘Jacobson’s organ,’ which detects pheromones.
von Willebrand’s disease – von Willebrand’s disease – deficiency of coagulation factor VIII causing prolonged bleeding time. This can be an autosomal dominant trait, but Bernese Mountain Dogs have Type I, which is an autosomal recessive trait.
W Warm-blooded – Having a relatively high body temperature that is regulated internally and is independent of the environmental temperature. Mammals and birds are warm-blooded.
Wart – Benign growth caused by a virus.
Wasting – Loss of muscle mass due to decreased food intake or increased metabolic rate.
Whelping – In dogs, the act of giving birth.
White blood cells – Cells in the blood whose major role is to defend the body against invading organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. There are different types of leukocytes: lymphocytes are part of the immune system; monocytes, eosinophils, and neutrophils eat or engulf organisms; basophils contain histamine and are involved in inflammatory reactions.
Window of susceptibility – A time period in the life of a young animal in which the maternal antibodies are too low to provide protection against a certain disease, but too high to allow a vaccine to work and produce immunity.
X Xeroradiography – a costly type of x-ray procedure using specially sensitized screens that give higher resolution on the edges of bone and better visualization of soft tissue structures.
X-ray – a film taken using X-rays. One of the non-invasive diagnostics tools. Size, shape, and position of organs such as heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, spleen, bones, etc. can be evaluated. Presence of gas, fluids, and solid masses (tumors, foreign objects) inside your pet’s body can be detected.
Z Zoonotic – A disease which can be transmitted between animals and people.