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Medical Conditions Terminology

As communication is vital when it comes to your dog’s wellbeing, it is good to know what the words mean that you might hear at the veterinarian surgery or read in a report. Never be afraid of asking your vet to clarify words you are unsure of. In the following list you will find a number of terms and abbreviations in alphabetical order that you might come across and a brief explanation of what they mean.

AbdominalAnything to do with the belly area.
AbscessAn accumulation of pus (= white blood cells + foreign body or bacteria) in the tissue of the body. There is also something called a ‘sterile abscess’ where, under special circumstances, pus accumulates without a foreign body or bacteria being involved.  
Addison’s DiseaseThis is caused by a malfunctioning Adrenal Gland that produces too little corticosteroid. Symptoms are mainlynot coping well with stressdecreased appetitedepressionfrailtyvomitingdiarrhoeabut also sometimes increased thirst and urinatingDiagnosis is via a complex of symptoms, blood tests and a specific hormone testTreatment consists of replacing the lacking corticosteroid  
Alimentary CanalThe whole passage along which food passes through the body from mouth to anus during digestion.  
AnaemiaAn acute or long-term lack of red blood cells; this can be caused by an actual loss of blood (= bleeding, externally or internally) or a destruction of red blood cells.  
AnalgesicPain reducing drugs.
ArrhythmiaThis is a disturbance or abnormal rhythm in the heart beat.   Clinical causes can be genetic (breed related – Boxers, West Highland White Terriers, and others) or related to heart disease. It is common for a dog to have an abnormal rhythm when they breathe so not every change in heart rhythm is cause for concern.  
AuricleSee Pinna.
AuscultationListening to sounds within the body; usually with a stethoscope.  
Autoimmune DiseaseSpecies, such as humans and dogs, have developed a sophisticated defence against bacteria, viruses and microorganisms. This system can sometimes begin to react to the body’s own tissue and attack it (auto = self), known as autoimmune disease.  
BacteraemiaThis means bacteria have entered the bloodstream; see also Septicaemia.  
BiopsyThe taking of a tissue sample for investigation. Examples for taking a sample would be certain skin parasites or suspected cancer. See alsoHistology.  
BradycardiaThis is a constantly slower than normal heart rate. There are many potential causes that range from damage to the heart tissue via effects of certain drugs to imbalances of certain minerals. See alsoHypothyroidism.  
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction  The dog equivalent of dementia.
Cardiac / Cardio-Referring to the heart è as in Cardiomyopathy (see below)  
CardiologyThe branch of medical science dealing with the heart and the network of blood vessels.  
CardiomyopathyThis refers to diseases of the muscle tissue of the heart.  
Congestive Heart Failure         Crepitus (a.k.a. crepitation)          Congestive Heart Failure is an umbrella term for conditions with different causes. What they have in common is that the heart has become insufficient in its task to pump blood around the body, with effects on the lungs, the muscles and the metabolism.   A medical term to describe the grating, crackling or popping sounds and sensations experienced under the skin and joints or a crackling sensation due to the presence of air in the subcutaneous tissue.
CT Scan (a.k.a. CAT scan)Computer Tomography; this uses x-rays and a computer to create a detailed image of a part of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes  
Cushing’s DiseaseHyperadrenocorticism A malfunction of the Adrenal Gland, either within the gland itself or through problems in the Pituitary Gland, which among other things regulates the Adrenal Gland.  
CyanosisThis is the term for a blueish colouration of skin and/or mucus membranes. The reason is a higher than normal concentration of red blood cells that circulate in the blood stream without oxygen. The reason for this is usually an abnormality in the heart-lung system.  
Degenerative MyelopathyThe declining ability of nerves in the spinal cord to transmit impulses to the limbs, especially the hind legs. This leads to a gradual paralysis of the limbs and, therefore, an increasing difficulty in standing and later walking. It will also lead to incontinence.  
DehydrationA shortage of water inside the body and tissue due to losses exceeding intake. Reasons can be lack of intake (lack of appetite, general weakness, lack of access to water) but more often an excessive loss due to diarrhoea or vomiting.  
Derma-Anything to do with skin è as in Dermatology or Dermatitis
DysphagiaDifficulty swallowing. It can either be simply discomfort or the complete inability to swallow.  
EctropionThe eyelid is turned outward. It exposes the inner covering layer of the lid.  
EntropionThe eyelid turns inward and eye lashes rubbing against the surface of the eye.  
ErythemaReddening of the skin because of increased blood flow to the area. It is a general term and erythema occurs with most things affecting the skin (inflammation, trauma, infection).  
ErythrocyteA red blood cell.
Gastric Dilation Volvulus (a.k.a. bloat, twisted stomach, stomach torsion, gastric torsion, GDV)  A life-threatening condition where the stomach twists, cutting off the connection upwards to the oesophagus and downwards to the gut. When filled with food, gas will soon accumulate and worsen the situation. It requires immediate veterinary attention. See also Gastropexy
GastropexyThis is a surgical operation during which the stomach is sutured to the abdominal wall, in order to fix it permanently in place (to a degree, there is some movement possible). It is the main procedure in cases of Gastric Dilation Volvulus or bloat, and prevents the stomach from twisting around its own longitudinal axis.  
HistologyThe investigation of tissue samples down to the level of individual cells (e.g. of skin) to see whether they are diseased and what might be the cause. See also Biopsy.  
HysterectomySurgical removal of a female dog’s reproductive organ (womb).  
Hyper- / HypothyroidismThis is a condition that arises from a thyroid gland that is more active than normal (= hyper) or less active than normal (= hypo). It either produces too much or too little of the thyroid hormone.  
HyperadrenocorticismSee Cushing’s Disease  
HypoadrenocorticismSee Addison’s Disease  
IV fluidsThese are sterile fluids, designed to help stabilise a body system and administered directly into the bloodstream. This is routinely done during certain operations but particularly if a dog is dehydrated, seriously weakened or has lost a considerable amount of blood.  
JaundiceThe yellowish discolouration of the white of the eyes and / or skin. It is always related to the liver and red blood cells.  
LavageThe rinsing out of a cavity. This could be a body cavity, such as the gut or a space created by a disease, e.g. an abscess.  
LeucocyteA white blood cell.  
LeucocytosisA situation where the white blood cell count is higher than normal. White blood cells belong to the immune system and an increased number indicates an inflammation and / or infection in the body but might also be the result of cancer. See also Leucocyte, White Cell Count and Leukaemia.  
LeukaemiaThis is cancer of the tissue where white blood cells are produced (see White Cell Count). The result is abnormal cells, which then weakens the immune system. There are a number of different types, depending on which of the white blood cells are affected.  
Lymphatic SystemA part of the defensive immune system of the body. It consists of a network of tubes and filters, called lymph nodes, and includes the spleen. The most commonly known of those lymph nodes in humans are the tonsils. They remove foreign materials, such as bacteria that have been caught by immune cells. See also Lymphoma.  
LymphomaThe abnormal proliferation of lymph cells.  
MelanomaMelanocytes are cells in the body that carry pigment and are responsible for our tan. Therefore, you might have come across the term ‘Melanoma’, as it has become a sadly common cancer in humans due to our love for sun bathing. The exact causes in dogs are still not fully understood but it is a relatively common condition.  
MetastasisThis is a cancerous growth that originates from a primary cancer at another site in the body. That primary growth sent out cancer cells that then settled, for example, in the lungs, the liver or lymph nodes. When it does this, the cancer is said to ‘metastasise’.  
MRI ScanMagnetic Resonance Imaging; as the name suggests this type of scan uses magnetic fields to create an image of the inside of a part of the body for diagnostic purposes  
Myelo-Anything to do with the spinal cord or bone marrow, as in Degenerative Myelopathy  
OncologyThe branch of medical science dealing with cancer
Osteo-Terms referring to bones as in Osteoporosis  
OsteoporosisA weakening of bone tissue because of increasing porosity, resulting in brittleness. It causes pain and heightens the risk of fractures. In dogs it is a possible consequence of disorders that change the metabolism and/or absorption of minerals either directly or indirectly. Examples are Cushing’s Disease, protein deficiency, and calcium-phosphor imbalance. So-called Disuse Osteoporosis can occur when the muscles around a bone are underused because of immobilisation (e.g. when in a plaster cast or due to paralysis).  
OtitisOtitis means inflammation (usually in combination with an infection) of the ear. Depending on the part of the ear there are distinctions: Otitis externa – the outer part of the ear is involvedOtitis media – this is an infection of the part that lies between the outer section (see also Pinna) and the eardrumOtitis interna – affecting the inner part of the ear, around and behind the eardrum (this is often the most dramatic for the patient, as it can disturb orientation, balance, etc. and cause nausea)  
OvariohysterectomySurgical removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs (womb and ovaries).  
PanaritiumInflammation and / or infection around the claw  
PeritonitisInflammation of the lining of the abdomen (= belly)  
PhlebitisInflammation of a vein  
Pinna (a.k.a. auricle)Part of the ear that you can see. The main functional part of the ear is deeper inside the skull, called the Inner Ear. This is where sound is converted into vibrations and impulses that the brain can understand and decode. The pinna acts like a funnel that guides sound towards the inner, operative parts of the ear.  
PleuritisInflammation of the lining covering the lungs  
PneumothoraxA situation where there is no air in the chest. The lungs are an entity of their own, sealed off from the rest of the chest cavity. When the dog breathes in, the diaphragm moves downward and the muscles between the ribs outward. This expands the lungs and thereby creates negative pressure that subsequently pulls in air. If the chest cavity (or pleural cavity – see also pleuritis) is opened to the surrounding environment, for example by a puncture wound in the chest wall, that negative pressure cannot be created.  
Pulmonary OedemaThis is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs. It is important to realise that pulmonary oedema is only a symptom of an underlying cause that must be treated – often an allergic reactions or heart failure.  
PurulentWith pus  
PyometraAn infection of the womb with an accumulation of pus.  
RenalAnything to do with the kidneys, as in Renal Insufficiency.  
Renal Insufficiency (a.k.a. Kidney Failure)It is seen more in older dogs due to generally deteriorating tissue but also due to infections, cancer, Congestive Heart Failure or kidney stones.  
SarcomaA malignant growth in many types of tissue. They can occur, for example, in bones, skin, muscle or bowels.  
ScanA method, using different technologies, to look into tissue for diagnostic purposes. Scans (most often Ultrasound, CT or MRI) are not the same but similar to taking an x-ray image.  
SepticDiseased – infected by bacteria. See also Septicaemia and Bacteraemia.  
SepticaemiaA large-scale invasion of the blood stream by bacteria (see also Bacteraemia). This is always a serious condition and can be life-threatening.  
SplenectomySurgical removal of the spleen  
StomatitisAn inflammation of the lips or the inside of the mouth  
TachycardiaA faster than normal heart beat. There can be perfectly harmless causes, like strenuous exercise, but it can also have clinical origins, with examples being poisoning, congestive heart failure or lung disease.  
ThoracicAnything to do with the chest, as in Thoracic Cavity (the interior of the chest).  
ToxicPoisonous; this can refer to poisonous substances (chemicals, gases, plant or animal poisons) or even substances that can be found under normal circumstances inside a body but which have accumulated to abnormal levels.  
ToxicologyThe branch of science that looks into the nature and effects of poisonous substances.  
ToxinPoisonous substance  
TPLOTibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy This is a procedure used in cases of rupture of the frontal cruciate ligament in a dog’s stifle (knee). It involves reducing the angle of the top end of the lower leg bone so the forces working on it while walking will later stabilise the joint.  
Ultrasound ScanThis uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of a part of the body for diagnostic purposes; as it is harmless it is very often used to monitor unborn babies.  
White Cell CountThis refers to white blood cells. These are part of a body’s defensive system (immune system). The test might tell a veterinarian whether or not a disease process is ongoing and often which kind of disease (infections, inflammation, cancer) one might be looking at. See also Abscess.  
ZoonosisAn infection that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

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