A Short Glossary of Veterinary Terminology

Veterinarian and cat

Have you ever wondered what exactly your veterinarian is talking about when she gives you directions for medication or explains your pet’s condition? Veterinary jargon can be confusing to pet owners, especially when you’re already worried about your dog or cat.

Sometimes we veterinarians forget that not everyone knows “vetspeak,” the abbreviations and terms that we use for short in lab tests, prescriptions and normal, everyday conversations — or as normal as you can get when talking about kidney disease or trauma. Here’s a brief lexicon of some of the most common terms you might hear or see in the clinic, on lab reports or on medication containers.

Decoding Your Vet's Conversation

ADR: This abbreviation stands for “ain’t doin’ right,” a not-so-technical phrase we like to use to describe a pet who has vague symptoms that haven’t yet solidified into a diagnosis. Maybe his appetite is a little off or he just doesn’t seem like his usual self. When owners come in with this type of problem, we know it’s a good idea to dig a little deeper because even minor changes can indicate the beginning of a more serious problem.

BID: These Latin words — bis in die — are used with prescriptions and mean that the medication should be given twice daily. You might also see TID (three times daily) or QID (four times daily).

BUN: The blood urea nitrogen test measures the amount of urea nitrogen in your pet’s blood, which helps us know how well the kidneys and liver are performing. Levels that are higher than normal can indicate a problem.

CBC: A complete blood count is a test that tells us a lot about what’s going on in your pet’s body, including the following:

  • The number of white blood cells (WBC) in a volume of blood
  • The number of red blood cells (RBC) in a volume of blood
  • The percentage of the different types of WBCs (granulocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils)
  • The amount of hemoglobin — which is what carries oxygen — in the blood
  • The hematocrit, which is the ratio of the volume of red cells to the volume of whole blood
  • The number of platelets, which are important in clotting, in a volume of blood

The information we get from a CBC can help us determine whether your pet may be suffering from an infection, anemia or some types of cancer.

Dx: Most of us are familiar with the abbreviation Rx, for prescriptions, which is thought to come from the Latin “recipere,” or recipe. Dx has come to be an abbreviation for diagnosis. You might also encounter Tx (treatment or therapy) and Sx (surgery or symptom).

HBC: Short for "hit by car."

IgA: Immunoglobulin A is a type of antibody that protects the skin, respiratory tract, digestive tract, and some parts of the reproductive and urinary systems from bacterial, fungal and viral invaders. Low levels of IgA can predispose pets to allergies or infections.

O.S.: Here's another Latin lesson — this abbreviation stands for oculus sinister, or left eye. The term O.D. stands for oculus dexter, or right eye.

SSRI: This abbreviation stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This class of drugs may be prescribed for pets with general anxiety problems.

Isn't language fascinating? I hope you've learned some new terms today that will be helpful at your next veterinary visit.


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