What the Heck Does that Mean? Find Out What Your Vet Is Talking About

white cat being examined by vet with stethoscope

Before you go in for your pet’s next veterinary appointment, check out these terms that a veterinary professional might use and what they mean.


  • Brachycephalic — Greek for “short head”, refers to dogs with a “smooshed” face, such as pugs, Shih Tzus, or bulldogs
  • Carpus —wrist
  • Dewclaw — the extra digit on the upper, inner part of a paw
  • Hock —ankles
  • Pinna — external flap of the ear
  • Stifle — knees
  • Thorax — chest


  • Acute — an illness or condition that lasts for a short period of time
  • Ataxia — abnormal gait while running or walking
  • Benign — a condition or tumor/growth that is not cancerous
  • Cestodes — tapeworms
  • Chronic — an illness that is persisting for a long time
  • Congenital — a disease or condition that has been present since birth
  • Gestation — period of time an animal is pregnant (from conception to birth)
  • Incontinence — inability to control urination or defecation
  • Lethargy — unusual lack of energy (acting tired)
  • Malignant — cancerous tumors that tend to grow rapidly and can also spread to other parts of the body
  • Neoplasm — an abnormal growth of cells or tissues that can be benign or malignant
  • Pathogen — a bacteria or virus that can cause disease
  • Pica — an appetite for non-nutritional substances like paper, hair, or dirt
  • Septic, sepsis — refers to the body’s extreme response to an infection
  • Zoonoses, zoonotic — diseases that animals can pass to humans


  • Antiseptic — a substance applied to get rid of germs such as bacteria
  • dDx — differential diagnosis, which is a list of potential diagnoses that your pet may have, which are then narrowed down to determine the diagnosis
  • Dx — diagnosis, which is what the doctor thinks is going on with your pet
  • qX — every X amount of hours, for example “q8” is every 8 hours
  • Radiograph — X-ray image
  • Rx — prescriptions
  • SID/BID/TID/QID: once/twice/three times/four times a day
  • Sx — surgery
  • Tx — treatment or therapy, the recommended plan to heal your pet or maintain your pet’s health
  • UA — urinalysis, a laboratory test that uses a urine sample

Now that you’re familiar with these veterinary terms, you’ll be more prepared to communicate with veterinarians and better understand your pet’s health.