Abdomen: The tummy. It contains lots of different organs including the liver, stomach, intestines, and bladder.

Abscess: An accumulation of pus within a capsule or casing.

Acute: A condition that starts suddenly or a new condition.

Allergy: The body’s immune system responds to something it shouldn’t, causing an inflammatory reaction. Like hayfever or peanut allergy in people.

Alopecia: Hair loss.

Anaemia: When the body does not have as many red blood (oxygen carrying) cells as it should.

Antibiotic: Type of medication used to treat infections involving bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance: When bacteria become able to survive treatment with a particular antibiotic.

Anti-inflammatory: Type of medication that reduces inflammation (redness, swelling or irritation).

Antimicrobial: General term for any medication that treats infection with different kinds of bugs.

Allergic skin disease: When the skin is itchy and sore due to an allergy, for example to things in the environment like grasses or pollens, or to food.

Asthma: An inflammatory condition of the airways that makes it more difficult to breathe.

Autoimmune: When the immune system attacks part of the animal’s own body.


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Bacteria: A type of bug made up of just one cell, for example Salmonella is a bacteria.

Benign: Harmless. Often used to describe types of tumour, and is the opposite of malignant.

Biochemistry: A combination of blood tests which measure levels of different chemicals that are produced by the body in the blood. Examples of substances measured include glucose (sugar) and chemicals produced by the liver.

Bladder stones: These form when crystals in the urine all stick together to form a hard lump, literally like a stone.

Body condition: The weight of an animal and also if they have the right proportions of muscle and fat. It is usually measured on a scale of 1 (very thin) to 5 (very fat).

Brachycephalic: Short skull, used to describe dogs and cats with flat faces.

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome: Problems of the airways and breathing in dogs and cats with flat faces.

Bronchitis: Inflammation of the bronchi, a type of airway. It is easiest to imagine the airways like an upside down tree, where the windpipe is the trunk and the lungs are the leaves. The bronchi are the biggest branches.

Bronchopneumonia: Infection of both the bronchi and the lungs.


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Calculus: Hard substance that forms on teeth from plaque.

Campylobacter: A bacteria that can cause diarrhoea in animals and people.

Cartilage: The substance that protects the ends of bones and allows joints to move smoothly.

Cascade system: The set of guidelines for how your vet chooses which medication to use.

Castration: Surgery to remove the testicles.

Cat flu: Several bugs (bacteria and viruses) that infect the upper respiratory tract in cats, symptoms are like those when we have a cold.

Chronic: A condition that starts gradually or an ongoing condition.

Commensal: Healthy or “good” bacteria that live in an animal’s body e.g. in the intestines.

Culture and sensitivity: A laboratory test to see if there are any bacteria present and which antibiotic will treat them best if so.

Cushing’s disease: A condition in dogs where the body produces too much steroid hormone.

Cyst: A fluid filled sac.

Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder.

Cystocentesis: A procedure used to remove a small amount of urine from the bladder by putting a fine needle through the tummy wall.

Cytology: Looking at the type of cells present in a sample.


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Dental disease: Disease of the teeth and gums.

Developmental joint disease: A joint condition that the animal is born with or that occurs while the bones are still growing.

Diabetes mellitus: A condition where there is too much sugar in the blood.

Diagnostic imaging: Usually taking x-rays or doing ultrasound scans.

Diarrhoea: Watery or softer faeces.

Dietary indiscretion: Eating something they shouldn’t.

Discharge: Fluid leaking from part of the body.


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Ear canal: The tube inside the ear.

Ear cleaner: A liquid that breaks up and helps remove wax and debris in the ear.

Eardrum: A very thin sheet at the bottom of the ear canal that separates the outer ear from the deeper structures. When it vibrates it transmits sound, which is how people and animals hear.

Endocrine: Involving the body systems that produce hormones.

Endoscope: A camera on a long thin flexible probe that can be passed into the airways or stomach in order that your vet can see what is happening inside.

Extracted: Removed e.g. tooth extraction.


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Faeces: The proper word for poo.

Fetus: A baby animal (or human) while it is still in the womb.

Fine needle aspirates: Using a fine needle to take small sample from a lump.

Fleas: Very common skin parasite, can be seen with the naked eye.

Food intolerance: When the body reacts badly to a certain type of food, often resulting in sickness and/or diarrhoea.

Foreign bodies: Something in the body that shouldn’t be there e.g. a grass seed in an ear or if a dog eats a toy and it gets stuck in their intestines.

Fracture: A broken bone.

Fungus: A type of bug.


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General anaesthesia: When your pet is fully asleep for an operation or procedure.

Giardia: A protozoa that can cause diarrhoea in animals and people.

Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gums, the precursor to periodontitis.


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Haematology: A type of blood test that measures numbers of different types of cells in the blood (red and white blood cells).

Hair plucks: A sample of a few hairs that can be looked at under the microscope.

Halitosis: Bad or smelly breath.

History: When your vet asks you questions about symptoms you have noticed and anything that has happened to your pet in the past.

Hydrotherapy: Exercising in water to allow joints to move without having to take the weight of the animal as they would on dry ground.

Hyperplasia: When part of the body grows more than it should do. It is usually benign.

Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid gland which produces too much thyroid hormone.

Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland which doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.


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Idiopathic: No cause is identified.

Immune system: This is how the body defends itself from infections and involves the white blood cells.

Impression smears: When a microscope slide is pressed against the skin to pick up cells for cytology.

Infectious: A disease caused by a type of bug e.g. a bacteria or a virus, that can be transmitted from one animal to another.

Infectious tracheitis: Known as kennel cough. A contagious upper respiratory tract infection of dogs.

Inflammation: Part of the body’s response to damage or infection. It usually involves swelling, redness, pain/irritation and/or heat.

Inflammatory: Involving inflammation.

Inflammatory cells: White blood cells that are involved in inflammation, part of the immune system.

Intravenous fluids: This is when fluids are given to an animal directly into their vein and is often known as “going on a drip”. It is often used when animals are dehydrated.


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Kennel cough: See infectious tracheitis.


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Lameness: Limping.

Larynx: Part of the throat that stops food getting into the airways and lungs during swallowing.

Latent infection: Once the body has been infected it will never be able to get rid of the bug, it will just stay dormant and may reappear at times of stress – like cold sores do in people.

Lice: Parasite of the skin, similar to head lice in people.

Lungworm: A type of worm that is picked up by eating slugs and snails and causes lower respiratory tract disease.

Lymph nodes: The glands, for example those in the neck. They can be bigger if there is infection.


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Malignant: Harmful. Used to describe tumours that are more likely to grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body. The opposite of benign.

Mites: Very small parasites that burrow into the skin or live in the ears.

MRI or CT scans: More specialist types of diagnostic imaging done at referral vet practices. They can be used to look at the head and spine.

MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – a type of bacteria that is well known for being resistant to antibiotics.

Mucoid: Made of mucus.


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Neurological: Involving the nervous system – the brain and spinal cord, and nerves in other parts of the body.

Neutered: An animal that has had an operation to stop them reproducing. In females this is removing the womb and ovaries and is known as spaying. In males this is removing the testicles and is known as castrating.

NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, a type of anti-inflammatory medication and pain relief.


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Off-label: See off-licence.

Off-licence: Using a medication in a condition and/or type of animal that it is not licensed for.

Open fracture: A broken bone where the bone is exposed to the outside because of damage to the skin and muscle around it.

Oral: Given by mouth.

Orthopaedic: Involving the bones.

Osteoarthritis: Often known as arthritis, a condition where the cartilage in the joints deteriorates which causes pain and reduces movement.

Osteomyelitis: Inflammation of a bone, often caused by an infection with bacteria.

Otitis externa: Inflammation of the outer ear (the pinna and ear canal).

Otoscope: A device with a light and a magnifying glass for looking in the ear.

Overactive thyroid: When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Also known as hyperthyroidism.


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Pancreas: An organ in the abdomen (tummy) which produces enzymes (chemicals) to help the body digest food. It also produces some hormones, such as insulin.

Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas.

Parasites: Creatures that live on or in another animal. Includes fleas, mites and worms.

Periodontitis: Inflammation and damage to tissues around the teeth e.g. the gums.

pH: A measure of how acid or alkali something is.

Physiotherapy: Treatment involving moving joints and muscles to improve mobility and strength.

Pinna: The ear flap.

Plaque: White sticky substance that builds up on teeth.

Pneumonia: Infection in the lungs, often caused by bacteria.

Predispose: Make more likely to happen.

Probiotic: A medication given by mouth that contains healthy commensal bacteria for the intestines.

Prognosis: What the outcome is likely to be.

Progressive condition: A condition that will gradually get worse with time.

Prostate: Gland found in male animals that produces fluid to help sperm survive.

Protein: The building block for lots of parts of our bodies, for example muscles are made of proteins.

Protozoa: A bug made up of one cell, similar to bacteria.

Purulent: Contains or made of pus.

Pustules: Look like spots and contain a small amount of pus.


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Radiographs (x-rays): Pictures of the body used to look at bones and other organs.

Recurrent: A condition that keeps coming back again.

Red blood cells: Cells present in the blood which carry oxygen to the other cells in the body.

Respiratory system: The organs involved in breathing including the lungs and the tubes leading to them, the airways.

Ringworm: A fungal skin infection in people and animals.

Ruptured diaphragm: A tear in the thin sheet of tissue which separates the chest from the abdomen.


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Scale and polish: Cleaning and polishing teeth with special equipment. The same as dental hygienists do for people.

Secondary infection: An infection that occurs once something else has made the body more susceptible.

Sedation: Makes an animal calmer and sleepier to make sure they stay still, but are not fully asleep like a general anaesthetic.

Sediment analysis: Separating the solid components of urine (cells, bacteria and crystals) from the liquid and looking at them under the microscope.

Self-limiting: A condition that reaches a certain point and then will get better as the body’s immune system reacts.

Self-perpetuating: A condition that forms a vicious cycle and makes itself worse.

Serology: Blood tests that look for evidence of infection e.g. with viruses.

Side effects: Effects of a medication that are not those intended.

Skin cancers: Tumours of the skin. There are many different types so they can look different. They may look like lumps or sore areas, and may be malignant or benign.

Skin scrapes: Using a small blade to remove cells and debris from the surface of the skin to look at under the microscope.

Sperm: Very small swimming cells found in semen which must combine with the egg from the female in the womb to produce a fetus.

Steroids: A type of anti-inflammatory medication.

Surgery: An operation.

Swab: A long cotton bud used to take samples of fluids/discharges.

Symptomatic treatment: Treating the symptoms of a disease but not necessarily the cause.


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Thorax: The chest. Contains the lungs and heart.

Toxoplasma gondii: A parasite that infects cats and people and can potentially cause harm to an unborn baby if it infects a pregnant woman.

Trachea: The windpipe leading from the throat to the lungs.

Tumour: An abnormal growth. It may be benign or malignant.


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Ulcerated: Where the top layer of something is lost, leaving the underneath exposed.

Ultrasound: Used to look at organs in the body. It is used for pregnancy scans in people.

Ureter: Tube from the kidney to the bladder.

Urethra: Tube from the bladder to the outside.

Urinalysis: Doing tests on urine.

Urinary crystals: These form as a precursor to bladder stones.

Urinary tract: The bladder and kidneys and the tubes that connect them to each other and the outside.

Urine dipsticks: Used to measure levels of substances in the urine e.g. blood and protein.

Urine specific gravity: A measure of how concentrated or dilute the urine is.

Uterus: The womb.


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Vaccine: An injection that protects the animal from a particular infectious disease.

Viruses: Tiny type of bug, for example influenza (flu) is a virus.

Vomiting: Being sick.


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White blood cells: Cells in the blood that defend the body from infection. Part of the immune system.


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X-rays: See Radiographs.


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Yeast: A type of bug often found in ear and skin infections.


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Zoonotic: Bugs that can infect both people and animals.


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Disclaimer:  This website has been designed to offer information surrounding the use of antibiotics and infection control for pet owners.  It does not replace advice from your veterinary surgeon.  If you believe your pet is unwell or you have any questions relating to their treatment, please always contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.