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Healthy Paws: Strange Veterinary Medical Terms

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

Have you ever heard your doctor or pet’s veterinarian rattle off a list of strange words that seem to make no sense? Most of these are derived from Latin roots and serve to concisely describe what otherwise may be a wordy description.

Borborygmi  of Greek origin, indicating a rumbling of the gastrointestinal tract as the small intestine contracts to move ingesta through

Brachycephalic  Greek for “short head,” or a “smooshed”-faced skull conformation — i.e. Pugs, Boxers, Boston terriers, Shih Tzus

Coprophagia  The eating of feces, derived from Greek copros – “feces” and phagia – “to eat.” This rather icky tendency, especially in dogs, is also typically behavioral in nature, rather than due to a nutritional deficiency. Though animals such as rabbits will do this to maintain gut bacterial populations.

Crepitus  Grinding, creaking, cracking, grating, crunching or popping that occurs when moving a joint; Latin for “rattle” or “crack,” most often appreciated in arthritic joints

Cryptorchid — A condition that occurs when one (or both) testicle does not descend into the scrotal sac

Dolicephalic — Greek for “long”-faced skull conformation — i.e. Collies, Greyhounds, many other sight-hound breeds

Emesis — Vomiting, from the Greek word emein, which means “to vomit.” We often prescribe antiemetics to control or stop vomiting in our patients.

Hematemesis — Blood in the vomit

Hematochezia — Blood in the stool

Hematuria — Blood in the urine

Idiopathic — A condition with unknown cause or spontaneous origin and derived from Greek idios – “one’s own” and pathos – “suffering.” Basically, a fancy way to say “we don’t know.”

Melena — of Greek origin. The passage of black, tar-like stools indicating the presence of digested blood (happens with gastric or small intestinal ulceration & bleeding).

Ovariohysterectomy — Removal of the ovaries and uterus (commonly referred to as a spay)

Orchiectomy — Removal of the testicles (commonly referred to as a neuter or castration)

Peristalsis — Muscle contractions that propel food throughout the gastrointestinal tract

Pica — The appetite for non-nutritive substances such as dirt, hair or paper. In dogs and cats, is more often due to behavioral or primary gastrointestinal tract disease — that results in inadequate absorption of nutrients — reasons rather than an inadequate diet. Derived from the Latin name of the magpie bird, who reportedly was willing to eat nearly anything.

Polydactyl — Quite literally, “extra fingers,” typically seen in cats that will have more than the typical five digits

Stomatitis — Inflammation of the mouth; from Greek work stoma for “mouth”

Tenesmus — Straining to defecate; via Greek teinesmos, “straining,” from teinein, “stretch, strain.”

And, even though this isn’t particularly relevant to us in veterinary medicine, this one is just too fun to not mention:

Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia An “ice cream headache,” which is actually referred nerve pain at the sphenopalatine ganglion area of the brain caused by quick consumption of COLD beverages or foods

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