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A Veterinarian's Guide to Common Medical Terms - Prefixes

This article originally appeared on my ongoing series of articles for Flexcin International, Inc as A Veterinarian's Guide to Common Medical Terms - Prefixes

When you go to the veterinarian, do you leave feeling confused about your pet’s current state of wellness or illness?   Were you subjected to an flood of medical terminology that doesn’t make sense or is hard to remember.  Although I use scientific terms in my veterinary practice and Flexcin Blog, I consider that most of clients and audience do not have medical degrees and just want to better understand their pet’s health in a clear and concise manner.


To facilitate your comprehension of the information provided by your veterinarian, I’ve put together a list of common terms I'll be diving into two parts, prefixes and suffixes.  Today, we'll discuss prefixes.

Veterinary Medical Prefixes

  • Adreno- adrenal glands. Hyperadrenocorticism is the medical term for Cushing’s disease, a common glandular condition affecting adult and geriatric dogs (and some cats).
  • Arthro- joints.  Arthritis is inflammation of one or multiple joints and one of Top 5 Most Common Reasons Your Pet May Develop Joint Pain (video and article).
  • Derma- skin.  Also dermato-. A dermatologist is a doctor specializing in skin problems.  Dermatophyte is a fungal organism that infects the skin and causes Ringworm (Dermatophytosis).
  • Cardio- heart. Also cardiac. Cardiology is the branch of medicine pertaining to the heart.
  • Cysto- bladder.  Cystocentesis is the process of removal of urine directly from the bladder, most commonly with a needle or catheter.
  • Cyto- cells. Cytology is the microscopic evaluation of cells which permits a pathologist to make a diagnosis.
  • Entero- intestines.  Also enteric. Enterotomy is procedure where the intestinal wall is surgically opened.
  • Gastro- stomach. Also gastric. The stomach contains gastric acid which helps digest food.
  • Hemo- blood. Also hema- and hemato-.   Hemocyte is a medical term for a red blood cell.  Hematoma is consolidation of blood in an enclosed space, such as an ear flap.
  • Hepato- liver.  Also hepatic. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver.
  • Hyper- elevated or excessive. Hypertension is elevated blood pressure.
  • Hypo- reduced or deficient. Hypothyroidism is a disease involving reduced production of thyroid hormone, which leads to weight gain, lethargy, reduced immune system function, and other health problems.
  • Lympho- lymph vessels and cells.  Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells involved in immune system function.
  • Neuro- nerve. Neurology is the field of medicine focusing on the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves)
  • Ophtho- eye.  An ophthalmologist is a specialist practicing exclusively on eyes.
  • Osteo- bone. Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of bone under cartilage surfaces within joints and the most common cause of joint pain.
  • Pulmon- lungs.  A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that prevents blood flow to the lungs.
  • Pyo- white blood cells or ‘pus’.  Pyoderma is infection of the skin (usually by bacteria).
  • Reno- kidney.  Also renal.  A renograph is a diagnostic imaging technique permitting visualization of the blood flow through the the kidneys.  Renal failure is a disease process where the kidney function is greatly compromised.
  • Thrombo- platelets. Thrombocytes are the cells responsible for forming blood clots.

Hopefully, this list will provide some help in translating a diagnosis given to your cat or dog by your veterinarian.  Many other prefixes exist, but I chose to share those I felt were most relevant for pet owners.

If you don’t understand what is going on with your pet based on the information presented by your veterinarian, always ask for clarification.

Is there a medical term you heard your veterinarian say that wasn’t quite clear or a pet health issue about which you are confused?  Please share your perspective or questions in the comments section.

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).

Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.


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