Medical Terms & Reference Information


Please visit our Articles page, for additional information.

Addison’s Disease (Hypoadrenocorticism) – Condition that occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient levels of corticosteroid hormones which causes a metabolic & electrolyte imbalance in the dog.

Arthritis (Joint Disease) – Inflammation of a joint causing changes in the bones, fluid, and cartilage which make up the joint. There are two types of arthritis, Degenerative & Inflammatory. Degenerative relates to the wear and tear of the joint from stress, aging, trauma (HBC, ACL). Inflammatory relates to infectious diseases, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or canine immune diseases, such as SLE or RA.

Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) – A disease where the body’s immune system fails to recognize it’s own red blood cells and attacks these cells as if they are foreign invaders.

Amputation – The surgical (or trauma related) removal of all or part of a limb.

BAER Test – A method of determining deafness, practiced in both human and veterinary medicine. The BAER or Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response test, is a procedure which records the electrical activity of the brain in response to sound stimulation.  

Cherry Eye – Cherry eye (Nictitans Gland Prolapse) is a disorder of the nictitating membrane or “third eyelid” in which the connective tissue supporting the gland weakens or detaches. The gland of the eyelid protrudes appearing as a red mass “cherry” causing pain, discomfort, dry eyes, and inflammation.

Ciliary Body – The portion of the eye responsible for producing aqueous humor (water-like substance which provides the cornea and lens with oxygen and nutrients).

Cancer – Any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. See also Tumor.

Canine Epilepsy – A series of seizures (abnormal electrical brain activity). 

Cataracts (Ocular Disease) – Cataracts are opacities in the lens of the eye which occur when the lens fibers are displaced. The displaced fibers lose their transparency and appear cloudy, causing vision loss if not treated. Cataracts can be inherited, caused by disease (such as diabetes), congenital, or trauma related.

Congenital – Defects which occur during fetal development and are present at birth.

Congenital Megaesophagus – A condition in which the esophagus has lost muscle tone resulting in the inability to move food to the stomach. Dogs with this condition require liquid diets, fed from an elevated position. This technique uses gravity to move the liquid food from the esophagus to the stomach. While there is no cure for this lifelong condition, it can be effectively managed with proper diet, care, and veterinary checkups.

Corticosteroid Hormones – Steroid hormones which are released by the adrenal glands in times of high stress “fight or flight”, to adjust metabolism allowing stored resources to be readily available.

Cushing’s Disease (Hyperadrenocorticism) – A condition which occurs when the adrenal glands produce an excess amount of corticosteroid hormones over a long period of time causing an imbalance in metabolism which can be detrimental to the body.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) – A chronic, progressive, neurological disease characterized by the slow deterioration of the spinal cord resulting in paralysis. The cause of DM is unknown, however research suggests it Is linked to an autoimmune disorder.

Diabetes Insipidus (DI) – Disorder of water balance where the kidneys produce abnormally large volumes of dilute urine. Signs include increase in thirst, fluid intake, urination frequency and output. The disease is not to be confused with Diabetes Mellitus which is a disorder of sugar metabolism.

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) – Diabetes Mellitus is a condition caused by the deficiency of insulin, resulting in an inability to use glucose (blood sugar). Glucose comes from starches (carbohydrates) in the diet, and it is the main fuel for the body. When diabetes occurs, the body can’t use the glucose from the diet, so it builds up in the blood, and is excreted in the urine.  This causes weight loss, exercise intolerance, cataracts, and recurring infections. Common clinical signs are excessive thirst and urination. Diabetes is treated with diets that are low in simple carbohydrates, and insulin replacement therapy.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) – Disease of the heart muscle characterized by the progressive loss in the muscles’ ability to contract. As the muscle dilates to compensate for the ineffective pumping, it weakens, resulting in decreased cardiac output and heart failure. 

Enteropathy – Referring to a disease of the intestine. 

Glaucoma – Ophthalmic (ocular) disease which occurs when an elevation in intraocular pressure damages the optic nerve resulting in pain and potential blindness.

Hip Dysplasia  – A genetically inherited disease which causes malformation of the hip joints during development.

Idiopathic – Medical/Veterinary term meaning “of unknown cause”.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) – Neurological condition which occurs when the disc becomes displaced due to damage or degeneration. The displaced disc protrudes upward putting pressure on the spinal cord which inhibits nerve transmission causing pain, weakness, and paralysis.

Iris – The colored portion of the eye that controls the amount of light that enters into the eye by expanding and contracting in response to the brightness of light.

Mydriasis – Prolonged dilation of the pupil of the eye, usually as a result of trauma, a medical disorder, or a drug.

Nephropathy – Referring to a disease of the kidneys

Ocular Disease – Diseases which affect the eye and visual system.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) – A hereditary disease of articular (joint) cartilage which usually occurs during developmental stages. The disease can affect any joint and is characterized by malformation or damage to the cartilage resulting in partial or full separation from the bone.

Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE) – A condition in which excessive protein is lost from the gastrointestinal tract. 

Protein Losing Nephropathy (PLN) – A defect in the kidneys in which protein lost rather than the intended waste products.

Seizure – A neurological disorder resulting in abnormal electrical brain activity. Causes include trauma, tumors, brain defects, and drugs. See also Epilepsy. 

Tumor – An abnormal mass or tissue resulting from uncontrolled cell multiplication. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). See also Cancer.

Uveitis – Ocular disease caused by an inflammation of the iris and ciliary body. Causes include trauma to the eye, tumors, disease (Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), infections (viral & systemic), and immune-mediated conditions. 

Vestibular Disease – “Vestibular” or “Vestibular System” refers to balance. Vestibular diseases are those which affect the body’s equilibrium.