4 Confusing Vet Phrases, and How to Decode Them Understanding Vet Lingo

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Veterinarians spend years and years in school, being specifically trained to use proper medical jargon. However, that really doesn't go over well when speaking to your average pet parent. So here are some confusing phrases you may hear your vet say, and what they really mean.

It can sometimes seem like vets are speaking another language -- the medical language they learned in veterinary school. It’s possible your vet won’t always remember to translate their jargon into phrases we lay people can understand. If you’ve ever been confused or frightened by vet-speak, then you might want to read about these common, confounding phrases your vet could use, and what they mean.

1. Tumor

When you hear the word “tumor” do you immediately think of cancer? Tumor simply means that an area is swollen. While it is possible a tumor could be caused by a malignant growth of cells – which does mean cancer – a tumor can also be a benign cyst. A sebaceous cyst or a fatty tumor is usually noncancerous and painless. There are 10 types of tumors in dogs that can be seen on the skin. Tumors that are attached to the skin are often cancerous, whereas tumors capable of being moved with your fingers are more likely to be benign. Read about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pets with cancer.

2. Borreliosis

Lyme borreliosis is another name for Lyme disease. It is a disease that’s transmitted via a tick bite. Ticks that cause Lyme disease are carrying a type of bacteria that belong to the genus Borrelia. The disease is also named after Lyme, Connecticut, where the first cases of the disease were identified. Click here to read about Lyme disease symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

3. Complete blood count (CBC)

The most common blood test performed both on pets and people, your vet may order a complete blood count -- or CBC -- to diagnose why a pet is presenting with common symptoms such as pale gums, weakness, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.

A complete blood count determines the number and types of blood cells present, specifically red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. White blood cells are critical to immune function. A low white blood cell count in dogs is known as neutropenia. Learn about the five different types of white blood cells.

There are a whole host of abbreviated terms and seemingly mysterious phrases that vets might use to describe various components of your pet’s blood work. Don’t be shy in asking your vet to define what they’re talking about.

4. Panosteitis

Panosteitis is characterized by severe pain in the long leg bones. While it may be a little understood disease, if your vet tosses around this scary-sounding term, it most likely means your dog has growing pains. Some symptoms associated with panosteitis are depression, lack of appetite, and limping or lameness. Growing pains most commonly afflict mid-to-large size breeds as the long bones in their legs grow rapidly from months 5 to 18. Growing pains typically resolve on their own, but your vet can help with pain management in the meantime if your dog is needlessly suffering.

Remember that your vet is your partner in helping your pet stay healthy, and you are your pet’s number one advocate. It is not good for anyone if you don’t understand your pet’s prognosis or treatment plan, so ask plenty of questions until you’re comfortable knowing exactly what’s happening with your pet and what’s expected of you.

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