Common Veterinary Terms for Orthopedic Injuries and Complications

The most common terms that your veterinarian will use when diagnosing your dog or cat with orthopedic injuries or complications.

Going to the veterinarian can sometimes be an overwhelming process, especially if your pet is injured and in need of immediate assistance. Many times, key terms are utilized in clinics and animal hospitals that most pet parents are unfamiliar with. If you are visiting an orthopedic veterinarian or are looking for orthopedic braces for a dog or cat, here is a list of key terms that may be applicable to understanding any given scenario:

Acupuncture:  A procedure adapted from Chinese medical practice in which specific body areas are pierced with fine needles for therapeutic purposes.

Anti-inflammatory - Medication that prevents or reduces inflammation.

Antiseptic: A substance that can be applied to a surface to make it free from germs

Ataxia: An abnormal gait when walking or running

Bilateral: Meaning on both sides

Blister - A fluid-filled bump on the skin.

Bursa - A fluid-filled body sac located between a tendon and a bone or at points of friction.

Carpal - Relating to bones in the wrist; a wrist bone.

Carpal joint - Any of the joints between the carpal bones.

Cartilage - A somewhat elastic connective tissue that is found at the ends of bones and helps reduce friction as joints move.

Chronic: Used to describe an illness that has been going on for a prolonged period of time

Chronic pain - Pain that persists for longer than the expected time frame for healing, or pain associated with progressive, noncancerous disease, such as osteoarthritis.

Congenital: A condition that has been present since birth

Congenital defect - An abnormality that is present at birth, as a result of either heredity or environmental influence such as a toxin or infection.

Cranial - Relating to the skull, or cranium; toward the head end of the body.

Cranium - The portion of the skull enclosing the brain.

CT scan - See computed tomography.

Cutaneous - Of or relating to the skin.

Debilitated - Having greatly decreased energy and strength.

Deficiency - A lack of something that is required for normal body function.

Degeneration - A condition that causes a gradual deterioration in the structure or function of a body part.

Degenerative joint disease - A form of arthritis characterized by gradual loss of cartilage of the joints. Also called osteoarthritis.

Diagnosis - The identification of a disease based on its signs, physical examination, and appropriate tests.

Dysplasia - Abnormal growth, development, or placement of body parts.

Dystrophy - A degenerative condition caused by a nutritional defect or disorder.

Extra-cranial: Anything outside the skull

Femur - The large bone of the upper hind limb; also known as the thigh bone.

Fibrocartilage - A type of strong, relatively inelastic connective tissue.

Fibromatosis - A thickening and invasive growth in tendon sheaths.

Fibrosis: Replacing normal body tissues with scar tissue

Fibrous tissue - Tissue consisting primarily of high-strength fibers, such as ligaments and tendons.

Flexor tendons - Any of several tendons that act to bend a joint.

Fracture - The partial or complete break of a bone.

Gait - The manner of walking or moving.

Genetic - Having to do with genes or heredity.

Gout - A painful inflammation of joints, often in the foot, that is most often caused by a buildup of uric acid and salts.

Hematoma: a localized collection of boof, usually clotted, in an organ, space, or tissue

Hock - The ankle joint of rabbits, horses, and other 4-legged animals that walk on the same bones that form the toes in humans.

Hygroma - A cyst or sac filled with fluid.

Immune system - The system within an animal that recognizes an infectious agent or other foreign “invader” and mounts an immune response. The immune system includes various organs, such as the thymus gland, spleen, and lymph nodes, as well as specialized cells found throughout the body.

Inflammation - A localized protective response to injury or other tissue damage. The response includes increased blood flow in the surrounding capillaries (causing redness), swelling, increased temperature in the area, and pain.

Inflammatory - Characterized or caused by inflammation.

Intramuscular - Directly in or into the muscle.

Intravenous - A method of administering fluids or medications directly into a vein. Also known by the abbreviation IV.

Invasive - A tumor that tends to spread locally into adjacent tissues.

Joint - The site where 2 or more bones meet. Joints may be movable or immovable.

Laceration - A cut or tear in the skin.

Lameness - An inability to walk or move normally, often, but not always, caused by pain in the limb

Lateral: On the side eg. lateral recumbancy means lying on the side

Lethargy - Lack of energy; apathy.

Ligament - A band of tough, fibrous tissue connecting bones or cartilage at a joint, or supporting an organ.

Long bones - Any of several elongated bones of the legs (for example, the femur and humerus) that have a roughly cylindrical shaft.

Lordosis - An abnormal inward curving of the spine in the lower area of the back.

Luxation - Dislocation.

Metacarpal bones - Bones in a vertebrate animal's forefoot similar to the bones in the human hand between the wrist and the fingers.

Metatarsal bones - Bones in a vertebrate animal's hind foot similar to bones in the human foot between the toes and the ankle.

Muscle - A tissue composed of fibers capable of contracting (and thus producing motion).

Muscular wasting - The steady loss of muscle mass and strength.

Musculoskeletal - Having to do with the muscles, bones, and joints.

Necrosis: Death of tissues eg. necrotic tissue is often found in wounds and abscesses

Nerve - Specialized tissues that transmit electrical impulses serving to relay sensory or motor information between the nervous system and body organs.

Neurologic - Of or pertaining to the nervous system.

Neurologic signs - Impairments of perception or behavior caused by damage to the central nervous system.

Neuromuscular - Having to do with the terminations of nerves in muscle tissue.

Osteoarthritis - See degenerative joint disease.

Osteochondritis dissecans - A condition usually seen in young animals in which the immature joint cartilage separates from the underlying bone.

Osteochondrosis - A condition in which immature joint cartilage separates from the bone and floats loosely in the joint cavity, where it can cause inflammation and interfere with proper bone formation.

Osteomalacia - A condition in adult animals in which the bones soften because of an imbalance in calcium and phosphorus metabolism.

Osteomyelitis - Inflammation of the bones caused by a bacterial infection.

Osteoporosis - A condition marked by loss of bone mass due to poor nutrition, age, or nursing.

Osteosarcoma - A malignant bone tumor.

Palliative: Care aimed at keeping an animal comfortable rather than treating a condition

Paralysis: Loss of use of a part of the body often the limbs

Patella - Kneecap; a flat triangular bone located at the front of the knee joint.

Patellar luxation - Displacement of the kneecap.

Radius - The shorter and thicker bone in the lower forelimb of animals.

ROM: stands for range of motion, typically used to describe a limb or joint’s level of movement

Scar tissue - The pale, inflexible connective tissue that forms at the site of an injury.

Scleroderma: hardened skin

Scoliosis - A congenital sideways curvature or deformation of the spine.

Skeletal disorder - Disease affecting the development or structure of the bones.

Spina bifida - A congenital defect in which the spinal column is imperfectly closed.

Spinal - Of, relating to, or situated near the spine or spinal cord.

Spinal cord - The long bundle of nerve tissue that runs from the brain to the end of the spinal column and connects to the majority of the peripheral nerves.

Spine - The backbone of a vertebrate.

Splint - A rigid device used to prevent motion of a joint or of the ends of a fractured bone.

Tarsal joint - The hock, or ankle joint of the lower rear leg.

Tarsal - Of, relating to, or situated near the bones of the ankle.

Tendinitis - Inflammation of a tendon.

Tendon - An inelastic band of tough fibrous connective tissue attaching a muscle to a bone or other part.

Thoracic - Of, relating to, or situated in or near the chest (thorax).

Thorax - The chest cavity, encased by the ribs and containing the heart, lungs, and other organs.

Tissue - Interconnected cells that perform a similar function within an organism.

Trauma - Damage to living tissue caused by an outside source; a wound.

Unilateral: On one side

For a broader list of veterinary key terms, visit the Merck Manual