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Woman readingThis dictionary was developed by Thorne Vet with the average pet owner in mind. We want to help you communicate intelligently with your veterinarian on the medical issues and treatments for your pets. Just like talking to a doctor can sometimes be difficult for us all, often talking to a veterinarian is a confusing barrage of unfamiliar terminology. This dictionary was created to help take away the mystery of the terms used in animal medicine and make talking to your vet a simpler and less painful process for you.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
A
 
Acupoint
Specific locations at which treatment by acupuncture is delivered.
Acupressure
Therapy which involves pressing points on the body with the fingers to alter the internal flow of chi in order to strengthen it, to calm it, or to remove a blockage of the flow. The acupressure points are aligned along the body meridians.
Acupuncture
The Chinese practice of inserting needles into specific points (acupoints) along the "meridians" of the body. It is used to relieve pain, to induce surgical anesthesia, and for preventative and therapeutic purposes. The insertion of the needles stimulates the acupuncture points and alters the flow of chi.
Aloe
A tropical herb. The translucent gel from the inner leaves is used externally to relieve burns, skin irritations, and infections. Aloe gel taken internally provides relief from stomach disorders. It is thought to act by inhibiting bradykinin, and thus assist with pain. Aloe gel is used in beauty aids and moisturizers because the polysaccharides it contains help to smooth, soften, and protect the skin. The yellow juice called latex found just beneath the leaf surface acts as a powerful laxative.
Aromatherapy
The essential oils of plants are used to promote relaxation and help relieve the symptoms of certain ailments. Essential oils are extremely concentrated fragrant extracts which are cold-pressed or steam-distilled from blossoms, leaves, or roots. These oils are applied through massage, mixed with water and used as compresses on the skin, added to a bath, or diffused into the air and inhaled. The essential oils should not be ingested.
Ascorbic acid
A substance found in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits (oranges and lemons) and tomatoes. It is water soluble, and vitamin C excesses are excreted through the kidney. It is synthesized within the bodies of most animal species, except primates, guinea-pigs, fruit bats, and some fish. Species which do not synthesize vitamin C require it in their diet. Vitamin C helps to potentiate the antioxidant effect of vitamin E, but in excessive doses, it can cause flatulence and diarrhea.
Astragalus
An herbal remedy from the root of the plant Astragalus membranaceus. Astragalus enhances many bodily functions. Western herbalists believe it to stimulate the immune system and generally strengthen the body by speeding metabolism, promoting tissue regeneration, and increasing energy. In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus is regarded as sweet and slightly warm; it is used to treat general weakness, loss of appetite, spontaneous perspiration, diarrhea, and blood abnormalities or deficiencies from excessive bleeding. The Chinese species is the source of the medicine called huang qi.
Ayurvedic medicine
A form of medicine practiced in India. Health is considered to be a state of balance between the body's physical, emotional, and spiritual systems, and illness is a state of imbalance. Illness may be detected by reading of the pulse and by observation of the tongue. Nutrition, massage, natural medications, meditation, and other modalities may be used for treatment of a wide variety of ailments.
B
 
Beta Carotene
It is one of the forms of carotene. Carotene is a yellow or red pigment from carrots, sweet potatoes, milk and body fat, egg yolk, etc. It is a chromolipoid hydrocarbon existing in several forms. Alpha-, beta- and gamma-carotene are provitamins which can be converted into vitamin A in the body by all animals except cats. Beta-carotene is the most important because of a quantitatively greater activity and is an important antioxidant.
Biofeedback
Therapy that uses machines to measure and display body functions and states such as heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tention, and brain activity. The patient can monitor these functions, see how and why they change through stages of rest and activity. Eventually the patient will learn to control those functions.
Biotin
A member of the vitamin B complex.
C
 
Cat's Claw
The plant, Uncaria tomentosa, derives its name from the pattern of thorns found on the vines. It grows in the Peruvian rain forest and was traditionaly used by the indigenous people to treat cancer and arthritis. It contains immune-enhancing substances, including several antioxidant compounds.
Chamomile
Herbal remedy from the chamomile plant. The most popular is German chamomile. The oil of the chamomile flower appears to calm the central nervous system, relax the digestive tract, and speed the healing process.
Chi
In traditional Chinese medicine, it is the vital force or energy of the body. Disease is an imbalance in this flow of energy in and around the body. Also seen spelled as Qi.
Chiropractic
A system of healing which is based on the idea that the body has an innate self-healing ability and seeks homeostasis. However, subluxations in the joints interfere with the body's ability to maintain optimal health. Through manipulation of the spine and other joints and muscles, the body is brought back into balance and the neuromusculoskeletal system can function smoothly.
Choline
A quaternary amine which occurs in the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is an important methyl donor in intermediary metabolism. It was formerly considered to be a B vitamin.
Coenzyme Q
A natural substance that assists in oxidative metabolism. It may improve the utilization of oxygen at the cellular level.
D
 
Dong quai
A Chinese herbal remedy made from the root of Angelica sinensis, a large plant in the carrot family. It is often called "female ginseng" because it is a general tonic for women and the female reproductive system in much the same way that ginseng acts as a tonic for men and the male reproductive system. Mixed with astragalus, it may provide a tonic for treating fatigue and other symptoms associated with blood loss.
E
 
Echinacea
An herb frequently used by Native Americans of the southwest plains and is now often seen as a garden perennial. It appears to enhance the immune system. Echinacea products come in a variety of forms: tinctures, capsules, tablets, extracts of fresh or dried roots.
Energy medicine
Therapies which use an energy field (electrical, magnetic, sonic, acoustic, microwave, infrared) to detect or treat illness. A practitioner would identify imbalances in the energy fields of the patient's body and then correct them.
Environmental medicine
An approach to medicine which focuses on the role of dietary and environmental allergens on health and disease. Skilled use of environmental medicine may help improve many chronic illnesses.
Evening Primrose Oil
The oil from the seeds of the evening primrose plant is used for a variety of reasons. Supplements may benefit brittle hair and fingernails, and Native Americans used the oil to treat gastrointestinal ills and bruises. The oil contains gamma linolenic acid which is a fatty acid often lacking in Western diets.
F
 
Fat soluble vitamins
Vitamins which are soluble in and absorbed from the intestine in fat. This includes vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Feverfew
A perennial with small blossoms and leaves that are medicinal.
Folic acid
One of the vitamins in the B complex. It is involved in the synthesis of amino acids and DNA.
G
 
Gamma Linolenic Acid
A fatty acid which is found in evening primrose oil or black currant oil. Gamma Linolenic Acid promotes healthy growth of skin, hair, and nails. It may be good for skin conditions; however, it takes six to eight weeks to see changes after the addition of Gamma Linolenic Acid to the diet.
Garlic
This herb is valued as a pungent culinary spice, but it has also gained recognition as a medicinal remedy. It is also thought to strengthen the cardiovascular system.
Ginger
An herb valued as a culinary seasoning; fresh or pickled ginger is good as an anti-emetic compound and calms an upset stomach. It relieves motion sickness and dizziness and improves digestion.
Ginkgo
Extracts of leaves from the ginkgo tree (Ginkgo bilboa) are able to increase the blood flow to the brain. It is able to increase vasodilation and thus improve the blood flow in peripheral areas such as the lower legs and feet.
Ginseng
There are two species of ginseng: Oriental ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium). Both contain compounds that work on the pituitary-adrenal axis to increase resistance to stress and to affect metabolism, skin and muscle tone, and hormonal balance. Oriental ginseng is more of a stimulant and can raise blood pressure in some humans. The oriental ginseng strengthens the immune system and increases the body's ability to deal with fatigue and stress.
Goldenseal
A small perennial with white flowers and red berries. The dried roots and rhizomes act as a stimulant, dries up secretions of mucous membranes, and promotes the production of saliva, bile and digestive enzymes.
Grape
The plant is cultivated in temperate regions around the world. The medicinal parts are the leaves, fruit and juice. Extract from grape seeds can reduce free radicals.
Green Tea
The plant Camellia sinesis was orignially cultivated in China and is now grown as a tea plant in many countries. Green tea contains theophylline which can help boost energy.
H
 
Hawthorn
A European shrub with thorny branches of the Crataegus species. The herb may be prescribed as a mild heart tonic.
Herbal medicine
It involves the use of natural plants or plant-based substances to treat illness and to enhance the body's function. Medicines are prepared from plant materials including leaves, stems, roots, and bark. These treatments usually contain many biologically active ingredients. The herbs can be prepared in many ways and may be found in many forms including pills, capsules, powders, and extracts. The strengths of herbal remedies can vary depending on the species of herbs used, how and when they were gathered, and how they were prepared. Herbal remedies should be used under the guidance of a practitioner familiar with herbal medicine.
Holistic medicine
A healing philosophy which views the patient as a whole body rather than as a disease or a collection of symptoms. A patient's emotional and spiritual state can affect the patient's condition. Also, nutrition, environment, and lifestyle may contribute to an illness. Holistic practitioners may combine traditional forms of treatment (medicication and sugery) with alternative forms of treatment including homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and herbal medicine.
Homeopathy
A system of therapeutics founded by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). It is a philosophy of "like heals like". In this system, the treatments are composed of substances which, in their undiluted state, actually produce the symptoms of the disease in a healthy individual. The substances are diluted to infinitesimal amounts in solutions and vigorously shaken (succussed) before they are given to the patient. Many homeopaths also believe that an individual's mental, physical, and emotional constitution may also need to be treated. The potency is based on the dilution ratio and it is believed that the more diluted the dose, the more potent the effect. A dilution ratio written as 1x is 1 part substance to 9 parts dilution medium, 1c is 1 part substance to 99 parts medium, and 1m is 1 part substance to 999 parts medium. A remedy labeled 20c has first been mixed as 1 part substance to 99 parts dilution base. Then, 1 part of this mixture is then mixed with 99 parts of the base and this dilution process is continued for a total of 20 times.
K
 
Kava
A beverage brewed from the dried roots and rhizomes of the plant Piper methysticum has been consumed in some areas of the South Pacific for many centuries. Kava may have sedative properties.
Kelp
A form of iodine-rich seaweed.
Kinesiology
An investigation of the muscle-gland-organ link for an indication of the cause of illnesses. Practicioners of applied kinesiology believe muscles reflect the flow of ch'i and that by measuring muscle resistance one can determine the health of bodily organs. Once a problem has been identified, various treatment techniques are used to strengthen the muscles involved and restore health.
L
 
Licorice
A commonly used medicinal herb from the plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra which has tiny violet flowers in the summer. Licorice root may be used for digestive disorders. Large amounts of licorice over long periods of time may affect the body's electrolyte balance.
M
 
Massage
The systematic therapeutic stroking or kneading of the body or part. The manipulation of the soft tissues of the body in order to reduce tension and stress, increase circulation, aid the healing of muscle and other soft-tissue injuries, control pain, and promote overall well-being.
Meditation
The practice of sitting or resting quietly and performing mental exercises designed to relax the body and focus concentration.
Maitake Mushroom
Extract of this mushroom supports the immune system.
Milk Thistle
A plant that is used to support liver health. The plant, Silybum marianum, grows wild and in gardens and may reach five feet in height.
Moxibustion
A technique using various applications of heat by burning the herb Artemesia vulgaris to stimulate acupoints. Burning moxa gives off mild and constant heat which effectively penetrates the tissues. It has a pungent smell.
Mustard
Mustard contains ingredients which improve digestion and bowel function.
N
 
N.A.E.T.
Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique is an approach to detecting and eliminating allergies. N.A.E.T. combines Kinesiology and Oriental Medicine to clear allergic reactions. The technique used involves stimulation of specific acupuncture points along the spinal column which are associated with the individual organs of the body. A surrogate may be used when testing animals.
Niacin
A water-soluble vitamin of the B complex found in various animal and plant tissues. It is essential for normal carbohydrate metabolism.
Nutmeg
A spice native to Indonesia which is mostly used in cooking. Nutmeg comes from the nut of the nutmeg apple which grows on an evergreen tree. It may also be used to treat occasional diarrhea, insomnia, indigestion, and flatulence.
O
 
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the constituents of fish oils. Omega-3 fatty acids come in varied forms from salmon oil to capsules of concentrated EPA. Alternatively, flax seeds, flax oil, or hemp oil can be used rather than fish oils. These materials reduce the platelet function for a brief period in dogs, but it seems that dogs compensate for this within about eight weeks. Omega-3 fatty acids replace the 2-series fatty acids over time, and cellular stimulation will instead produce 3-series prostaglandins and thromboxanes. The 3-series do not cause inflammation and reduce blood flow like the 2-series thromboxanes.
P
 
Pantothenic acid
A vitamin of the B complex group that is present in all living tissues as part of the coenzyme A (CoA) molecule or the acyl carrier protein.
Parsley
The leaves of parsley, which are often used in salads and cooked foods, are a source of vitamin C and vitamin A. It may be used as a digestive aid, a diuretic, or a mild laxative.
Psyllium
The ground up seeds of the plant Plantago psyllium are rich in fiber and are used as a safe, gentle, bulk-forming laxative. It is used to treat both constipation and diarrhea because the herb absorbs excess fluid in the bowel and increases stool volume.
Pyridoxal
A form of vitamin B6. Pyridoxal phosphate is a major coenzyme involved in amino acid metabolism.
Pyridoxamine
One of the three active forms of vitamin B6. Pyridoxamine phosphate is a coenzyme involved in amino acid metabolism.
Pyridoxine
One of the forms of vitamin B6.
Q
 
Qi
Qi is an idea of the smooth interaction of the rhythmic patterns or biorhythms within the body. Also seen written as chi.
Qigong
A Chinese discipline which emphasizes breathing, meditation, stationary and moving exercises to enhance the flow of chi.
R
 
Reflexology
A system of therapy which involves manipulation of specific areas of the feet. Different regions of the feet are believed to correspond to particular body systems. It is believed that stimulation of these areas can eliminate energy blockage which produces disease in the associated organs.
Riboflavin
Also known as vitamin B2. It is a component of FAD and FMN, which are coenzymes or prosthetic groups for certain enzymes that catalyse many oxidation-reduction reactions.
Rose Hip
Rose hips are the cherry-sized, bright red fruits that remain after the rose petals have fallen off. These contain vitamin C and flavonoids. Most of the vitamins may be lost if the herb is dried.
Rosemary
An aromatic evergreen perennial which is used as a culinary spice and has many medicinal uses.
S
 
Saffron
An expensive herb derived from the three tiny, orange stigmas within the flower of the plant Crocus sativus. To produce one ounce of saffron, it is necessary to harvest about 5,000 flowers.
Selenium
Selenium is an essential mineral nutrient; it has antioxidant properties similar to vitamin E. Vitamin E can replace the requirement for selenium in the body, but selenium cannot substitute for vitamin E. In addition, selenium does not cross the blood-brain barrier like vitamin E. On the other hand, selenium may help vitamin E to be more effective. Many plant sources are low in selenium and supplementation may be important; however, selenium can create a toxicity if given at too high a level. Never give more than 200 &mug of selenium per day in large dogs nor more than 100 &mug per day to small dogs.
Senna
The woody shrub, Cassia senna, contains chemicals which act as strong cathartics. The leaves and the seed pods are used medicinally.
Shiatsu
A Japanese technique which uses finger and thumb pressure on precise body points to encourage the proper flow of chi.
Shiitake
A fungus that grows on the trunks of dead trees. Shiitake mushrooms are often found in Chinese cuisine.
Siberian Ginseng
Siberian ginseng is derived from the root of a shrub, Eleutherococcus senticosus, found in the Siberian regions of Russia and China. It supports the immune system and increases the body's resistance to disease, stress, and fatigue.
St. Johns Wort
The flowers of this woody perennial have been used externally to help with wound healing.
T
 
T Touch
The Tellington Touch is a method of training developed by Linda Tellington-Jones. It is a technique which uses a combination of specific touches, lifts, and movement exercises. It is believed to enable an animal to learn new behavior more easily, promote optimal health and correct inappropriate behavior by eliminating fear and reactive responses.
T'ai chi
A martial art involving meditation and slow, flowing self-guided movements that follow set forms. This is intended to bring about physical self-awareness and affect the flow of chi.
Tea Tree Oil
Volatile oil from the leaves of Melaleuca trees was used treat cuts, abrasions, burns, insect bites and minor skin problems. The oil is extracted from the leaves by steam distillation.
Therapeutic touch
A method of healing which does not involve actual physical contact. The practictioner aligns and balances the patient's natural energy fields by moving his/her hands above the patient's body. The healer consciously attempts to focus energy to the reciever to balance and unblock energy flows.
Thiamin
Also known as vitamin B1. A component of the B complex group of vitamins. It is found in various foodstuffs and present in the free state in blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid.
Turmeric
An ingredient of Indian curries which is thought to have medicinal properties. It is derived from the root of the plant Curcuma longa which has spongy, orange bulbs and yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. Turmeric is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive aid.
V
 
Valerian
The root of Valeriana officinalis has been used as a mild sedative and sleep aid.
Vitamin
An organic substance found in foods and essential in small quantities for growth, health and survival. The body needs vitamins as well as other food constituents such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and water. Vitamins serve as coenzymes or cofactors in enzymatic reactions. They are required only in trace quantities because they are not consumed in the reactions.
Vitamin A
A fat-soluble, organic alcohol formed in animal tissues from carotenoids found in plants. Also called retinol. It is formed from carotenoids, principally carotene, in the intestinal epithelium, except by cats, and stored in the liver. It is essential for proper growth and maintenance of surface epithelium, for the accurate sculpting and proper growth of bones, and for the maintenance of light-sensitive pigments in the eye.
Vitamin B
A group of water-soluble substances. Excess amounts of B vitamins are eliminated from the body in the urine. B vitamins include biotin, choline, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B12.
Vitamin B1
See thiamin
Vitamin B12
Generic term describing all corrinoids with biological activity of cyanocobalamin. Required by all cells for nuclear maturation and cell division but required particularly for erythropoiesis. The vitamin is produced by ruminants who require only cobalt in sufficient quantities in their diet.
Vitamin B2
See riboflavin
Vitamin B6
A group of methylpyridine derivatives that include pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal.
Vitamin C
See ascorbic acid
Vitamin D
A group of closely related steroids that have antirachitic properties. They commence as provitamins in both plants and animals and are converted by exposure to ultraviolet light. In animals the provitamin 7-dehydrocalciferol is irradiated to form vitamin D3.
Vitamin E
An alpha-tocopherol, one of the three tocopherols found in wheat germ. It is an important nutrient with a number of physiologic and pharmacologic effects. It is a potent antioxidant. Levels greater than 100 IU/day can create hepatolipidosis in cats.
Vitamin K
Group of fat-soluble compounds which are required for the formation of prothrombin and therefore play an important role in blood clotting. They are present in most green feeds and are not likely to be absent from natural diets.
W
 
Water soluble vitamins
Vitamins which are soluble in water. These include vitamin B and vitamin C.
Y
 
Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a good source of the B-complex vitamins, trace minerals, and some protein. A heaping tablespoon of yeast will color a dog's urine yellow due to its content of riboflavin.
Yin and Yang
Concepts used in traditional Chinese medicine to understand the dynamic nature of all the interrelationships in life. Yin and Yang are two stages of a cyclical motion which represent the dual opposite and interdependent aspects of everything in the universe. Everything is paired with its opposite and is represented as Yin (night, darkness, rest, moon, dimmness, cold, weakness) or Yang (day, light, activity, sun, brightness, heat, strength). Disease occurs when there is imbalance in the rhythmic cycling between Yin and Yang.
Yoga
A type of mind/body therapy which involves both physical movement and a meditative state of mind to improve physical and emotional conditions. It consists of meditation and breathing exercises and a series of stretches and poses which calm the mind, relax the body, and ease the spirit.
* These definitions are derived from Bailliere's Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, The Medical Advisor, Veterinary Acupuncture, and the webpage of Roger Clemmons, DVM, Ph.D.

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