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Top Acronyms and Abbreviations in Veterinary Medicine

female veterinarian examining a small dog

Have you ever taken a peek at your pet's veterinary chart? It may seem like a jumble of letters, but those vet acronyms and abbreviations have important meanings.

What are Veterinary Abbreviations Acronyms?

Veterinarians and veterinary technicians may use a sort of short-hand to make notes in your pet's medical chart. This isn't to confuse you or keep you in the dark. It lets them jot things down quickly and efficiently. It's a common practice among human medical doctors as well.

There is some debate about whether veterinary abbreviations and acronyms should be used at all. They can be misread or misunderstood, especially if they're not legibly written. It's also argued that noting "left eye" rather than "OS" is not much of a time saver.

Veterinarians in training also have a packed curriculum so perhaps learning abbreviations and acronyms is one extra thing that could be taken off their plate. However, they're still used by many veterinarians, so it's good to have some understanding of them.

Keep in mind if you ever spot something on your pet's chart that you're not sure about, you should ask your veterinarian. They'll be happy to tell you what it means and, more importantly, explain how it relates to your pet.

female veterinarian checking the ears of a Cornish rex cat

Parts of the Body

Some veterinary medical terminology refers to different body parts and sides of the body. They're often based on Latin translations.

The Eyes Have It

The abbreviations for eyes are actually the same ones you'd see on your own eyeglass prescription. The "O" stands for oculus, which means eye in Latin.

Your veterinarian might use a notation like OD if your pet got poked with a toy in the right eye. If something like an eye infection or cataracts is affecting both eyes, they may write down OU as part of the diagnosis.

Cataracts, pink eye, glaucoma, and cherry eye are some of the most common eye problems for dogs. Learn more about dog eye disorders.

Can You Hear Me?

Like the acronyms for eyes, the ones for ears are based on Latin terms. The "A" stands for auris, which is translated as ear.

So, let's say your cat had mites in both ears. Your veterinarian might mark AU in their records and recommend prescription drops to clear them up. If your dog had an ear infection in their left ear but not the right, an AS could indicate that on your pup's chart.

Dogs with floppy ears may be more prone to ear infections. Find out more about dog ear infections and what you can do to prevent them.

Diagnostic Testing

If your pet is hurt or sick, your veterinarian will recommend various diagnostic tests to help them figure out what's going on for your pet. The right diagnosis is the first step to creating a treatment plan that can help your pet recover from whatever is ailing them.

Diagnosis also has an acronym, which is Dx. Here are some common abbreviations for diagnostic tests:

If your veterinarian is not seeing anything wrong based on a specific diagnostic test, they may note NAF (No Abnormal Findings) or WNL (Within Normal Limits) on their chart.

male veterinarian inspecting a dogs ears while girl looks on

Care and Treatment

Once your veterinarian has a diagnosis, they can recommend a treatment plan to set your pet on the road to recovery. Your pet may need surgery, which is sometimes denoted as Sx. They could also need fluid or medications, which could be administered directly into a vein (IV or intravenous) or into the muscle (IM or intramuscular).

If your pet needs medication, you might come across these notations in relation to their prescriptions. Prescription is abbreviated as Rx, just like it is for our own prescriptions.

Sometimes a pet shouldn't ingest anything because they've just had surgery or due to a specific health condition. In this case, you may see NPO, which denotes Nothing by Mouth.

Do you know what to do if your pet eats something they shouldn't, like a toxic plant or harmful food? Get tips on handling a pet poison emergency.

Conditions

There are many different types of injuries and illnesses that can affect our pets. Here are abbreviations for some of the more common conditions and symptoms.

Like veterinary terminology, pet insurance terms can be hard to decipher. Get plain English definitions for words that describe our coverage, such as deductible and annual limit.

Veterinary Degrees

Even veterinary degrees are abbreviated. DVM stands for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Typically, veterinarians complete 4 or more years of undergraduate education, including coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, math, animal science, and other subjects.

After that, they'll spend another 4 or so years in veterinary school, where they'll dive deeper into studies related to multiple animal species and their body systems. Veterinary students also complete clinical rotations where they can get firsthand knowledge of animal patient care under the guidance of experienced mentors.

Once a veterinarian has graduated and earned their DVM, they may continue their education with an internship or residency. They may also choose to become board certified in a specialty area, such as oncology or cardiology. In any case, they must be licensed in the states where they plan to practice, which requires them to pass a national exam.

What Does VMD Mean?

If your veterinarian attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, they'd receive a VMD degree, which stands for Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris (VMD). This degree is the equivalent of a DVM.

The difference in names is because the veterinary school at this university was originally part of their medical school. All schools coming out of the medical school use the same Latin format for their degrees. For example, dentists at their dental school are awarded the Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris (DMD).

What About MRCVS?

It's becoming increasingly common for American students to attend veterinary school in the United Kingdom. Graduates of these programs earn the title MRCVS, which stands for Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

All of these vet acronyms and abbreviations can seem like alphabet soup. Just remember they're intended to help your veterinarian care for your pet in the most efficient way possible.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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