Common Veterinary Abbreviations, Words and What They Mean

With every profession there seems to be a secret language or code spoken for the purpose of confusing everyone else. Veterinary medicine is no different with our alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations that we use as short hand.




Usually I remember to ask my clients if they understand what I mean when I give them instructions. But sometimes I forget.
So here are some of the ones I commonly use in practice and what they mean.

When Giving Injections –
1. SQ or Sub Q – subcutaneously, this means you give the shot under the skin. Most animals you can tent the skin and slid the needle into the tent.
2. IM – intramuscular, this one is a shot given in the muscle. Most animals you give the shot in the neck muscles, some you give in the muscles of the back leg. I’ll often show my clients how and where to give these shots before making them do it on their own.
3. IV – intravenously, this is an injection I will not have you do because so many things can go wrong if done improperly. This is an injection into a vein. With most farm animals I use the jugular vein, with dogs and cats I use their leg veins.
4. IN – intranasally, meaning into the nose. Equine strangles vaccine and canine kennel cough vaccines are often given this way.

Filling A Syringe To Give Animal Injection

Drawing medication into a syringe

When Giving Medications –
1. PO – per os, this simply mean giving something by mouth or oral medications
2. SID or q24hrs – this is short hand for giving something only once a day
3. BID or q12hrs – short hand for giving something twice daily
4. TID or q8hrs – short hand for giving something three times daily
5. QID or q6hrs – short hand for giving something four times daily
6. EOD – short for giving something Every Other Day
7. mL or mil or cc – milliliter aka cubic centimeter, both mean the same amount. 1 mL is equal to 1 cc. This is an amount of liquid I want you to give as an injection or as an oral med.
8. mg or mig– milligram, this is an amount and a weight
9. kg or kig– kilogram, this is a unit of weight that the rest of the world uses and so is the standardized way for veterinarians to record and calculate weights. One kg is equal to about 2.2 pounds or lbs.
10. mg/mL or mig per mil– milligram per milliter, this is a concentration. For example, the common antibiotic LA-200 has a concentration of oxytetracycline of 200 mg/mL. The anti-inflammatory Banamine has a concentration of 50 mg/mL. I use these concentrations to help me figure out how many mLs I need to have you give your animal.
11. mg/kg or mig/kig – milligram per kilogram. When I’m calculating doses, I’m often given the appropriate dose as “give this number of mg per kg of animal weight.” For example with Safeguard, the dose for goats is 10mg/kg. I have to know how much your goat weighs so I can turn that into kgs and multiple things together to get you the correct dose.
12. IU – international units, this is another concentration often found on the labels of penicillins and vitamins. Instead of mg/mL, the concentration is IU/mL
13. X – I use this one personally; another vet may use something different. I use it when I want someone to give more than the labelled dose, for example “Give Safeguard at 5X the labelled dose,” when I want you to take the labelled dose and multiply it by 5. I’ll also use it to tell you how many days I want you to give it. “Give Safeguard at 5X the labelled dose X 5 days,”
Hopefully these clarify some of the label directions that I, or another vet, may give you and you can translate “Give Safeguard at 5X labelled dose PO SID X 5 days,” and “Give 4.5 cc/100lbs (9mg/lb dosing) LA200 IM EOD X 3 treatments.”

Where Things Are Located On Your Animal –
1. Rostrally – towards the nose. Usually I’m describing something on the face
2. Cranially – towards the head
3. Caudally – towards the back-end
4. Dorsally – towards the back or spine area
5. Ventrally – towards the belly
6. Laterally – towards the side
7. Medially – towards the center
8. Distally – away from. Usually used to describe something on a limb
9. Proximally – near to, another one used to describe something on a limb.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But hopefully the next time you talk to your vet, you’ll be able to better understand what we’re talking about when we forget to translate.
Dr. H

***Today’s post is authored by Dr. Risa Hanninen.
Dr. Hanninen is a 2013 graduate from Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.Her practice, Northwest PA Veterinary Service, is a mobile veterinary practice that stretches across seven counties in Pennsylvania and into eastern Ohio.

If you live in northwestern Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio you can contact Dr. Hanninen at (814) 573-7013

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