Tackling The Veterinary Terminology: Suffixes (-pathy)

Remember the Spelling Bee? Big words are easier to tackle when you understand how they're put together. Veterinary terms are composed the same way. Just like with any other words, the main parts of veterinary terms are a prefix, a root, and a suffix. The difference is that they typically originate from Greek or Latin.

The suffix is the bit that will tell you about what procedure, condition, disease or disorder you're dealing with. Well, usually ...

-pathy [pəθi] from Greek - disease

By itself, this one is probably the vaguest of all medical suffixes. All it's really saying is that there is something wrong with whatever root word precedes.

For example, myelopathy means that there is a disease of the spinal cord. Without further qualification, quite useless, really. Degenerative myelopathy then is a progressive deterioration of the spinal cord. Not that anybody really understands why this happens.

Wobbler syndrome (cervical spondylomyelopathy) is a disease of the cervical spine. Anatomical problem with the spine (slipped disc or bony malformation) compresses the spinal cord, causing pain and difficulty walking. But you won't learn any of that from the suffix.

Wobbler Syndrome (CVI). Image Sirius Dog.

Myopathy means muscle disease, neuropathy means nerve disease and so on.

I guess it sounds better than saying, "there is something wrong with the dog's muscle(s) or nerves." And it is easier to understand for veterinarians in all languages.

Not a whole lot of useful information, though.

Only when it is further qualified, you can actually learn something.

For example, dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes thin and unable to contract normally. This causes enlargement of the heart and its ability to pump blood deteriorates. But it's the bit that comes BEFORE the suffix that tells you all that.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Image The Big Hearts Fund

Related articles:
Veterinary Suffixes (-itis)
Veterinary Suffixes (-oma)