Tackling The Veterinary Terminology: Suffixes (-emia)

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

The suffix is the bit that will tell you about what procedure, condition, disease or disorder you're dealing with.
-emia [ē-mē-ə] from Greek - a condition of the blood

The medical term in which this suffix is used, refers to a condition or a disease of the blood. On its own, this is pretty straightforward stuff too.

Blood has many important functions.

It transports oxygen, nutrients and other essential compounds to body tissues and organs. It caries waste products so they can be excreted from the body. It transports hormones from the endocrine glands. It transports white blood cells and platelets.

Image Encyclopedia Britannica

It also aids in regulation of body temperature, and regulation of tissue fluid content.

What can be found in the blood reflects the state of various body systems.

The most familiar word ending with -emia is anemia

Anemia refers to a suboptimal amount of red blood cells in the blood. That is clearly a bad thing. Not enough red blood cells means not enough oxygen for the body.

Anemia can be cause simply by blood loss, but also destruction or lack of production of the red blood cells. An example of a condition that leads to destruction of red blood cells is IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia). With this conditions, the body's own immune system attacks and destroys its red blood cells.

Discovering that something in the blood isn't as it should be is only the beginning.

The next important step is figuring out WHY it is not right.

If we stick with the anemia, it can be caused by blood loss, whether obvious, or not readily visible - internal bleeding. It can be caused by the immune system gone haywire. Toxins, nutritional deficiencies, bone marrow disease, even chronic kidney disease can lead to anemia.

Besides the blood cells themselves, there is the potential for excess or deficiency in any of the compounds that blood caries.

Hypo- or hyperglycemia refer to blood sugar levels that are either lower or higher than they should be. Your dog could have hypo- or hypercalcemia; hyperlipidemia, or simply lipemia, excess levels of fat in the blood; uremia, or azotemia, higher than normal levels of creatinine or blood urea nitrogen, and so on.

Each of these conditions are important clues to an underlying problem.

Because keeping the amounts of all blood stuffs at appropriate levels is crucial, the body goes to great lengths regulating them. The failure of this regulation means there is something very serious going on.

Related articles:
What's In The Blood? Blood Testing And Interpretation
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde: Razzle's Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA)

Veterinary Suffixes (-itis)
Veterinary Suffixes (-oma) 
Veterinary Suffixes (-pathy)  
Veterinary Suffixes (-osis) 
Veterinary Suffixes (-iasis) 
Veterinary Suffixes (-tomy) 
Veterinary Suffixes (-ectomy)  
Veterinary Suffixes (-scopy)


  1. Thanks for the valuable information presented so that even I can understand.

    1. Hi Gizmo, thank you for visiting! I'm working hard to making these things understandable, glad you think they are.

  2. It's funny. Each time I read these, I have no clue at first and then as I continue reading I think "of course, I know that." But, of course, I don't know as much as I think I do. I love this series.


    1. Thank you, I've been wondering whether these were useful to anybody :-)


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