Acronyms and Definitions

Veterinary practice teams should be familiar with the following acronyms and definitions related to working and service dogs. NOTE: All definitions and allowances are subject to change with updates to federal, state, and local regulations and policies. It is advisable to refer to the most current policy for guidance.

Acronyms and Abbreviations

  • AAA Animal-assisted activity
  • AAI Animal-assisted intervention
  • AAT Animal-assisted therapy
  • ADA Americans with Disabilities Act
  • CBRNE Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and highyield explosives
  • CBP Customs and Border Protection
  • CIV Canine Influenza Virus
  • DEA Drug Enforcement Administration
  • DLSS Degenerative Lumbosacral Stenosis
  • DM Degenerative Myelopathy
  • EIC Exercise Induced Collapse
  • EMT Emergency medical technician
  • ESA Emotional support animal
  • FHA Fair Housing Act
  • GDV Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus
  • HBC Hit by Car
  • HMO Health management organization
  • HUD U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • HW Heartworm
  • K9 Canine
  • MBW Metabolic Body Weight
  • MDR1 Multidrug Resistance Mutation 1
  • MER Metabolic Energy Requirement
  • MPC Multipurpose canine
  • MWD Military working dog
  • MS Musculoskeletal
  • NRC National Research Council
  • OHE Ovariohysterectomy
  • PRA Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • PTSD Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • S&R Search and rescue
  • TPLO Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
  • TSA Transportation Security Administration
  • TTA  Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
  • USAR Urban search and rescue
  • USDA United States Department of Agriculture
  • UTI Urinary Tract Infection 


Practice Team Attributes and Skill Sets for the Care of Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dogs
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Knowledge Topics: Veterinary Team Members Should:
Relationship with the handler
  • Understand what the dog’s “job” is, and how they interact with their handlers.
  • Have a willingness to partner with the handler
Handling: Locations
  • Have a willingness to adapt waiting room policies to involve the handler/owner.
Handling: General
  • Provide calm, low-stress handling.
  • Consider additional time for appointments (e.g., scheduled appointment at the end of the day).
  • Prioritize early intervention and accomodation for common disease processes (e.g., otitis, dermatitis)
  • Have experience /work toward gaining experience—watch the dogs work.
  • Have a genuine interest in what these dogs do.
  • Develop/have an appropriate confidence in working with potentially reactive dogs.
  • Use appropriate terminology for these dogs (canine vs. military working dog, etc.)
  • Recognize the importance of timely and thorough communication with the handler and/or the organization that owns the dog.
  • Discuss with the handler how they prefer to have initial and follow-up communications handled.
  • In many cases, provide written follow-up outlining the expected duration of recovery and return to work.
  • Understand when dealing with service/assistance dogs: Importance of communications tailored to disabled individuals (e.g., call-backs, e-mails).


animal-assisted activities (AAA). The term for animal-assisted activities delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, or volunteers in association with animals that meet specific criteria and provide opportunities for motivation, education, or recreation to enhance quality of life. (A compilation of definitions of AVMA Animal-Assisted Interventions is available online.1)

animal-assisted therapy (AAT). A goal-directed intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process delivered or directed by health or human service providers working within the scope of their profession. Animal-assisted therapy is provided in a variety of settings and may be group or individual in nature.1

assistance dog (assistance animal). Assistance animals do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or provide psychological support for a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity or bodily function. An assistance animal is not a pet. (Eligibility requirements for an assistance animal are described in 24 C.F.R. §§ 5.303; 960.705; FHEO-2010-01, Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act. Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, January 28, 2020, pp 1–19).

canine handler (dog handler, K9 handler). A person who has successfully completed a recognized course of canine handling in a specific discipline and maintains those abilities through field applications, maintenance training, certification, recertification, and department-, agency-, or organization-required continuing canine education.2

detection dog (detection canine or K9). A dog trained to detect and alert to the presence of certain scents or odors for which it has been trained. May be referred to as a law enforcement or search and rescue service canine, which is not to be confused with dogs covered by the ADA (e.g., medical detection dog).3

dual-purpose canine (dual-purpose dog or K9). A canine trained in two disciplines (e.g., a narcotics detection dog also trained for apprehension).3

emotional support animal (ESA). An animal of any species that provides therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities in which the use is supported by a qualified physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional based upon a disability-related need. ESAs do not qualify as service animals under the ADA or under a recent ruling by the U.S.Department of Transportation because they do not require training to perform a particular task. (Regulations involving ESAs are available at FHEO-2010-01, Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act. Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, January 28, 2020, p 1–19, and at 24 CFR Part 5, Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Persons With Disabilities; Final Rule. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 208. October 27, 2008, pp 63834–63838 and Service Animal Final Rule, U.S. Department of Transportation.)

multipurpose canine (MPC). A military working dog employed by U.S. Special Forces.3

protection dog (protection canine or K9, operational canine or K9, security dog or K9). A broad term encompassing many individual types of dogs trained to alert to and deter human or animal threats. Protection refers to the behaviors associated with defense of self or other group members including humans when threatened or when a potential threat is perceived. Examples include police dog, law enforcement canine, private security dog, patrol dog, and livestock guard dog.3

sensory threshold (behavioral threshold). The amount of a stimulus that is necessary to produce a response from a dog.3

service dog. Any dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, or trained or untrained, are not considered service animals. (Service dog regulations are described in 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.104; 36.104, Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Regulations. Department of Justice, September 15, 2010, p 33).

single-purpose canine (sole-purpose canine, K9, dog). A dog trained in only one discipline, typically based on odor/scent detection (e.g., narcotics detection dog, explosives detection dog, search and rescue dog, medical detection dog).3

therapy dog. An umbrella term for a dog that is used in animalassisted activities or goal-directed interventions of animal-assisted therapy and is not recognized by the ADA as a service animal. (See 28 CFR 36, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities. Department of Justice, Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 178, September 15, 2010, pp 56268–56269; 73 FR 34508, 34553 (June 17, 2008); and AVMA Legal context for assistance animal use – definitions4).

These guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from the AAHA Foundation,
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis.