Dec 14 2015

The physical exam: what exactly is it?

When you go to see your veterinarian, a full health exam is always performed. So what does that consist of? The first part involves taking a few minutes to read about your pet’s history. We may pay special attention to certain facets of your pet’s assessment if something has been suspicious or problematic in the past.

We will then ask you a lot of questions. Sometimes those questions seem strange or repetitive, but trust us, there is a reason we are asking! Your answers and observations at home are essential to help us interpret any findings.

The next step is the physical exam: Often it looks like we are simply petting your pet for a few minutes; however within that short time we are able to assess many things. Watching your pet’s behaviour is a first indicator of certain issues.

Every veterinarian examines things in a different order. What looks like caresses and massages is actually an overall assessment of abdominal organs, lymph nodes and the skin. Running our hands over your companion allows us to find lumps and bumps, crusts and cuts (and the occasional tick), signs of pain and assess if your pet is a healthy body weight. A quick look at the eyes, ears, teeth and mouth allows us to look for abnormalities and assess oral health, which is problematic in 30 to 50% of our patients. Should something be seen, we may look a little more in depth using instruments or diagnostic tests to determine if there is a problem. Finally, we listen to the heart and lungs to see if there are any arrhythmia, murmurs, or abnormal sounds or rhythm.

Putting all of this information together is so important, as our pets cannot talk and our veterinary team acts as their voice. We are specially trained to recognise subtleties that indicate a problem but are difficult to notice in your daily life with your pet.

Should you have questions about what you are seeing, please don’t hesitate to ask, it is a pleasure for us to include you in the process.

mflynn | Health Care, Veterinary Hospital

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