Pets have an innate ability to hide signs of illness, often revealing their sickness only in advanced stages. That’s why regular physical exams and screenings are vital for early detection and better outcomes. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the 10 steps involved in a comprehensive exam:
General: We begin by recording weight, vital signs, and overall observations, including immediate impressions such as being “bright, alert, and responsive” or “depressed” and assessing the pet’s body condition score.
The head: Our examination focuses on the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and teeth. We check for any discharge, assess the normal appearance of structures, examine dentition and periodontics, and evaluate the mucous membranes for hydration levels.
Skin and coat: For pets with dense hair, we navigate through the fur to assess the skin’s condition. We look for fleas, ticks, lumps, and check hydration by gently “tenting” the skin at the shoulders.
The chest: We use a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat and breathing. Additionally, we manipulate the pet’s breathing pattern to observe pulses and ensure they synchronize well with the beats of the heart.
Circulatory: As part of steps #1 and #4, we check mucous membranes for refill time and assess pulses during the chest examination to ensure proper synchronization.
Orthopedics: We evaluate the symmetry of musculature, observe the pet’s movement and mobility, and physically examine the limbs, joints, and spine. By feeling along every intervertebral junction, we identify any painful spots.
The abdomen: Palpating the abdomen can be challenging in some cases, as pets may tighten their muscles. We assess the size, texture, and possible presence of abnormal masses in the organs. Sometimes, palpation may be limited due to the pet’s weight.
Lymph nodes: We feel all the peripheral lymph nodes that are typically palpable, such as those in the neck, in front of the shoulders, and behind the knees. Additionally, we check areas where enlarged lymph nodes might be noticeable.
Neurologic: We evaluate the cranial nerves as part of the head exam and assess basic reflexes to ensure normal neurologic function.
The invisible intangibles: Throughout the exam, we pay attention to subtle cues. We consider your pet’s scent, overall behavior, and any details that may trigger our intuition and experience.
The duration of the examination can vary based on the thoroughness required to cover all aspects and gather relevant historical and physical cues. Feel free to ask questions and actively engage in the process, as your participation doesn’t involve any additional cost. Our goal is to provide a meticulous assessment to ensure early detection and prevention, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for your beloved pet.