Here's what we're doing while your pet's on the exam table
Have you ever sat in the vet's office wondering what on earth the vet was doing to your dog or cat as it is sitting on the exam table? Here's your chance to find out!
First off, most vets have their own way of conducting the exam, and they do it in the same way each time. For me, it helps organize my thoughts and makes sure I don't leave anything out.
The order doesn't matter, so don't worry if it doesn't look the same between different vets.
Here's what I do:
I start at the head. I look at both eyes, both eyelids and the conjunctiva. I'm looking for any inflammation or discharge, and looking for a normal pink color to the membranes and white color on the eyeball. I'll look at the size of the pupils, and make sure it's the same in both eyes.
Then I look at the nose and the nostrils, again looking for any discharge or inflammation. Next is the mouth. I look at all the teeth and gums. I look for any loose, broken or missing teeth, infected or inflamed gums, and check for plaque buildup. I check the tongue and the lips. I'll open the mouth and look as far back as I can into the throat.
On to the chest. I'll listen to the heart and lungs with my stethoscope. I'm listening to the heart rate and rhythm, and checking for heart murmurs. I'll listen for any abnormal lung sounds. I'll also look at the breathing rate and effort.
Then I palmate the abdomen. I'm seeing if their is any tenderness or anything out of the ordinary.
Next I examine the skin. I'll separate the hairs and look for any fleas, dermatitis, infection, dry skin or lumps and bumps. During this time I usually asses the pets weight and body condition to see if they are over or underweight. I'll lift up the tail and check the anal area, and take the temperature.
I'll feel the front and back legs for any pain, swelling or stiffness. I'll check for any muscle atrophy in any leg.
Then I go back to the head. I look at the eyes with my ophthalmoscope. I can see all the internal structures of the eye all the way back to the retina at the back of the eye. I also use my otoscope to look down the ear canals as far as the ear drums.
You might ask why, for example, I'm looking at your pets ears when you brought him/ her in because they were limping. One reason is that they can't talk and tell me exactly how they are feeling and what hurts, so I have to gather as much information as I can.
The second reason is that a lot of diseases are not simple, and can affect more than one body system. Sometimes clues to what the problem is are not where you would expect. The third reason is that I find that the more I do the same thing to a pet every time they come in, the more relaxed they become because they know what to expect.