Whether your pet is coming to the hospital for a routine check-up or because he is ill, a physical examination always needs to be part of the visit.
Why Does My Pet Need a Physical Examination?
If your pet is coming to the hospital to be vaccinated or receive other routine care, completing a physical examination allows our veterinarians to determine that your pet is healthy and that the services being performed are appropriate for your pet.
Making certain that your pet is healthy is important because many procedures (such as administering vaccinations or performing surgery) require that your pet is good health in order to be effective and safe for your pet. For instance, we would not want to perform a routine surgery on a pet that is suffering from a respiratory infection because the infection increases the risks involved with the surgery and needlessly places your pet's health and even his life at risk.
The same is true for vaccinations. Administering a vaccination requires that your pet is able to mount an effective immune response. Doing so is something that your pet may not be able to do if he is sick. As a result, the vaccine may provide adequate protection for your pet. Worse yet, you may mistakenly assume that your pet is protected against a disease such as rabies or parvovirus when he is not.
These are only a few of the scenarios that we encounter regularly when dealing with pets presented for routine procedures. For these reasons and others, we require a physical examination be performed prior to proceeding with these services.
What Can a Physical Examination Tell the Veterinarian About My Sick Pet?
When your pet is sick, the first step in diagnosing his illness is always a comprehensive physical examination. The physical examination allows us to pinpoint abnormalities that may be related to your pet's illness. Finding these physical abnormalities can guide our veterinarians in determining what is causing your pet's illness.
Depending on your pet's symptoms and condition, the results of the physical examination may lead our veterinarians to recommend more comprehensive testing, such as blood testing, urine testing, fecal testing, radiography (x-rays) or ultrasonography (ultrasound). They will also guide your veterinarian in determining a proper course of treatment for your dog or cat.
What Does a Physical Examination Include for my Dog or Cat?
A complete physical examination includes an examination of all major parts of your pet's body. This includes examining your pet's eyes, ears, mouth, teeth, skin coat, musculoskeletal system, nervous system and external genitalia. The veterinarian will listen to your pet's heart and lungs with a stethoscope, palpate your pet's abdomen for abnormalities and examine your pet's lymph nodes for abnormal findings.