A lot happens during the exam. Though it may seem the doctor is just holding and petting your animal, he or she is thoroughly evaluating your pet and assessing all the major systems and organs inside.
The doctor will start the exam by asking you about your pet's health and any concerns you might have. As the one who spends the most time with your pet, you are in the best position to notice subtle changes, so be sure to let the doctor know if anything seems "off" or unusual for your pet.
Next the doctor will observe your pet to get a general sense of their health, which will include watching their breathing, energy level, gait, and any other issues that may be apparent without even laying hands on fur.
When it's time to work up close with your pet, the doctor will do so at your pet's own level and, as much as possible, on your pet's own terms. The doctor may sit on the floor next to your dog or hold your cat in his lap. For most pets, the exam can take place wherever you and your pet prefer.
The exam will include:
- looking for signs of upper respiratory disease or congestion,
- assessing the eyes and ears for evidence of infection or disease,
- evaluating the health of the teeth and gums,
- looking and feeling for any abnormal masses or growths on or under the skin,
- feeling the internal organs in search of any abnormalities,
- assessing the nails to make sure they appear healthy,
- listening to the heart for evidence of abnormal rhythm or other heart disease,
- listening to the lungs for evidence of concerns like pneumonia or a more chronic condition like asthma,
- weighing your cat or small dog, and,
- assessing the bones and joints, with particular attention in older animals for signs of arthritis.
The physical exam may highlight some areas in need of further evaluation. The doctor can initiate these tests at the appointment, including taking blood and urine samples, monitoring blood pressure, or other diagnostics as needed.