As we know, veterinarians have all the luck. Their patients are cute, furry and don't ask for second opinions. Well, at least not usually. A trusted, loving veterinarian plays such a critical role in the health and well being of your dog. But you're curious (and maybe you've wanted to ask), what exactly is your veterinarian examining during a physical check up of your pet? Every veterinarian has their own examination methods of course, but here's a quick look at the top ten elements of the veterinary physical exam. These will help you "interpret what your veterinarian is doing," and encourage you to "ask questions and involve yourself in the process."

From vital signs to intangible signs of canine health a good veterinarian will exam your dog from head to tail to assess her state of health. Here's a quick description of each step in the process.

#1. General
Your veterinarian takes your pet's vital signs, notes any immediate impressions in attitude as well and assesses her total "body condition score."

#2. The head
By looking closely at the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth, your veterinarian can check for discharge, levels of hydration and other critical signs of health.

#3.  Skin and coat
A close look at the skin and coat can tip off the veterinarian to fleas, ticks, lumps and general hydration.

#4.  The chest
By listening to your pet's chest with a stethoscope, veterinarians "try to alter your pet's breathing pattern with our hands on the nose and mouth and feel the pulses as they relate to the beats of the heart." To help the veterinarian stay focused, it's best to stay quiet during this aspect of the exam.

#5.  Circulatory
By feeling for the pulse during the chest exam, your veterinarian also checks the refill time for the mucous membranes and that pulses are well synchronized with the heartbeat.

#6.  Orthopedics
Your veterinarian takes the time to assess the symmetry of the musculature and your pet's mobility by observing how your pet moves and physically moving the limbs in their joints.

#7.  The abdomen
By palpating the abdomen, the pet Dr. can assess the size and texture of the organs and identify any abnormal masses.

#8. Lymph nodes
Veterinarians palpate the nodes in the neck, in front of the shoulders, and behind the knees and look for enlarged lymph nodes throughout the body.

#9. Neurologic
By testing basic reflexes and cranial nerves, veterinarians can review basic neurologic response.

#10. The invisible intangibles
Little things like your pet's scent or motion may cue your veterinarian to other problems. Experienced veterinarians are often successful at identifying health issues that don't present themselves with obvious signs.

Newsletter Signup

More Resources