Every time a pet comes into the hospital it will receive a physical examination. The veterinarian will look over every aspect of the patient with the assistance of a veterinary technician. Physical exams can normally be performed with a standing awake patient with minimal restraint. Some fractious or rowdy patients may need to be restrained more assertively. After examining every aspect of the patient including the eyes and ears and listening to the heart and lungs, the veterinarian will develop a diagnostic and treatment plan for the patient depending on what is wrong with the pet. The veterinarian may determine that a more involved ocular, neurologic, or orthopedic examination will be needed.
An ocular exam involves examining the eyes in detail using an ophthalmoscope. The veterinarian will examine all parts of the eye and may run some specific tests for further information such as a Schirmer tear test (measures tear production), a fluorescein stain (to look for corneal ulcers), and Tonopen (ocular pressure). The veterinarian may also use a topical medication to dilate your pets pupils so that the back part of the eye can be better visualized. Ocular exams can almost always be performed without sedation.
During a neurologic examination the veterinarian will test the function of the major nerves coming from the brain that is called a cranial nerve exam. The vet will also evaluate a number of reflexes and postures to determine if there is normal neurologic function of the limbs. Neurologic exams are performed without sedation.
The orthopedic exam will include an evaluation of the pets gait at multiple speeds as well as palpating the spine. We will also check all the bones and joints of the limbs for evidence of pain, heat, or swelling. The vet will test each joint for range of motion and crepitus (abnormal clicking or crunching). Depending the presenting problem and what the doctor finds, your pet may need to be sedated for further examination or to take radiographs (x-rays).