The physical exam is the cornerstone of your pet's diagnosis. It is important because your dog or cat can't tell you when they need to go to the doctor! There may be obvious signs that your pet is ill ( lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) or no obvious sign at all. Pets tend to be very good at hiding their signs of disease.
Even if your pet seems to be perfectly healthy, a physical exam at least once a year is critical. In senior pets, a visit every 6 months is better. Your pet's exam will probably be more thorough than the exam you might receive from your own doctor. This would include checking:
Ears: The ears are checked for infections and also for parasites, as this is a common place for them to nest.
Eyes: The eyes are checked for cataracts, retinal disease, signs of glaucoma, and other abnormalities. These can all results in blindness, so it is important to check for them regularly.
Mouth: Gum disease, lesions, tooth loss, and throat problems all affect dogs and cats. They could be signs of larger problems. Performing a full mouth examination allows us to diagnose any problems and take care of them before they become a serious issue.
Internal Organs: The internal organs are examined to check that they are functioning properly. The abdominal area can be checked by hand for any growths or tumors. A stethoscope is used to listen to the heart and lungs.
Skin and Coat: This is checked to make sure that there are no fleas, ticks or other parasites that have made your pet their home. The quality of the skin and coat is a direct reflection of your pet's overall health.
If any potential problems are uncovered further tests and examination may be necessary to rule out the disease, or properly diagnose it so that it can be treated.