The most important examination that your vet performs on your horse is the physical exam. It is a general but thorough exam of the whole horse. Horses seen by a vet for any reason should have a physical exam.
Different vets may differ in their approach, but many begin with a careful history in which every factor that might contribute to a problem is discussed with the client. Knowing what questions to ask, and how to evaluate your answers is a skill unto itself.
After taking a history, vets usually evaluate your horse from a distance. We simply watch your horse and observe their general appearance: behavior, body condition, conformation, and movement. We then move in closer and evaluate your horse up close as a means of assessing the health and function of their body systems.
This methodical and systemic approach towards evaluating each anatomical region or body system yields valuable information about your horse’s overall health or a specific disease process.
An astute and experienced vet uses all of their senses and notices an amazing level of detail, seeing things that are invisible to others. Depending on the problem presented and the results of the physical exam, your vet will discuss additional diagnostics with you.
The physical exam is the cornerstone of equine veterinary medicine. It is the basis upon which vets begin to assess your horse's general health, discern healthcare problems, and consider treatment options.
Horses with low grade chronic disease may have undetectable symptoms or changes on physical exam. Additional diagnostics are usually necessary when a disease process is suspected or identified during a physical exam.