Glastonbury CT Vet

Equine Physical Examinations

CT Equine Phsyicals

The physical exam is the basis for diagnosis and treatment of your horse. Our doctors perform a complete examination at least once a year (the "wellness exam" when vaccinations are given), as well as any time the horse is brought in with a problem. Unlike people, animals cannot tell us if anything has changed, making information from the owners and the physical exam even more important in identifying problems. Throughout their lives, animals "age" faster than people, so that the physical changes that may take 4-5 years in a person to become apparent may occur within 1-2 years in a horse.

The examination itself includes many things. It actually starts even before you get to the doctor! The doctor generally observes the animal walking in from the paddock or stall area, and takes note of its attitude and any obvious abnormalities. Changes in weight, hair coat and general demeanor are often a clue about possible underlying diseases such as stomach ulcers, intestinal parasites and Cushing's disease, just to name a few. The doctor then takes a through history from the client. Finally, the veterinarian will systematically examine the animal:

  • Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal heart rhythms; murmurs which can indicate valve disease; and abnormal air flow through the lungs, which can indicate fluid or masses in or around the lungs.
  • Listening to the abdomen to assess the movement of ingesta through the bowel
  • Examining the eyes and ears for abnormalities in structure and indications of abnormal function
  • Examining the mouth and teeth to ensure that the horse maintains normal occlusion and can chew its food properly. Signs of abnormal tooth occlusion can include avoidance of the bit when being ridden, head tossing and "quidding" or dropping of feed while eating. Dental care is generally recommended on an annual or bi-annual basis depending on the abnormalities present in a given horse's mouth. Our doctors can perform routine dental care on the farm.
  • The coat is examined for consistency and fullness, and examined for evidence of skin infection or external parasites
  • If indicated, the joints may all be manipulated to determine the source of lameness or to identify arthritic joints
  • The animal's temperature is then taken to ensure there is no underlying systemic infection prior to giving any vaccinations.

Doing a thorough examination even when there are no obvious problems allows us to determine whether a problem that surfaces later is indeed new, or the progression of an older condition. In addition, in animals with known abnormalities, such as heart murmurs or dental irregularities, regular exams allow us to chart the course of disease, and determine whether it is progressive or static.