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Physical Examinations

A PHYSICAL EXAM may be requested as a yearly health monitoring exam (Wellness Exam) or when the owner suspects a health issue.

Your veterinarian will typically begin by asking you a few questions about the horse’s history and clinical signs. Typically the horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration is taken and recorded. Your veterinarian may also listen to the horse’s respiratory and gastro-intestinal sounds. Depending on the owner’s concerns, horse’s health history, and physical exam findings, you vet may suggest additional diagnostics such as blood work, ultrasound, and a variety of other diagnostics. Depending on the results of the diagnostic tests, you and your veterinarian will formulate a plan for treatment and management of your horse’s health issue.

Examples of types of exams and a brief description are provided below:

Colic Exam: Performed when the horse is believed to be experiencing abdominal pain. In addition to the basic TPR, the GI sounds are particularly focused on. Treatment recommendations will be made based on the severity of colic signs and results of the colic exam. Colic exams often include a colic rectal exam to palpate for internal gastro-intestinal abnormalities.

Dental/Oral Exam: An exam of the horse’s mouth and/or teeth. This may be performed if the owner has concerns about the horse’s chewing ability or if a problem is suspected with the horse’s teeth.

Dermatology Exam: Performed when there is a concern about the horse’s skin such as hair loss, scabs, bumps, lumps, masses, pigmentation changes, etc. In some cases, biopsies may be needed to reach a conclusive diagnosis.

Health Certificate Exam: A brief physical exam performed on a horse requiring a health certificate for travel. This exam must be performed within 30 days of travel for the health certificate to be valid.

Insurance Exam: A physical exam required prior to insuring a horse.

Lameness Exam: Performed when the owner is concerned pain originating from the horse’s limbs. The horse may be presenting with an obvious head-bob or limp, or simply with the complaint of decreased performance. Typically the horse’s legs and hooves are examined and the horse is lunged or trotted in hand for detection of lameness. Flexion tests of the horse’s joints may be performed and nerve or joint blocks may be done to localize the source of the lameness.

Neonatal Exam: An exam performed on a newborn foal to look for potential health issues. The umbilicus may be dipped with iodine and the foal may be administered an enema to ensure passage of the meconium. It is strongly recommended that all foals are tested for IgG levels 12 hours after standing and nursing for the first time to ensure adequate ingestion and absorption of colostrum and the important antibodies it contains.

Ophthalmic Exam: An examination of the horse’s eye(s). This exam may involve staining of the horse’s eye to look for ulcers or scratches. A special scope and light (Ophthalmoscope) is used to look at the back of the horse’s eye.

Physical Exam: A general exam of the horse for a variety of concerns

Postpartum Exam: An examination of a mare after she has foaled. In addition to a physical exam, the mare will also be examined for evidence of vaginal tearing or trauma.

Pre-purchase Exam: A complete and comprehensive exam performed at the request of the buyer. This exam includes a basic physical exam, oral exam, ophthalmic exam, and lameness exam. Additional exams or diagnostics may be performed at an additional cost such as a coggins test, blood work/testing, health certificate exam, radiographs, etc.

Progress Exam: A follow-up exam to determine if the horse is improving on the prescribed treatment or management strategies previously recommended.

Reproductive Exam: An examination of a mare for reproductive purposes. This may involve rectally ultrasounding the mare to look at her ovarian follicles and uterus and/or a vaginal speculum exam.

Wellness Exam: An annual exam typically performed during routine preventative care visits to monitor for general ill-health such as heart and lung problems, temperature, body condition, etc.

Wound Exam: An examination of a wound of any sort to a horse’s body. Depending on the extent of the wound, your veterinarian will determine if stitched are necessary, if bandaging is appropriate, or if topical wound treatment is required and to what extent. If a horse’s tetanus vaccine is not up-to-date, a booster should be given immediately.