Top 5 Conditions Diagnosed on Physical Exam

There is so much advanced technology and equipment in modern veterinary medicine nowadays that it is easy to forget the importance of a physical exam.  The ability to touch, feel, look and listen are skills that your veterinarian will use everyday. What follows is a list of the top 5 conditions that can be identified by a simple physical exam.


This area includes the teeth, gums, cheeks, roof of mouth and under the tongue. Your veterinarian will be looking for periodontal disease (calculus, gingivitis, fractured or mobile teeth), malocclusions and cancer.

OTITIS (Ear Infection)

This condition is usually secondary to another disease process such as allergies, parasites, foreign bodies or cancer.  In acute cases the pinna (or flap of the ear) and the canal may be red, swollen ulcerated and painful. In chronic cases the skin may be thickened and dark in colour


Your veterinarian will evaluate the external (conjunctive, eyelids and cornea) along with the internal (lens and fundus) components of the eye. The primary diseases they are looking for are conjunctivitis, cataracts and corneal ulcers.  To examine the animal for secondary ophthalmic requires a full eye exam.


Heart Murmurs are caused by the vibration of structures within the heart or turbulent blood flow.  Arrhythmias are the result of abnormal electrical activity.  Both conditions are detected by auscultation of the chest with a stethoscope.  Cat heart disease is often more complicated as studies have shown that 21% of healthy cats can have murmurs while some cats may have significant heart pathology and no murmur.


Anemia can be diagnosed by identifying pale or white mucous membranes.  Anemia can be caused by blood loss or the bone marrow’s inability tp produce red blood cells. Other disease processes that can be determined from observing the colour of the gums include heart/lung disease and liver disease.

Remember that while we are very fortunate to have all the technology to help diagnose and treat our furry family members, absolutely nothing can surpass the hands-on examination of a qualified veterinarian.

By Dr. Terri Chotowetz