A vet’s guide to preparing your dog for a physical exam - why routine care matters


Jade Poole from I Write Words

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A physical exam is more important than you may think - here’s what it is going to go down at a visit to the vet

First things first…

A visit to the vet doesn't come cheap. That’s why it pays to have pet insurance that covers you for vet visits, routine cover and emergency events. And better yet, why not go with an insurer that PAYS YOU BEFORE YOU SEE THE VET. At Oneplan, we foot the bill so that you don’t have to. Our plans are designed to suit you and your precious pets.

So many people underestimate the importance of routine care, but these are extremely important for the health of the furry members of your family and can help in detecting any issues before they get worse!

Here’s what you can expect from a physical exam…

Before you get started

If this is the first physical exam for your dog, then you need to ensure that you are well prepared. Chat to your vet beforehand and ask if you need to bring any specific paperwork such as adoption papers or vaccine records.

Some dogs are very scared of the vet, especially if it’s their first visit, so you might want to bring them in a crate to the vet and on a leash too. 

Here’s what you will need

Obviously, don’t forget your dog at home. You’ll be surprised that this does actually happen. You will also need to bring:

●     Any important paperwork

●     Crate and/or a leash

●     Some special dog treats

●     Urine or stool sample if your vet needs this

●     Any questions you want to be answered about your dog - write these down before you get to the vet

The physical exam

Here’s what goes down…

Your vet will check the health of your dog from his nose to his tail.


Your vet will have a look at your dog’s eyes to see if there are any signs of vision issues, old age vision loss, cataracts, discharge or redness.

He or she might use a light to make sure the pupils of the eyes respond correctly.


Next, your vet will look in the ears for redness or debris and check for odour. He or she might use a tool known as an otoscope which is a cone with a light inside of it to get a closer look into the ear canals. If there are any odour, redness or debris then this could be a sign of an ear infection.

Digestive system and mouth

Next, your vet will look at your dog’s gums and teeth to look for signs of gum disease or dental issues. He or she will check the mucous membranes - the colour of the gums should be pink and not red. When the gum is pressed, then it should turn white, after which the pink colour will return within a few seconds.

Your vet will then have a look at your dog’s anus, which is the end part of the digestive system, in order to ensure there are no signs of digestive issues. If the rectum shows any cause for concern, then a rectal exam will be carried out.

Lymph nodes

The lymph nodes are found around your dog’s neck, face, armpit, the back of knees and at the insides of his back legs, where they meet the abdomen. If these are swollen then an infection might be present.


A stethoscope will allow your vet to listen to the heartbeat of your dog to make sure the rhythm is normal. Your vet will then check your dog’s pulse too.

Respiratory System

Using the stethoscope, your vet will check your dog’s breathing and check his nose for any redness, dryness or discharge.


Your vet will then feel your dog’s stomach and abdominal area for any issues and make sure that this palpating is not painful.

Coat and skin

Next are the coat and skin which will be checked for any flaking, redness or inflammation. Your vet will also check for fleas and make sure the coat is full and shiny and not patchy and dull.

Bones, muscles, joints and nervous system

Your vet might want to see how your dog walks to ensure his gait is normal and will feel the joints for any pain or stiffness.

Reproductive and urinary system

Your vet will examine the genitals to make sure everything is normal.

Overall condition

Finally, the vet will have a final look at the overall condition of your dog and check for signs of obesity or other weight issues.


Remember, your dog will pick up on your emotions when at the vet, so if you are stressed out and panicking, then your dog will react negatively to this as he may think something is wrong. Stay calm and make sure your dog feels calm too.

Yours in paws,


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