Why does my horse need a yearly physical exam?

Just like humans, horses should have a yearly “wellness” examination to help catch potential problems while they are subtle, before they become serious and potentially life threatening.  During a routine physical examination, the veterinarian will listen to your horse’s heart to be sure there are no murmurs or arrhythmias, which can lead to performance problems.  She will listen to the lungs to check for abnormal sounds that can indication inflammatory airway disease, which can be subclinical.  Listening to the abdomen can provide information on the health of the intestine, as well as check for sand within the large colon.  Your veterinarian will check your horse’s temperature to make sure he is well enough for vaccinations (mild fevers can go unnoticed until the horse’s system is stressed).  The eyes will be checked, as well as the lymph nodes and jugular veins for any inflammation.  We also like to run our hands along the lower limbs, feel the tendons and the joints, to check for any lameness issues, and may watch the horse walk to check foot balance and ease of motion. 

Many subtle issues can be caught on a physical examination and treated or addressed before they become larger problems.  If performed every year, we can also compare your horse’s health from year to year and pick up subtle trends (such as weight gain or loss, cataracts, or a progressive murmur) that might otherwise be missed.  This procedure can help ensure the long term health and well-being of your horse, and should be part of the yearly routine vaccination visit.