10.3 PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
Many older animals will have
concomitant disease and so it is important to perform a full clinical examination
and not just focus on the problem(s) raised by the animal owner. In particular evidence
should be sought for the presence of cardiac, respiratory, hepatic or renal dysfunction
which are all common in advancing age, and for external evidence of internal disease.
Dermatologists frequenfly refer to the skin as an indicator of general health and
this can certainly be true in older animals (see Table 10.2).
Greying of the hair - particularly around the face and muzzle is common with advancing
age. Neoplasia of the skin is also common in older animals (see Chapter 6).
A full neurological examination is necessary to identify signs of primary or secondary
neurological deficit or increased neurological responsiveness. Both the peripheral and
central nervous systems should be examined. See Chapter 3 and Wheeler (1989) for further
Ophthalmoscopic examination may reveal evidence of increased tortuosity of retinal blood
vessels or even of subclinical retinal haemorrhages typical of hypertensive patients.
Sudden onset blindness due to retinal detachment (often bilateral) is a more severe
manifestation of hypertenand is seen in the presence of renal failure.
Blood and urinalysis should form part of a comprehensive screening programme because
quite simple and inexpensive tests can provide invaluable information to assist the
clinician. However there are many pitfalls in taking laboratory samples and in interpreting
laboratory results and the reader is advised to consult an authoritative text on
the subject such as that by Bush (1991).