Palpation is the use of the hands to feel the body. A lot of clinical information can be detected by a skillful clinician including the position, shape, size, surface characteristics and abnormal "feel" of internal organs and the musculoskeletal system.


  • loops of small intestine infiltrated with the cancer lymphosarcoma feel very firm like rubber tubing - whereas with normal small intestine loops the walls are very soft and quite thin, so little detail can be felt on palpation
  • the left kidney is usually easy to palpate in cats and dogs except borad-backed dogs, but the right kidney is more difficult to feel because of its normal location
  • a large liver lobe protruding behind the rib cage may be abnormal, left lobe can often be felt in older animals
  • an unexpected mass in a location where there shouldn't be one might be a growth
  • the urinary bladder can be easily palpated when it is full of urine - it is difficult to identify when it is empty
  • superficial cysts feel soft and fluid filled whereas solid tumours are firm
  • animals with orthopaedic pain may wince when the painful location is palpated
  • abnormal swellings can be detected by superficial or deep palpation

Last updated : October 2013