How to Best Perform an Orthopedic Exam on a Cat

August 28, 2018

Because cats are rarely a willing participant in a physical examination, you need to be very patient and employ certain techniques.

Because cats are rarely willing participants to a physical examination, Brian Beale, DVM, DACVS, orthopedic surgeon and head of education, training, and research at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas, provides tips for performing an orthopedic exam on a feline patient.

"The physical examination for the cat, ideally, is very similar in the dog, but most cats aren't a willing participant. So, you have to do it very you have to be very patient, very calm, and you have to take your time to do it. So, if you try to rush through it like you can do in a dog you may not be able to do it, because the cat may become fractious or may just get very stiff and just won’t participate. But in general, what we're looking for in the cats, we're palpating the body and the muscles to see if they're symmetrical. For instance, if the cat has had lameness for a while on one leg the muscles tend to become smaller due to disuse atrophy. Again, we want to palpate the long bones for any signs of pain and we want to move the joints, and look for swelling, or a crepitus, or any signs of pain in the joints as well."