CTE Task: Physical Exam Procedures

Click here to download the teacher material for this task. 


Veterinary Science


2 hours


Physical Examination Procedures

Task Description


Students will

  • Watch the linked videos “The Physical Exam/Patient History” and complete the accompanying activity sheet
  • Complete the Treat or Watch worksheet
  • Film themselves demonstrating a physical exam explaining the details of the ten different physical exam areas.


Note: A stuffed animal and mock examination instruments that are available at home can be substituted for this task. Example, a pencil, ink pen, or small cylinder type object could be used as a thermometer. A small flashlight, kitchen utensil, or cardboard tube with a flat or pointed top could be used for an ophthalmoscope or otoscope.


  1. Demonstrate, in a live setting or in a presentation, physical examination procedures in the following areas:
    1. Identification of exam purpose, importance, and routine tasks
    2. Completion of new client health history report
    3. Identification and evaluation of factors affecting the physiological state of animals
    4. Identification of characteristics and signs of healthy animals
    5. Demonstration of procedures to accurately obtain and record vital signs
    6. Identification and evaluation of effects of age, stress, and environmental factors on vital signs

 Content Understandings

Extending Understandings

Upon successful completion of these tasks students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Explain the importance of physical exams,
  2. Describe the process for conducting a complete physical exam, and
  3. Conduct a physical exam.


To move students towards deeper understanding, they should be given opportunities to:

  • Compare and contrast effects of age, stress and environmental factors on an animal’s vital signs.
  • Research and explain why all veterinary clinics may not follow the same steps in conducting a physical exam of a specific animal species.

Support Strategies

If students are struggling to access this task, additional supports and strategies could be employed as students are engaging with the task.

Key Terms

Sentence Frames

Scaffolded Questions



Lymph Nodes



The vet could tell my pet had liver issues just from ___________ the abdomen during the physical exam.


On a dog, they have a set of ___________ in their hind legs that should be checked during a physical exam for swelling and tenderness.


When checking the ______________on our pet dog, Sammy, I found fleas.

  1. Why is knowing the background of the patient so important before starting a physical exam?
  2. Why are the steps different for various species of animals?



Instructional Resources

The Physical Exam/Patient History. (Lake Chatuge Animal Hospital. (2014, Dec. 16). Your Pet Your Vet – LCAH Episode 4 – The Physical Exam/Patient History [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjWTVrov5YM&feature=youtu.be)

Student Resource

Click here to download the student material for this task. 

Activity Sheet - The Physical Exam/Patient History Video

Directions: Read each question before starting the video. Answer the following questions as you watch the video.

  1. Which of these steps did the video recommend doing first when evaluating an animal?
  1. General observation
  2. Medical history
  3. Physical examination
  4. Quarantine


  1. Name four items of information that are important to include in the animal’s medical history.


  1. What is the color of a normal animal's gums or mucous membranes?


  1. What is a healthy animal's capillary perfusion refill time?
  1. Less than one or two seconds
  2. About five seconds
  3. 10 to 15 seconds
  4. Over 15 seconds


  1. What tool is used to listen to a heartbeat?


  1. A veterinarian can tell what is wrong with a pet with just the medical history and a physical exam about ______ percent of the time.


  1. What is the correct name of the instrument used to exam the inside of an animal’s eye?
  1. Stethoscope
  2. Ophthalmoscope
  3. Gastroscope
  4. Rhinolaryngoscope


  1. What is the correct name of the instrument used to examine the inside of the animal’s ear?
  1. Stethoscope
  2. Ophthalmoscope
  3. Gastroscope
  4. Otoscope


  1. What is the most common anatomical order to perform a physical exam on an animal?



  1. List the different ten common break down areas included in the physical exam.


Treat or Watch

Read the following scenarios of animals. Indicate below each scenario if you would “Treat” or “Watch” the animal.


  1. A dog’s teeth have a little tarter on a few teeth.
  2. A cat’s ear has wax build up.
  3. The dog resists when moving his/her neck to the right.
  4. When palpating a dog’s abdomen, a lump found with mild sensitivity was on the left side.
  5. A cat’s eye has one eye brighter than the other with no discharge.
  6. A dog has swollen submandibular lymph nodes.
  7. A veterinarian is examining a dog and notices a little hyperplasia caused by gingivitis.
  8. A cat’s pupils are not the same size. When the vet shines a light in each eye, the pupil's reaction times are the same.
  9. When a veterinarian is examining a dog’s mouth and tonsils and no masses or growths were identified.
  10. During a physical exam, a cat has a few areas of flaky skin but no signs of flea, parasites, or ticks.