A Quick Health Inspection

First Impressions

By Maxine Kinn

A quick health inspection is very easy to do by hand, and medical instruments aren’t necessary. Work from head to tail and top to bottom. Note the animal’s general appearance before you lay a hand on it. Is it listless or frisky? Does it breathe too rapidly for its activity level? Coughing? Is the hair rough, dry or missing? How about body condition – too thin or too fat?

Head Look at the eyes, nose and ears for discharges or abnormalities. A clear nasal discharge is all right, cloudy ones are not. The mouth deserves a close look for scabs or crusts on or around the lips.
Neck Run your hands from the jaw line down both sides of the neck to feel for lumps.
Body Check for lice on the back of the neck, shoulders, and at various spots down the topline and down the sides. Sucking lice congregate along the top of the neck and rump. Biting lice don’t have favorite areas to congregate and can be found all over. The hair must be parted to see lice. Run your hands over the animal’s sides to feel for lumps, especially the neck, shoulders and flanks.
Legs & Feet Pick up each one and look for infections like hoof rot and scald. Ask the owner to trim overgrown hooves so you can really see what they’re like, or offer to do the trimming. Check the leg joints for swelling.
Perineum Is fresh or dried diarrhea or staining present? Does the doe’s vulva have any unusual discharge? (Mucus from a doe in heat and the brownish lochia from a doe who has kidded within the previous few weeks is all right).
Udder & Testicles Palpate for normal texture. One of my favorite general diagnostic aids is palpating the supramammary lymph nodes located at the rear junction of the udder, or testicles, and the body. Reach in from the rear and lightly grab a mass of tissue. Gently move your fingers and thumb together until you feel two small lumps very close to each other. Those are the supramammary lymph nodes. There are several other superficial lymph node locations: the prescapular lymph node at the point of the shoulder is the easiest to feel, especially when animals dislike their nether parts messed with.) Practice on healthy goats to become adept at discerning swelled nodes which may indicate a systemic or developing problem.
Prepuce Inspect the prepuce (end of the penis sheath, pronounced preepyoos) for scabs and accumulations of urine, urine crystals or dirt.