Examining a pet remotely is very different to a hands-on examination, but that doesn't mean you can't gain valuable information. In fact, some aspects of the examination are actually better when done remotely than in the clinic. After all, an animal in his own environment will act differently to one in the surgery, and this can give you vital clues as to the animals' condition.
- Take full advantage of the ability to get a hands-off exam. Watch the animal move about his normal space, or sleep soundly. Owners are often desperate to touch their pets and show you what is wrong- ask them to leave the pet alone and in view, then ask a few questions whilst you observe the pet.
- Next, ask the owner to interact with the pet. Walk them up and down, take them up the stairs, go over and stroke them, ask them to sit, feed them- this may give vital clues as to what's going on.
- For the hands-on exam, you need to judge what you can and can't ask the owner to do for you. Remember, unlike a phone call, you're not relying on their interpretation of colour, size or reaction- you can see what's going on. But you need them to be your hands for you. You can ask them to lift a lip, turn the head, lift an ear, or palpate a lump. You can ask them to describe things. You can say "It looks like it's about the size of a 50p piece, would you agree?". Please be aware that if an owner gets bitten whilst doing something under your direction, it is likely that as the professional you would still be held liable, so it's important to consider this and ask whether the owner feels comfortable.
- Having a fake dog nearby that you can use to demonstrate what you would like the owner to do may be useful. i.e "Please gently pull his legs back at the hips, like this" or "I'd quite like to see her belly, could you lift her up like this so I can have a look?"
- Remember that while an owner is doing these things you need to carry on talking to them and reassuring them that you are looking at their pet. "That's right, now if you could just hold him there for a second.... hmmm... yes....interesting... you're doing really well, just hold him there a few more seconds... is that a rash I can see? Could you give it a little scratch, does he seem to find it itchy?"