The purpose of a pre-purchase examination by a veterinarian is to determine the current health condition of the horse in order to uncover any issues that might influence the decision on whether to proceed with the purchase. It is important to bear in mind that a pre-purchase examination always relates to the current condition; prognoses regarding the horse’s future development cannot be made with any real degree of certainty. Furthermore, a pre-purchase examination always involves a compromise between the depth of diagnostic investigation and the costs involved. At the very least, it will include a complete
clinical examination of the horse (incl. medical, orthopaedic, ophthalmological and dental examinations). In the event that the examination delivers abnormal clinical findings, at the buyer’s request and in horses in a premium price segment, the findings may often be investigated further through endoscopies, X-rays examinations, ultrasound scans, ECGs or laboratory tests.
The field of orthopaedic diagnostics & therapy deals with musculoskeletal diseases and disorders, particularly relating to lameness.
Dentistry involves prophylactic examinations of teeth and the oral cavity as well as the diagnosis and treatment of dental diseases and associated diseases of the paranasal system.
The specialist field of internal medicine subsumes a number of subareas and deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the internal organs. These include diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory system, the urinary system, the blood and blood-forming organs, the muscles, the nervous system and the skin, plus hormonal and metabolic disorders and all infectious diseases.
Ophthalmology deals with diseases and functional disorders of the eyes, their adnexa, and the optic nerve up to the visual cortex in the brain – the visual processing centre. Ophthalmologists also perform surgical procedures on eyes.
Sports medicine entails the diagnosis and treatment of performance-related diseases and illnesses in sport horses and workhorses. Special dynamic examination methods are often used in this field, including performance tests, endoscopy during exercise, kinetic and kinematic gait analysis, and saddle pressure measurements.
Diagnostic imaging is the process of examining a horse using digital X-ray technology, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonant imaging (MRI) and scintigraphy. Nowadays, many of these diagnostic techniques do not require general anaesthesia and can be performed on a standing horse.