The Olfactory Vet

just a point of interest.


Vets need to be diverse individuals, using many different techniques throughout practice to assess conditions, make a diagnosis and consequently a course of action and prognosis.

When doing work experience, I have particularly noticed how vets can effectively put their olfactory organs to use by smelling their way through a problem.

Here are some uses to which a vet can put their nose:

  • bad breath – indicates bad teeth and gums, possible gingivitis, can also suggest diseases such as kidney disease or diabetes
  • anal glands – the pungent, fishy smell of anal glands is a clear indicator for when they need emptying
  • infection – if a wound has a foul odour, it suggests a bacterial infection
  • flatulence – excessive gas/wind can indicate intestinal problems
  • skin condition  – a poorly kept coat will begin to smell, this could be because of conditions such as seborrhoea or cheyletiella
  • welfare – welfare issues could become apparent very quickly through the pungent smell of stale urine, suggesting a problem with care

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