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Rectal palpation: The reason and risks *H&H Plus*

Rectal palpation can be revealing, but the procedure is not without risk. Karen Coumbe MRCVS offers some inside information

Every routine procedure is potentially hazardous. The classic example is rectal palpation, which has to be one of every equine vet’s worst nightmares when complications arise.

This common diagnostic technique is used routinely by many vets on almost a daily basis. Palpation of the internal abdominal organs through the horse’s rectum is an essential part of many clinical examinations and, in the vast majority of cases, a relatively low-risk procedure.

Almost every time a vet examines a horse with colic, or a breeding mare, an internal or rectal examination is required. Few vets feel it necessary to warn the horse owner that there is even a remote chance that something may go wrong. It is a difficult balance between worrying people and informed consent as to what might just happen.