As a vet, you will require a different breed of stethoscope. Your patients won’t be able to tell you what’s wrong, and many of them don’t like standing still for long. An animal’s fur creates background noise when they move, and this can make listening in on vital organs a time-consuming procedure. The best stethoscopes for veterinarians tackle these issues with ingenious design modifications.
Stethoscope tube length is perhaps the most important consideration for the veterinarian. Your patients will come in all shapes and sizes, and a short tube length can result in discomfort for both you and the animal you’re treating. Many animals—no matter how domesticated—are skittish around strangers. Research into the area of stethoscope acoustics have suggested that shorter tube lengths provide superior sound fidelity. However, most of this research is quite dated, and stethoscope technology has advanced to the point where there’s no need to compromise. Many brands provide tube lengths of up to 32 inches.
To understand how a longer tube length doesn’t necessarily compromise acoustic fidelity, it’s helpful to imagine the device as a garden hose. If you increase the length of the hose, you lower the water pressure at the end that expels the water. This is because the water has to travel further and loses energy as it does due to friction.
The primary considerations when choosing tube length are your height and arm length. You want the tubing to be long enough so that you don’t have to bend over as much at work, and you want your animal patient to be comfortable with your proximity. Ergo, you should find the longest tubing that you’re comfortable with.
A stethoscope with a long tube is generally more practical for working with larger animals. A longer tube will enable you to maneuver around a large animal while finding an optimal distance for auscultation. Many stethoscopes use multiple colors. A bright color can help you locate a stethoscope in a hectic emergency. Most animals see a very limited range of colors, so there’s little need to worry about a bright color distracting or scaring them.
Another indication of a superior stethoscope for veterinarians: they contain no latex. Animals—just like humans—can exhibit an allergic reaction to latex. This typically takes the form of itching that can last for hours. Finally, double-layered tubing typically provides superior sound fidelity as it provides a buffer against background noise.
When working with small animals, a small diaphragm stethoscope works well. A large diaphragm can become a hindrance when working with small pets as it won’t form a proper seal and will allow in more background noise.
As a veterinarian, you need a flexible stethoscope. The gold standard in diaphragm design for multi-species use is the tunable diaphragm. With a tunable diaphragm, you can minimize the number of times you have to apply the chestplate to the animal.
Instead, you’re able to switch from low to high pressure analysis with the flip of a switch or press of a button. Additionally, when you listen to low-frequency sounds with a tunable diaphragm, you will notice increased amplification. This is because the diaphragm has a larger contact area than a bell. This trait is important for use with animals as hair and fur can disrupt sound transference.
Similarly, a stethoscope with a combination chestpiece provides an advantage over traditional stethoscopes with both a diaphragm and a bell. These chestpieces are simpler to use and provide superior sound transference. To use these chestpieces correctly, simply apply light pressure when using the bell and firm pressure when applying the diaphragm directly to fur. This type of chestpiece provides a superior tunable diaphragm because you don’t even need to engage a button to switch between modes. Note that for veterinary use, a chestpiece should be non-chill. Most chestpieces are composed of stainless steel that you can easily warm in your hands.
Stethoscopes for veterinarians require special features, and that means they can sometimes cost more than their counterparts designed for use with people. It’s important that you protect your investment by keeping it clean and by avoiding extreme heat or cold. You should also keep it safe from solvents and oils. Finally, don’t allow your stethoscope to be submerged in liquid of any kind. If your scope requires cleaning, you should sterilize it in a specialized aeration cabinet. Follow these rules and your stethoscope should provide you with many years of use.
Combining all the considerations and your personal occupational requirements, you will be able to choose a veterinarian stethoscope easily and we do recommend checking out some of the more popular models from Littmann as well.