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There is no technical difference between veterinary and human stethoscopes; it is simply a matter of preference and tubing length needed when auscultating animal patients.
Reading an animal’s heart and lung sounds is one of the veterinarian’s most essential skills, as it provides the initial diagnosis for a patient.
Veterinary technicians often use veterinary stethoscopes for external auscultation to hear chronic murmurs from patients with heart disease, fluid in the lungs from pneumonia, or gall bladder distress due to liver disease.
Veterinarians work with a variety of patients, from cats and dogs to horses and cows. Because the sounds that come from all of these patients vary widely, a stethoscope tailored for each animal is a must-have tool for any veterinary professional. So a good stethoscope is a veterinarian or veterinary technician’s most vital instrument for accurate diagnosis.
In this guide, we will discuss what you need to know about the most popular stethoscopes for veterinarians. You’ll learn how to choose the best and the pros and cons of each.
What to Look For in a Veterinary Stethoscope
Every veterinarian is looking for the best stethoscope that they can get their hands on, but with so many different options available, it is hard to know what will be the best choice.
As the animal kingdom presents numerous differences from humans, finding a stethoscope that is designed with such variances in mind makes all the difference.
There are a lot of things you should look out for when choosing your animal care stethoscope.
Being able to hear a Midsystolic click or S1 heart sound mid-inspiration makes all the difference in humans. It is no different for veterinarians- sound quality is the most important factor to consider.
If your stethoscope prevents you from hearing in fine detail, it will drastically affect your diagnosis. Not only should the veterinarian stethoscope be able to auscultate while in a loud environment, but it should also have the versatility to pick up low and high-frequency sounds as well.
Stethoscopes that include features to help dampen background noise can also be a big plus.
Chestpiece Size and Options
The chestpiece is the part of the stethoscope that is placed against the patient to listen for sounds. The chestpiece can come in a variety of sizes, but generally, they come in two: adult and pediatric.
While most adult stethoscopes use the standard adult-sized chestpiece, pediatric stethoscopes typically employ smaller variants. These can be useful when auscultating small animals and very young animals.
The main benefit of the large chestpiece is that they are designed to pick up low-frequency noises, which are easier to hear on larger animals.
Length of Tubing & Versatility
The tubing of a stethoscope is the section between the chestpiece and the ear tips. Depending on preference, this part can be made from either rubber or plastic.
Veterinarians who work with larger animals should consider getting a stethoscope with a longer tube. This allows for better ease of auscultation without having to bend your neck and back to reach uncomfortable auscultation sites.
Weight and comfort
Veterinarians work with many types of patients, some of which can be heavy or uncooperative. The stethoscope should be lightweight and comfortable when in use.
There are a variety of different designs for tubing that help disperse weight more evenly across the neck, making it easier to wear for longer periods. A stethoscope that is too cumbersome will be a hassle to use daily.
Best Overall Stethoscope for Veterinarians
The 3M Littmann Master Classic II provides high-quality acoustics that you’ve come to expect from the Littmann brand while adding an extra bit of length to the tubing. It’s not quite the same level of acoustic detail as a cardiology model, but it makes up for it with other features.
The tubing length of the Littmann Master Classic II Veterinary Stethoscope is 32″ long, compared to a standard stethoscope length of 27″ long.
It’s also very well made, can be used in a variety of settings, and will maintain its quality even after years of use.
This mix of features
- The latex-free tubing ensures that it will not cause an allergic reaction in the animal and is suitable for use with all skin types.
- The design of this stethoscope is ideal for clear auscultation, even in noisy environments.
- Extra tubing length provides great versatility
- Single-sided chestpiece provides a low-profile and simplicity of use
- The sound quality is not as great as a Cardiology model.
Best Stethoscope for Mixed Practice
Used by veterinarians and technicians worldwide, the Littmann classic III stethoscope provides exceptional acoustics with its dual-sided chest piece.
It has a tunable diaphragm with a diaphragm on one side and a bell on the other for versatility.
The double-sided chest piece allows for accurate assessment of the heart and lungs. This stethoscope uses patented technology to amplify faint heartbeats while reducing background noise. It also aids in assessing bowel sounds when necessary.
- It has a pediatric side of the chestpiece makes this stethoscope appropriate for use on small animals
- It’s also very durable with a wide range of frequencies
- This is a great all-around stethoscope for veterinarians on the go.
- It’s small enough to fit in a pocket or bag, but it has all the great features of larger stethoscopes for diagnosing animal
- It seems to be slightly less durable than other Littmann stethoscopes
Best Stethoscope for Small Animals
The Ultrascope is one of the best stethoscopes for veterinarians who work with small animals, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, and other pocket pets.
The Ultrascope has a single-sided acrylic chest piece. This material has a distinct advantage in being able to dampen external noise, which can be very useful when having to work in a loud environment.
On top of that, the Ultrascope series are all very unique looking, and extremely customizable. You can check out our full review of Ultrascopes right here!
- Acrylic chest piece provides sound dampening, great sound quality
- Both Adult and Pediatric chestpieces are available
- Longer tubing is available
- Unique, compelling visual designs and personalization options will make you stand out as a professional in your field.
- The ear tips aren’t as comfortable as other stethoscopes
Best Stethoscope for Avian Veterinarians
If you work with birds, the best stethoscope for veterinarians is the 3M Littmann Cardiology IV.
This is one of the most versatile stethoscopes Littmann has to offer. It comes with a tunable diaphragm that can be placed on either side of the chest piece, depending on your patient and your location.
On one side, it has a regular bell for deep lung sounds and heart assessment, and on the other, it has a diaphragm for high-frequency heart and breathing sound evaluation.
This stethoscope is made of durable, latex-free materials that are safe for avian patients.
- Double-ended chest piece
- Cassette diaphragm on one end of the chest piece
- Tunable diaphragm with a choice between a bell and a diaphragm
- Safe for avian patients
- The tubing is made from latex-free material, and the single-sided chestpiece allows for easier auscultation.
- This stethoscope is the most expensive veterinary stethoscope on the market, and it is also one of the heaviest.
- If you work in a very busy clinic, you might need to spend extra time adjusting the tubes so that they don’t fall out of place.
Best Stethoscope for Equine Veterinarians
For veterinarians who work with large animals, such as horses, donkeys, oxen, llamas, and buffalo, the best stethoscope is the Ultrascope Extended stethoscope.
This well-designed stethoscope has a modular tubing extension, which you can use to accommodate your patient’s size or location. This stethoscope also has an acrylic chestpiece that will help dampen environmental noise.
- Acrylic chest piece, sound dampening
- Non-chill rim for patient comfort
- Extendable tubing, great versatility for use with large animals
- You have the freedom to choose from a variety of colors and design options
- It’s less durable compared to other stethoscopes
Best Stethoscope for Veterinarians Who Specialize In Large Animals or Livestock
If your specialty is in large animals or livestock, the best stethoscope for veterinarians who specialize in large animals has to be the Littmann Cardio IV.
It is an outstanding stethoscope that offers unparalleled sound clarity and has a high-quality acoustic system with special attention paid to low frequencies. The design of the bell is 60% deeper than normal, and the chestpiece itself is 40% larger. The difference almost has to be experienced to be believed.
The tubing on this model is also slightly thicker than the others. This leads to better sound quality and durability, although at a cost of some flexibility due to a higher stiffness.
- The double-sided chestpiece provides the superior acoustics expected from a cardio series Littmann stethoscope
- Thicker tubing lends to improved acoustics and service life
- Stiffer tubing, max length of 27″ impacts
- This is a pricier model
Best Stethoscope for Marine Veterinarians
If your specialty is marine animals, the best stethoscope for you is the MDF Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope.
This double-sided stethoscope has a traditional bell on one end and a diaphragm on the other, which can both be used to assess heart sounds. It also comes with three interchangeable chest pieces, providing for all range of patient sizes.
This stethoscope is made of durable materials with latex-free ear tips that are safe for all your patients.
- Double-ended chest piece
- The MDF is also very lightweight.
- The tubing is of the highest quality and made to last a lifetime.
- This stethoscope comes with two different interchangeable bell sizes, making it great for office or community use on larger animals or small animals.
- The MDF Stethoscope has all plastic parts and one metal band that holds the double tubes together.
- Great for assessing heart sounds, respiratory rates, etc. underwater
- The metal band that holds the tubes together can get caught in your hair
- The tubing can be bulky.
Best Stethoscope for Vet Techs
When choosing a stethoscope for vet tech, for yourself as a veterinary technician, you need to look for one that has multiple uses and has good sound quality.
A stethoscope for veterinary technicians should also be comfortable to wear all day at work; it should have ear tips that are soft and non-chill, and it needs to be durable enough not to break or be ruined just by daily wear and tear.
If you are a veterinary technician, the best stethoscope for veterinary technicians is the Littmann Classic III because it offers unparalleled sound clarity.
This model’s dual-sided chest piece lets you quickly switch between low-frequency sounds needed to assess the lungs and heart and high-frequency sounds needed to assess abdominal organs. It also allows technicians to get multiple different measurements with just one stethoscope.
What Is A Veterinary Stethoscope And Why You Need One?
A stethoscope is diagnostic tool veterinarians use to listen to their patient’s heart and lungs to determine the animal’s overall health.
Veterinarians use these devices when performing physical exams, taking blood pressure, checking for abnormal lung or heart sounds, etc. These are the same stethoscopes nurses often use when assessing and diagnosing patients in a clinical setting.
The best stethoscope for veterinarian use will come down to the types of patients that the veterinarian must deal with on a daily basis.
Is There Any Difference between Veterinary and Human Stethoscopes?
No. Veterinarians and human physicians use the same types of stethoscopes for their patients. It is simply a matter of preference in which type to choose when examining different-sized patients.
The major difference between human and veterinary stethoscopes is the choice of tubing. Most veterinarians now prefer to use latex-free, silicone tubing because it doesn’t break down or become tacky over time as vinyl does.
Veterinarians must also choose which chest piece they prefer based on their specialty.
For example, if you are a veterinarian that specializes in large animals or livestock, then you may want to consider getting an extended-length stethoscope. Likewise, if you are a marine veterinarian, you’ll need to get a stethoscope with a hydrophone on the chest piece.
As you can see, there are many different factors to consider when choosing the best stethoscope for veterinarians or veterinary technicians. Along with sound quality, your stethoscope must be made of durable materials. It should also have a chest piece that feels comfortable in your hand and at your ear so you can hear all frequencies.
Once you have considered all of these factors, it should be much easier to make an informed decision about which type of stethoscope will work best for you in the long run.
Now that you have read the article above, hopefully, you feel more knowledgeable about veterinary stethoscopes. You should know what things to look for when choosing your next stethoscope, what factors to consider.
See Also: The Definitive Stethoscope Buying Guide
If you have any opinions on other considerations for veterinary stethoscopes, please feel free to leave a comment below.
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