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What is a Pet Endoscopy, and Why is it Important?

The purpose of a veterinary endoscopy procedure is to identify the underlying cause of symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain or swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea in pets. In this post, our Stockton veterinarians discuss this diagnostic test. 

The Endoscope

An endoscope is a long flexible or rigid fibre-optic tube with a video camera attached to the tip. A veterinarian inserts this imaging device into your cat or dog's mouth or rectum to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine or colon in full color. 

The video that's captured is then transmitted to a special computer in real-time, allowing your vet to guide the endoscope where needed during an internal exam of your pet's body.

Instruments such as grabbing forceps may be passed through the tube to perform procedures such as object removal or a bipsy. In most cases, an endoscopy is considered less invasive than a surgical procedure. 

Unfortunately, there are some places in the body that an endoscope is unable to reach. If this is the case for your pet's situation, your veterinarian will recommend an alternative treatment plan. 

Types of Endoscopy 

Depending on your cat or dog's symptoms, a vet may order a specific type of endoscopic procedure. Here is a brief rundown of each:

Flexible Endoscopy 

  • Bronchoscopy - An exam of the lower airways 
  • Colonoscopy - An examination of the colon, large bowel, and rectum
  • Endoscopy - An exam of the stomach, esophagus, and upper intestines 

Rigid Endoscopy 

  • Arthroscopy - An exam of joint cartilage and soft tissue structures (which are not visible on X-rays) 
  • Cystoscopy - An examination of the urethral opening, urethra, bladder, ureteral openings, and vagina 
  • Laparoscopy - An exam of the abdominal cavity performed through a small incision in the wall of the abdomen or through the naval. This will allow your vet to obtain biopsy samples from the kidney and liver. 
  • Proctoscopy - An exam of the rectum and large bowel 
  • Rhinoscopy - An exam of the nasal cavity and nasopharaynx (junction between the nasal area and back of the throat). 
  • Thoracoscopy - An examination of the chest cavity. This is currently not frequently performed on pets.  

Why Endoscopies Are Important

If your veterinarian needs to visually examine your dog or cat's gastrointestinal tract and other organs without performing invasive surgery, an endoscopy will allow them to do this. The procedure can help identify whether a foreign object might be stuck in your pet's body. It can also diagnose abnormal cells, inflammation, tumors, or esophageal strictures (a band of scar tissue that causes a narrowing of the esophagus, which can make swallowing difficult, especially with solid foods). 

Some of these may not be visible on traditional X-rays or ultrasounds, which means without an endoscopy, the underlying cause of illness or injury may not be identified, and your veterinarian would not be able to make an accurate diagnosis. 

The Endoscopy Procedure for Cats & Dogs

Prior to a gastrointestinal endoscopy, your pet must not have any feces or foods in their stomach. Depending on the particular area your vet plans to examine with the endoscope, your pet will need to fast for 12 to 18 hours to clear its system. At least one enema may be needed before the procedure. 

Since an endoscopy allows your vet to thoroughly examine the stomach, esophagus, intestinal tract, and/or colon, your pet will be sedated during the procedure. The endoscope will be inserted through the mouth or rectum into your pet's stomach or intestinal tract, then gently pushed forward to allow the vet to see the area. 

Your veterinarian can take precise biopsy samples from any abnormal areas during the procedure. These samples consist of tiny pieces of tissue cut from the organ's lining by the biopsy instrument.

If a biopsy is required or your vet needs to remove a foreign object, grabbing forceps may be passed through the endoscope to perform this procedure. 

How much will my cat or dog's endoscopy cost?

The cost of youra pet’s endoscopy can vary depending on the veterinarian performing the procedure and any additional services or medications required. Contact your veterinary clinic for specific pricing information.

How long does a cat or dog's endoscopy take?

The duration of this procedure can vary depending on the specific procedure being performed and the condition of the individual cat or dog. However, it typically takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete, on average. 

Results From Your Pet's Endoscopy Procedure 

Because your veterinarian is able to examine your pet's organs in real-time, you and your vet will see the outcome of the examination immediately. However, a pathologist usually examines biopsies to make a final diagnosis. Depending on the circumstances, this may take up to a week. 

Conditions Commonly Diagnosed Using Endoscopy

An endoscopy allows your veterinarian to detect abnormalities such as:

  • Inflammation
  • Abnormal abdominal swelling due to tumors, intestinal blockage, or accumulation of fluid 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Gastrointestinal foreign bodies such as hairballs, rocks, sticks, coins, or others

Detecting Cancer in Pets Using Endoscopy 

In many cases, your veterinarian can use an endoscope to diagnose gastrointestinal cancer.

However, some tumors do not affect the stomach or colon mucosa (the inner lining of the colon and rectum). In these cases, the biopsy results are normal, but the pet continues to exhibit clinical signs. Biopsies taken during exploratory surgery (exploratory laparotomy) or non-invasive tests, such as an MRI, may be necessary.

Your Pet's Recovery From the Endoscopy Procedure

Most pets recover quickly and easily after an endoscopy. Your pet should be released shortly following the procedure. Once your pet is awake and responding to treatment, he should be able to return home for rest.

Depending on the purpose of the endoscopy, your pet may be able to resume play and eating almost immediately. If the endoscopy involves a biopsy, the pathology report could take up to a week. If the endoscopy is for discovery, your veterinarian will discuss the next steps and options with you. If the procedure was to locate and remove a foreign object, you and your pet should be able to return to normal activities immediately after the endoscopy and recovery from anesthesia.

A dog or cat endoscopy may cause temporary side effects, such as discomfort, mild bleeding, or irritation at the procedure site. To reduce the risk of complications, follow your veterinarian's post-procedure care instructions.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed concerning symptoms of illness in your dog or cat? Contact Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital today to book an exam for your four-legged friend. 

New Patients Welcome

New Patients Welcome

Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our compassionate vets are experienced in caring for Stockton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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