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Endoscopy in Dogs

An endoscope is a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the tip, and within the tube is a channel that allows the passage of a variety of instruments, including snares and biopsy items. An endoscope is used to help diagnose and treat a variety of gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders in dogs. Depending on the symptoms, an endoscope is used to look at the inner lining of the throat, stomach and intestine, colon or at the respiratory passages (nose, throat and lungs). Small samples of these areas can be taken and then analyzed to try to determine the nature of the disease.

Endoscopy is indicated when routine blood and urine tests, X-ray and ultrasound do not give an answer to the cause of the illness. Examining the lining of the GI and respiratory tract can help guide treatment. Partial thickness biopsies can be taken and analyzed. In the case of foreign body ingestion, endoscopy offers an alternative to surgical incision and removal of the object.

Endoscopy is not recommended if full thickness biopsies are necessary. It is also not effective if intestinal foreign objects or mid-intestinal illness is suspected.

What Does Endoscopy Reveal in Dogs?

Endoscopy can reveal if a foreign body is present within the stomach. It is also used to reveal if there are suspicious or abnormal areas within the stomach, intestine, colon or respiratory tract. If indicated, biopsies can be taken and analyzed.

How Is Endoscopy Done in Dogs?

Endoscopy is performed under general anesthesia. Once the patient is unconscious and has an endotracheal (breathing) tube in place, the endoscopy procedure can begin. The tip of the endoscope is lightly lubricated to allow easy passage. The tip of the endoscope in then initially placed in the body orifice (mouth, colon or trachea). The operator then uses the eyepiece to further guide the instrument safely through the esophagus, colon or respiratory tract. Air is often used to inflate part of the gastrointestinal tract to allow viewing. Once the foreign object or abnormal area is located, specific instruments can be passed through the channel within the tube. By using the eyepiece and manipulating the tip of the endoscope, the instrument can be used to grasp an item or take biopsy samples. Once the procedure is complete, excess air is suctioned out of the intestinal tract and the endoscope is removed. Any biopsy samples taken are submitted to an outside laboratory for analysis. Results may take 3 to 5 days. The endoscopy procedure can take 1 to 3 hours.

Endoscopy is not available at many veterinary hospitals. The necessary equipment tends to be quite costly and becoming proficient at endoscopic procedures takes time and practice. Referral to a specialty clinic may be necessary.

Is Endoscopy Painful to Dogs?

Since the procedure is performed under anesthesia, there is no pain involved. There is no incision so there is no pain after the procedure. Some discomfort may occur due to the temporary placement of the breathing tube. This will vary from individual to individual.

Is Sedation or Anesthesia Needed for Endoscopy?

General anesthesia is necessary in order to perform endoscopy. General anesthesia is needed to induce unconsciousness, complete control of pain and muscle relaxation. In the usual case, the pet will receive a pre-anesthetic sedative-analgesic drug to help him relax, a brief intravenous anesthetic to allow placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe, and subsequently inhalation (gas) anesthesia in oxygen during the actual procedure.