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Endoscopy for Pets: Diagnosing & Treating Digestive Disorders

Diagnostic procedures like endoscopy are used to help diagnose conditions that affect the digestive tract of your pet. Here, our Arlington vets talk about what to expect during your dog or cat's upcoming endoscopy and what conditions it can help diagnose in pets.

Endoscopy Procedures for Dogs & Cats

An endoscope is a flexible tube with a viewing port and/or a video camera attachment that is inserted through the mouth into the stomach or the rectum into the colon. When your dog or cat has an endoscopy procedure, the vet will use an endoscope to examine the insides of these hollow organs.

This diagnostic procedure can help diagnose strictures (narrowing of a passage), abnormal cells, or tumors, as well as the removal of any foreign objects that may be present.

What happens during an endoscopy procedure?

Before a gastrointestinal endoscopy, your pet will need to be free of all foods and feces. Depending on the internal location of the endoscope inspection, your pet will need to fast for 12 to 18 hours to clear its system. Before the procedure, at least one enema may be required.

Because an endoscopy allows for a thorough examination of the esophagus, stomach, intestinal tract, and/or colon, your pet will be sedated throughout the procedure. The endoscope will be inserted through the mouth or the rectum into your pet's stomach or intestinal tract and advanced to visualize the required area.

If a biopsy or foreign body removal is required, an additional device can be passed through the endoscope to perform these other procedures as needed.

Diagnosing Conditions & Diseases with Endoscopy

The endoscope enables full-color viewing of the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine, or colon. Endoscopy in dogs and cats can be used to identify conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or abnormal swelling. They can usually see and retrieve a foreign body as well, such as a bone, stick, rock, toy, coin, or hairball.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Pets with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) experience chronic gastrointestinal disorders caused by inflammation in the digestive tract. Both dogs and cats can experience symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and poor appetite.

An endoscopy can help by allowing veterinarians to see the inflamed areas and collect tissue samples for further examination. This procedure helps determine the severity of the disease and informs treatment planning, which may include dietary changes, medication, or both.

Abnormal Abdominal Swelling

Pets with abnormal abdominal swelling experience an excessive enlargement or bloating of the abdomen that is not due to normal weight gain or pregnancy. Various underlying conditions, such as fluid accumulation, organ enlargement, tumors, or intestinal blockages, can be the cause.

An endoscopy can help by allowing a veterinarian to visually examine the internal organs and tissues of the abdomen to see the cause of the swelling and make a diagnosis for appropriate treatment.

Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies

Pets can eat things that can become lodged in their digestive tract. These can include items like toys, bones, fabric, coins, buttons, and a multitude of others. An endoscopy can help by allowing veterinarians to see and remove the foreign body without the need for invasive surgery.

In some cases, however, if the foreign body is too large or has caused severe damage, surgery may be necessary to ensure the pet's safety and well-being.

Can cancer be diagnosed with endoscopy?

In many cases, your veterinarian can diagnose cancer of the gastrointestinal tract using the endoscope. Some tumors, however, do not affect the stomach or colon's mucosa or inner lining. In these cases, the biopsy results are normal yet the pet continues to experience clinical signs.

Your pet may also require a biopsy obtained through exploratory surgery (exploratory laparotomy) and non-invasive tests, such as an MRI, may be required.

Recovery & Follow-up After Your Cat or Dog's Endoscopy

Most pets will recover quickly after their endoscopy once sedation wears off. They should be able to be released to you shortly following the procedure to go home and rest once they are awake and responsive. Depending on what the endoscopy was for, your pet may be able to resume play and eating very quickly.

If a biopsy was taken during the procedure, receiving those results can take up to a week. At this time your vet will contact you and discuss treatment options. If the endoscopy is for discovery, your veterinarian will go over the next steps and options with you. If the procedure was to find and remove a foreign object, you and your pet should be able to resume normal activities immediately after the endoscopy and waking from anesthesia.

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.

Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming diagnostic procedure? Contact our Arlington vets to learn more about what to expect.

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