The term endoscopy means “looking within,” refers to inserting an endoscope through an opening in the body—the mouth, nose or rectum or incision—to examine the body from the inside. In pets, the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts, as well as some areas of the abdomen or chest, can be viewed with an endoscope. Endoscopes can also be inserted through a small incision during surgery.
The endoscope itself is a thin, flexible tube with fiberoptic light source and a tiny video camera on the tip. In addition to cameras, endoscopes have at least one channel through which tiny tools can be passed. These tools can be used to biopsy an area, control bleeding, remove polyps or swallowed objects, stretch narrowed areas and many other therapies.
Before the method became available, the stomach and intestines were most commonly examined by having the pet swallow a contrast medium, like barium, and then taking pictures with X-rays. Exploratory surgery was often the only way to gain a true diagnosis.
Common Endoscopy Procedures
- Endoscopy often is used to evaluate vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, evidence of a gastric mass after an ultrasound or Xray, foreign body removal, or an esophageal disorder. Puppies that swallow pieces of toys or ingest something from the Christmas tree may need the help of an endoscope to diagnose or remove the foreign body. Endoscopy is also performed to obtain biopsies.
- Endoscopes help place a feeding tube when a sick puppy otherwise won’t eat enough nutrition. A flexible endoscope goes down the throat to view the stomach. That’s used to position one end of the feeding tube in the stomach, while the other end exits through the abdominal wall through the pet’s side. This gastrotomy tube allows the pet to be fed for days, weeks, or even months.
- Cystoscopy is endoscopy for the urogenital system. This is used for conditions such as straining to urinate, blood in the urine, painful urination, abnormal discharges, suspicion of a mass. It is performed to obtain biopsies, remove stones, to look for evidence of kidney bleeding, and to assist in the placement of stents in the ureter and urethra. It’s also used to perform lithotripsy procedures on urethral and bladder stones—that is, break bladder stones apart into tiny pieces so they pass naturally from the body. It is also used to assist in examinations of the vulva and vagina and to assist in artificial insemination.
- Bronchoscopy is endoscopy for the respiratory tract. This is utilized in evaluation of upper and lower airway tract disease so in the workup of chronic or acute coughing episodes, for pneumonia, for difficulty breathing, to assess for tracheal collapse and to obtain biopsies or remove foreign bodies. Puppies that snort pieces of grass into their noses may require bronchoscopy to help get it out.
- Rhinoscopy is endoscopy of the nose and sinus and is used to evaluate conditions like nasal discharge or nasal bleeding. It also can help evaluate nasal foreign bodies, diagnose fungal or bacterial infections in the nose and sinuses, to treat for those infections, to biopsy masses located in the nasal and nasopharyngeal areas, to place nasopharyngeal stents to treat areas of stenosis (narrowed airways).
- Arthroscopic procedures are used in joint repair. The instruments are inserted into three small incisions, rather than requiring a large, invasive opening. The arthroscope contains a chip and a light, and an image of the joint is transmitted to a video screen. The veterinarian can view the joint and decide if there are lesions, loose fragments of cartilage, foreign bodies, or infection. All these procedures cause little trauma, so the pet has less pain and returns to normal much more quickly.
Should your pet benefit from the use of the clinic's endoscope, the veterinarian will discuss this with you as part of the treatment plan.