Risk of an Endoscopy Exam in Dogs

Endoscopy allows vets to see inside dogs' bodies without major surgery.
Dog of breed dachshund on a chain as a sentry dog image by Dzmitry Lameika from Fotolia.com

Modern technology offers many opportunities to diagnose illnesses in dogs and cats that would otherwise be difficult to determine. The endoscopic exam is one of these boons of modern veterinary medicine that has saved many dogs’ lives by allowing vets to look inside the abdominal cavities and respiratory systems of their patients. Like many invasive diagnostic methods, however, endoscopy entails some risk to the animal which should be considered carefully before the procedure is performed.

What Is Endoscopy?

Endoscopy is a procedure that uses a small, flexible tube with a light and a tiny, high-resolution camera on the end of it. This device is threaded inside the body to view the internal condition of organs. The advantage of endoscopic examination is that it is minimally invasive, offering the least risk to the dog while allowing for significant information about the organs and tissues.

When Is Endoscopy Used?

Endoscopy exams are most often used for gastrointestinal problems that cause pain, vomiting and diarrhea. It is often ordered after standard remedies like diet change and medications do not improve the condition. The direct look at the internal organs can help the veterinarian determine a therapeutic course of action. Endoscopy is also used to locate and remove foreign objects that dogs swallow. Small tools are inserted through the endoscope to remove the object without surgery, according to Dr. Jason Pintar of Garden State Veterinary Specialists. Endoscopic exams are also used to detect problems in the respiratory and urinary system of animals, often to find and remove polyps and tumors and determine if there are any abnormalities in the structure of the organs.

Risks of Endoscopy Exams

The usual risks of general anesthesia are among the most common problems of endoscopic examinations. The general health of the dog may put him into jeopardy during the procedure. Your veterinarian will do a full blood panel on your dog to determine if he is healthy enough to undergo the procedure. Bleeding can occur from an endoscopic procedure if tissue is removed for biopsy. Though rare, bleeding can be a serious problem that may require surgery or blood transfusion. Infection can also occur after an endoscopy if bacteria begins to grow at the site of the biopsy. Antibiotics are generally given to contain the infection. Tearing or perforation of the gastrointestinal tract can be a serious problem that occurs during endoscopic exams. Although also rare, tearing or perforation can cause a serious emergency situation that can cause loss of life.

Minimizing The Risks of Endoscopy Exams

Thousands of endoscopic exams are done every day on dogs and cats. Complications are rare and are outweighed by the great benefits endoscopy brings to the diagnosis of internal problems that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to determine precisely. Ask your veterinarian how many endoscopies he has done. Carefully follow all pre-procedure instructions regarding withholding food and water. After the procedure, monitor the dog’s behavior closely. If you detect any change in behavior or physical problems, consult your veterinarian immediately.