An endoscopy is a less invasive way for vets to examine a pet’s GI tract. For dogs and cats, endoscopy can provide a minimally invasive way to help diagnose gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and certain types of cancer, such as gastrointestinal lymphoma.
In human medicine, this procedure is typically performed with the patient under light sedation. Because dogs and cats don’t understand that the veterinary team is trying to help them, they are typically not as cooperative as people, so general anesthesia is required.
While the pet is under anesthesia, the endoscope is inserted into the mouth and then passed through the esophagus into the stomach. Using the small camera on the scope, the veterinarian will examine the stomach for abnormalities. The scope is then advanced into the upper portion of the small intestine (called the duodenum) and passed as far down the duodenum as possible. Due to the length of an animal’s small intestine and all of the twists and turns, it’s not possible to advance the scope through the entire GI tract.
Once the veterinarian has examined the GI tract, he or she will pass small biopsy forceps through a channel inside the scope. Using the forceps, multiple tissue samples for biopsy can be obtained from the stomach and small intestine and submitted for histopathology, or microscopic analysis, to confirm a diagnosis. The tissue samples taken are relatively small and do not require sutures. Once the biopsies are obtained, the scope is removed and the patient is recovered from general anesthesia.