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The Risks of Endoscopy in Dogs

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The risks of endoscopy in dog are something to consider so that both veterinarians and owners can make an informed decision. Although endoscopy is considered to be a relatively safe procedure, the procedure can sometimes have few potential complications, although they may not be very common. The level of risks may vary based on several factors such the area that is being examined and the dog's overall health. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares information about endoscopy for dogs, what happens during the procedure and the risks of endoscopy for dogs.

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There are several risks of endoscopy for dogs

Endoscopy for Dogs 

Up until recently, endoscopy was something only human patients could benefit from. Today, with the advances both in the field of veterinary medicine and technology, endoscopic procedures have become common in the treatment of animals.

What is an endoscope? An endoscope is a small, flexible tube-shaped device that enters the body through an opening (mouth, anus). On the tube’s end there is a tiny, high-resolution camera and a light source. Through the tube, the vet can easily visualize the inside of the dog’s body.

The real time, color image of the body’s inside is visualized on a monitor attached to the tube’s other end. In cases where a foreign object needs to be extracted or a tissue sample collected, the tube has one more appendix – a forceps that will aid to grasp the foreign object.

There are several benefits in endoscopic procedures for dogs. For instance, the procedure is less invasive, and therefore, ensures a faster and smoother recovery. It can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes (it can detect a foreign body and remove it at the same time) and it can be performed on an outpatient basis.

Endoscopic procedures are performed on dogs under general anesthesia. Since the procedures are short, short-lasting anesthetic agents are used. The general anesthesia is necessary because passing an endoscope safely into a conscious dog is impossible even in extremely calm and collaborative dogs. Plus, it is very uncomfortable and therefore considered inhumane.

Prior to the procedure, the vet will recommend fasting the dog (for at least 12 to 18 hours). For certain procedures, to get rid of any fecal matter, the vet may administer an enema (at least one and maybe more) the morning before the procedure is scheduled.

Before being subdued to general anesthesia, the dog should undergo a full physical examination, including a complete blood analysis (both blood cell count and biochemistry panels), chest x-rays to evaluate the lungs and an ultrasound to evaluate the heart.

Types of Endoscopy in Dogs 

Depending on what area will need to be evaluated, there are different terms used in the field of endoscopy. For example, an esophagoscopy is used to to evaluate the esophagus and is indicated in dogs with dysphasia (inability to swallow), excessive salivation and loss of appetite. A gastroscopy can be used to evaluate the dog's stomach, which is helpful in dogs with intermittent or persistent vomiting.

A duodenoscopy evaluates the dog's small intestines and is indicative in patients with diarrhea and thickening of the intestinal walls (determined on abdominal palpation and ultrasound). A colonoscopy evaluates the colon and rectum and is indicative in dogs with increased defecation frequency, small volume feces, constipation, blood or mucus in the dog's stool.

Urinary endoscopy is used to evaluate the dog's bladder and urethra; and is therefore indicative in dogs with urinary tract infections, frequent urination and displaying signs of cancer or trauma. Rhinoscopy is used to evaluate the dog's nasal cavities, the area above the soft palate and throat area and is indicative in patients with foreign bodies, such as foxtails in the dog's nose, or suspected presence of tumors and polyps.

Airway endoscopy can help evaluate the dog's airways, and can help dogs with upper airway symptoms and polyps. Thoracoscopy can evaluate the dog's chest cavity and is indicated in dogs with suspected lung and heart issues. Finally, a dog's laparoscopy can help evaluate the dog's abdominal cavity and is indicated in dogs with abdominal issues.

The Risks of Endoscopy for Dogs

Endoscopic procedures are generally classified as safe. However, as with any medical procedures, there are always potential risks and complications.

Before the procedure is performed, the vet will discuss the potential risks and complications and explain whether the benefits outweigh them. These are the most commonly reported risks and complications:

Risks Associated with the General Anesthesia

This is why it is of paramount importance to assess the patient’s overall health prior to the procedure. Prior to the endoscopy, dogs should undergo a full physical examination, blood tests, chest x-rays and a heart ultrasound.

Risks For Bleeding

Bleeding can range from minor to severe and develop if a tissue sample was collected for biopsy purposes. In cases of copious bleeding, surgery and even blood transfusion may be necessary.

Risks for Infections

Infections usually develop at biopsy sites, if bacteria start growing. This complication is managed by administering strong, systemic antibiotics.

Risks for Tearing and Perforation

In particular, there may be tearing and perforation of the gastrointestinal walls, usually occurs during foreign body removals, especially if the foreign body is sharp and edgy. The consequences of this complication are life-threatening and require prompt surgical correction.

If there is an inability to remove the foreign object due to its shape and size, in such cases, the procedure will have to be continued in the old-fashioned, surgical manner.

How to minimize the risks? There are several ways to lower the risks of endoscopy in dogs. It's important to adhere to the vet’s advice, carefully following the pre-procedure instructions in terms of food and water withhold. Also important is to monitor the dog closely after the procedure and promptly report to the vet as soon as possible should there be any physical or behavioral changes.

What to Expect After an Endoscopy in Dogs 

Endoscopic procedures, both diagnostic and therapeutic, are classified as minimally invasive. Therefore, in most cases, dogs undergoing endoscopic procedures are discharged the same day. More accurately, dogs are discharged as soon as they recover from the general anesthesia.

Although the procedures are minimally invasive, general anesthesia is necessary to keep the dog comfortable and pain-free. Some anesthetic agents leave the body sooner, while some others may take some time to be fully eliminated. In general, it takes 12 to 24 hours for the body to be completely free of the anesthetic agents. Therefore, patients may experience sleepiness after being released from the vet clinic. However, that sleepiness should not last for more than 24 hours after the procedure.

Dogs that have been anesthetized lose their body temperature regulation abilities and there such dogs may feel cold after the procedure. This is only temporary, but while it lasts, it is important to keep them warm. It is also advisable to keep them in a dark and quiet environment. This is because most patients are overly sensitive to light and noises after being anesthetized.

Some dogs may experience persistent cough. The cough is self-limiting and usually develops due to irritation of the windpipe caused by the endotracheal tube. The endotracheal tube is necessary as it aids the breathing during general anesthesia.

Last but not least, in the recovery period, patients must rest as instructed. Usually this means either cage rest or limited physical activity.

About the Author

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.

ivana crnec

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