An endoscopy is a type of test or procedure where a tube containing a small camera and light source, called an endoscope, is used to look inside the body. There are many types of endoscopy techniques, depending on the part of the body being looked at.
The word endoscopy is often used to mean an examination of the food pipe and stomach, but the same technique can be adapted for other organs or used during surgery (key-hole surgery). Endoscopy in cats requires the use of general anaesthesia and advanced equipment, and due to this, it can be expensive. In many cases, it provides information that other tests can’t, or can sometimes replace major surgery.
What it’s for
What is endoscopy for in cats?
Endoscopy is unique in that it allows us to directly see what is happening inside the body, usually without causing any damage to the organs. Each technique has its own purpose.
Gastroscopy or gastroduodenoscopy
- This is what most people think about when they hear endoscopy.
- The tube is passed through the mouth into the food pipe (oesophagus), stomach and sometimes the first portion of the intestines (duodenum).
- Used to check for foreign objects, blockages, ulcers and masses.
- Sometimes small objects can be removed, but anything that could get stuck or has sharp edges is safer to remove with surgery.
- Small tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken to check for cancer, infection or inflammatory disease.
- The tube is passed through the anus and can be used to examine the rectum and large intestine
- Some preparation is needed to minimise the amount of faeces present
- Used to detect and take biopsies from polyps and masses
- Used to check the inside of the nostril and back of the nose.
- Examining the whole nasal passage has to be done in two steps:
- A flexible tube is passed through the mouth, turned back on itself near the throat, and then directed into the back of the nose.
- A rigid tube is inserted into the nostril and then gently advanced through the nasal passage
- Can be used to find and help flush out or remove inhaled objects
- Also useful to detect polyps and other masses.
- Biopsies can be taken to diagnose tumours, fungal infections and inflammatory problems
- Mild nosebleeds are common for a couple of days after this procedure, but constant dripping or large amounts of blood should be discussed with a vet straight away.
- The tube is passed into the windpipe (trachea) and down through the bronchi to the initial portion of each lung.
- Can be used to check for foreign objects or masses. Foreign objects can sometimes be removed during bronchoscopy, but this is not always possible.
- Most often used to perform a procedure called bronchoalveolar lavage. During this, fluid is used to collect cell samples from within the lungs. This allows diagnosis of some infections and cancers.
Cystoscopy and Urethroscopy
- A small tube is introduced into the urethra and used to examine the inside of the lower urinary tract and the bladder.
- Can detect problems not seen in other tests
- Also useful for taking samples of masses or localised infections
- Two or three small cuts are made through the skin and muscle of the abdomen, and the endoscope as well as special instruments can be inserted.
- This way, the internal organs can be visually examined, and some surgeries can be performed, such as removing the ovaries or taking biopsies of internal organs.
- This is often called key-hole surgery. It causes much less discomfort or pain and can reduce the risk of some complications
- The endoscope is passed through the skin, between the ribs and into the chest. Less commonly done than other types of endoscopy.
- Useful to take samples from inside the chest or perform procedures such as pericardiectomy (a surgery to remove some of the membrane that surrounds the heart) without the severe discomfort and potential complications of open-chest surgery
- Still an advanced procedure requiring close monitoring afterwards.
How it’s done
How is endoscopy done in cats?
- Cats have to be under general anaesthesia for any endoscopy procedures.
- A tube with a fiberoptic camera and a light source is passed into the body. This tube also contains gas and water channels, as well as a small channel through which very thin and long instruments can be passed.
- The tube may be passed through a natural opening, or one may be created through the skin and muscle. More than one opening is needed for some procedures.
- When inside the organ or body cavities, a small amount of gas must be inserted to gently separate structures and allow visualisation and safe passing of the tube.
- The image can be seen in real time on a monitor placed next to the patient.
- The tube is gently moved around in order to examine all the structures. In procedures where a flexible endoscope can be used, the tip can be flexed in different angles and directions.
- Specialised tools can be passed through the tube to do things like grasping something, cutting and cauterising, or taking biopsies.
How much does endoscopy cost in cats?
Endoscopy tools are very specialised and expensive. Additionally, they are fragile and complex to maintain.
For many types of endoscopy, it is necessary to have several sizes of the same tool.
Endoscopy is also quite different from normal surgery and requires special training.
Because of all this, endoscopy procedures cost several hundreds of pounds, potentially more for complex procedures.
The cost of anaesthesia also needs to be added.
On the other hand, endoscopy can sometimes replace the use of equally expensive surgery while allowing for a simpler and faster recovery.
What are the risks of endoscopy in cats?
- Any procedure has risks, especially when surgery is involved. In general, endoscopy has a significantly lower risk of complications than the same surgery or treatment performed in the traditional way.
- Perforation or damage to the organ being examined is a possible complication, this can be serious but is rare.
- Complications with anaesthesia are possible, especially with endoscopy of the airways. Endoscopy is usually faster than traditional surgery, which reduces anaesthetic risks.
Recovery tips after endoscopy in cats
Endoscopy is much less traumatic than traditional surgery, but the body still needs to heal. Carefully follow all instructions from your vet regarding rest and wound care.
It is always crucial to monitor your cat closely after anaesthesia. Your cat is likely to be quite sleepy and need to rest. Keep them in a quiet and comfortable environment if possible. They may also need help staying warm, a cosy blanket may help. You may need to keep an eye on them to make sure they are recovering well.
When to worry
When to worry about your cat after endoscopy
Speak to a vet straight away if your pet is:
- becoming less responsive
- having breathing difficulties
Speak to a vet as soon as possible if:
- any wounds are swollen, weepy
- your pet seems to be in pain
Joii vets and nurses can help you in the app if you have any questions or are unsure about what to do.