Gastrointestinal investigation

If your pet is referred for a gastrointestinal tract (GIT) investigation then we may recommend endoscopy. Endoscopy is an important diagnostic tool in many conditions including vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and anaemia. In patients where changes are detected in the stomach or intestines, endoscopy provides a minimally invasive way of obtaining biopsies.  Endoscopy can also be used to remove foreign objects that pets have eaten or place feeding tubes in patients who are not eating.

What is endoscopy?

Endoscopy involves passing a camera via a patient’s mouth or rectum to evaluate their gastrointestinal tract (GIT). In veterinary patients, it involves a short general anaesthesia.  Endoscopic biopsies can be obtained to allow a minimally invasive diagnosis of many conditions including inflammatory bowel disease and cancers of the GIT. In patients who are not eating, endoscopy can also be used to place a feeding tube directly into the stomach to allow nutritional support.  In most cases, endoscopy is generally performed after other investigations including blood work, ultrasound and a diet trial.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of endoscopy compared to surgery?

Endoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure and therefore the recovery time is quicker than with traditional surgery. As there is no incision into the intestine the risk of leakage from the biopsy site is reduced.  Endoscopy, however, is not suitable for all cases as it is not possible to access all areas of the intestines with an endoscope and biopsies tend to be smaller and more superficial, so may not be diagnostic or representative of the underlying disease.

What is involved in endoscopy?

Upper GIT endoscopy involves evaluation of the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine. There is generally no special preparation required apart from food being withheld the night before the anaesthesia. Lower GIT endoscopy involves evaluation of the rectum and colon and therefore involves food being withheld for 48 hours prior to the procedure and enemas to ensure the colon is clean.

Biopsy results are normally available within 3-4 working days.

Endoscopy image of a stomach showing a gastric neoplasia with evidence of haemorrhage.

Endoscopic image of a stomach showing a gastric neoplasia with evidence of haemorrhage.

 

Colonoscopy of a partially circumferential mass lesion of the colonic wall.

Colonoscopy demonstrating a partially circumferential mass lesion of the colonic wall.

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