Description: Endoscopy (endoscopic exam) utilizes an instrument called an endoscope. An endoscope is a narrow fiber-optic camera that can be used to view the internal structures of an animal. These instruments come in various diameters and lengths, and are equipped with an end that can move left, right, up, and down. Many endoscopes have different ports on the end where instruments such as biopsy tools and needles for injections can be passed. Endoscopes also have ports where solutions can be flushed into the body and samples of various liquids or tissues can be removed. The camera on all endoscopes provides a live action view for the person "driving" the instrument. Some of the more expensive endoscopes come with a monitor that allows multiple people to also view the procedure.

Test Procedure: Most of the procedures that use an endoscope require that the dog be completely anesthetized. Once the animal is adequately restrained, the camera end of the scope is inserted into the body. Many of the procedures using an endoscope are performed by inserting the endoscope in the dog’s mouth. From this starting point, the endoscope can be directed to the epiglottis, pharynx, trachea, lungs, esophagus, and stomach. Many times an endoscope is used to view or biopsy areas in the colon and rectum. Endoscopes can also be used in some surgical procedures.

One of the unique aspects of the endoscopy tool is its ability to remove samples from the body. Because the clinician has control over the instrument and can manipulate the camera to view any desired structure, samples of fluid and tissue (biopsy) can be removed relatively easily and safely. The fluid and tissues can be further evaluated and often provide essential information for a diagnosis.

Interpretation of Results: Because the endoscope provides a picture of the structures in question, and biopsy samples can readily be removed, a very accurate diagnosis can often be made.

Diagnostic Value: Excellent, when used under the right circumstances by someone who is skilled in its use.

Risks to Patient: Slight to moderate. Sedation increases the risk.

Relative Cost: Moderate to high, depending on how extensive the exam.