GI Endoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to examine a cat’s digestive tract. An endoscope is a flexible, thin tube with a light and camera attached to it. During an upper endoscopy, the cat is anesthetized and an endoscope is passed through the mouth and throat and then into the esophagus, allowing the doctor to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine on a video monitor. Abnormal findings are noted and small biopsy samples are often taken. The patient is then recovered and goes home that same day. The procedure generally lasts under an hour.
We can often diagnose a wide variety of conditions including Inflammatory Bowel Disease, gastrointestinal Lymphoma and other types of cancer with this technique. The main advantage of endoscopy over surgery is the minimally invasive nature of the procedure. The main disadvantage is that we are only able to see a part of the inside of the GI tract and obtain small biopsy samples (as opposed to full thickness samples that would be obtained during a complete exploratory surgery). We are not able to evaluate the liver, pancreas, spleen or kidneys.
Similarly, endoscopes can be passed into the large intestine (colon) through the rectum to examine this area of the intestine. This procedure is called a colonoscopy.
Rhinoscopy involves inserting a very small rigid endoscope into the nasal passages. We can also use a flexible endoscope to look in the back of the throat, above the soft palate. This allows a view of the back of the nasal passages. We may perform rhinoscopy in cats with chronic upper respiratory signs to look for inflammation, cancer or foreign bodies.
Cystoscopy involves inserting a very small endoscope into the urethra of a female cat and then into the bladder. We may perform cystoscopy in order to look for signs of chronic cystitis or to obtain a sample of a bladder mass.
Otoscopy involves inserting a very small endoscope deep into the external ear canal. We can then observe if the ear drum (called the tympanic membrane) is ruptured, as well as look for, and get biopsy samples of, masses.
We are trained in all of the above techniques and enjoy performing these minimally invasive procedures to help obtain a diagnosis!