4176 Meridian Street

Bellingham, WA 98226

(360) 758-2200

24/7 Emergency Care​

Veterinary Endoscopy Services

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an intestinal endoscopy?

An endoscopy is a nonsurgical, anesthetic procedure (your pet will be placed under general anesthesia) used to examine a pet’s digestive system using a thin and flexible tube with a camera at the end. The procedure usually takes 30-60 minutes depending on what segments of the gastrointestinal tract are in need of assessment. An upper endoscopy examines the stomach, esophagus, and small intestines. A colonoscopy is performed through the rectum to examine the rectum, large intestine, and colon. Foreign material can also be retrieved through endoscopy if the location of the object is confirmed in the esophagus or stomach and depending on what the object is. When a pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have, the use of the endoscope can help to avoid the risk of a foreign object becoming lodged in the pet’s intestines and even reduce the need for an invasive surgery and greatly reduce recovery time. However, there is always the possibility that your pet will still require surgery if the scoping was not successful or only partially successful.  

What can be diagnosed with endoscopy?

An endoscopy offers an opportunity to collect tissue samples (biopsy) to test for diseases and conditions that may cause anemia, bleeding, inflammation, or diarrhea. It can also detect some cancers of the upper digestive system.

We also use endoscopy to retrieve foreign material from the stomach that your pet has ingested. If retrieval of the foreign object was successful, then there would be no need for abdominal exploratory surgery.

What are the side effects of anesthesia and what does recovery entail?

There is minimal recovery involved with the upper endoscopy procedure and little discomfort. Post-procedure symptoms may include grogginess from the anesthesia, a feeling of bloating, sore throat, nausea, difficulty swallowing, and mild pain where the IV catheter was inserted. These usually resolve within 48 hours. 

What to Expect:

Depending on the sedation/anesthesia protocol used for your pet, you can generally expect to observe some or all the following behaviors: 

  • Sedation/sleepiness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Deceased coordination – please use caution around stairs, prevent cats from climbing onto high places, keep pets leashed when outside, discourage jumping on or off furniture, and assist into and out of vehicles. 


  • It is recommended that you or another responsible person remain with your pet for the rest of the day.
  • Please minimize activity for at least 24 hours past the procedure (activity restriction may vary from case to case).

What is the difference between ultrasound and endoscopy?

Endoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light on the end to visualize and biopsy the pet’s digestive system. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create detailed images of all internal organs; fine needle aspirates (sampling organs such as the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes with a needle through the abdominal wall) may be recommended.  Oftentimes in the BBVSH Internal Medicine department, an abdominal ultrasound is one of the first diagnostic tools we use, whereas the use of endoscopy may be used later. 

Ultrasound Guided FNA (Fine Needle Aspirate):  considered less invasive and usually has fewer risks. The main advantages of FNA are that it is fairly quick, it often doesn’t require general anesthesia, and the skin doesn’t have to be cut, so no stitches are required and there is usually no scar.

Endoscopy Biopsy:  obtains a larger tissue sample and provides a degree of architectural information. Biopsies are used for smaller GI issues where an ultrasound guided FNA might not provide an answer. 

What are the risks associated with taking internal biopsies?

Taking internal biopsies is a very safe procedure. Rare complications include: bleeding and infection. In very rare cases, bleeding may require a blood transfusion. Most infections are minor and can be treated with antibiotics. If your pet is at higher risk of infection, antibiotics may be prescribed preventatively. 

How long will it take to receive biopsy results?

Receiving your pet’s biopsy results can take up to 2-3 weeks depending on the day of the week the sample was submitted, the current weather conditions, and holidays.

What is the plan for my pet after the endoscopy?

Endoscopy is a diagnostic tool that generally requires the processing of biopsies taken during the procedure to then formulate a plan for your pet moving forward. The procedure allows visualization of the tissues, tissue composition determined by how easily the biopsy was attained, and diagnostic experience from previous cases. You may be sent home with medication or diet trials on the same day as the procedure, but once the biopsy results come back you will receive a preliminary plan specifically designed for your pet. 

Contact BBVSH Bellingham
Please fill in your contact details and a message below. We’ll be sure to contact you within the next business day.
Alternately, call (360) 982-0166, fax 1 (888) 867-6928 or email bellingham@bbvsh.com

If you have an emergency, please call 360-758-2200.