Pet Care Resources

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) for Dogs and Cats

Just as it is for humans, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is a technique that involves making small incisions (typically half an inch) into the body versus a traditional large incision. High-definition, tiny cameras, and instruments are inserted into the incisions which then convey an image to a screen, allowing our surgeons to visualize the area.  

May 12, 2023

The benefits of minimally invasive surgery include: 

  • Better visualization – because our surgeons can move the cameras around more freely and around structures, they can see more than if the cavity is open from a traditional long incision.  
  • Decreased trauma and pain – smaller incisions mean less trauma to tissues and a decrease in internal and external scarring. Your pet will also recover faster and require less pain medication.  

Depending on the location of the condition being treated, there are three categories of minimally invasive surgery – arthroscopy, laparoscopy, and thoracoscopy. Below you will find more information on each type of surgery. 


Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that is used for the joints. It is the technique of choice in veterinary and human medicine for diagnosing a wide variety of joint disorders that may otherwise be difficult to diagnose.  

Arthroscopy is particularly useful for evaluating and treating diseases of the shoulder and elbow joints. Non-arthroscopic procedures for these joints are much more invasive, often requiring the cutting of bone, tendon, or muscle to access the joints. With arthroscopy, joints can be more effectively evaluated and accessed with much less patient discomfort and shorter recovery periods.  

Arthroscopy is often recommended for shoulder conditions such as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), bicep tenosynovitis, shoulder instability, and to biopsy shoulder joint abnormalities. It is also useful for elbow issues, including fragmented medial coronoid process, medial compartment disease diagnosis and treatment, ununited anconeal process, and OCD of the medial humeral condyle.  


Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that focuses on the abdominal cavity. Multiple small incisions are made in various positions in the abdomen pending the procedure being performed. Small cameras and instruments are placed into the incision ports and are used to visualize and treat the abdominal organs.  

One of the most common conditions treated with laparoscopic surgery is prophylactic gastropexy to prevent gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV). This life-threatening disease occurs when the stomach flips and twists in the abdomen and distends with air. This disease occurs most commonly in large-breed, deep-chested dogs. 

Laparoscopy is also useful for obtaining biopsies, removing masses, feeding tube placement, spaying, cholecystectomy, and more.  


Thoracoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery of the thoracic cavity (chest). Like laparoscopy, small incisions are made into the thorax and are used as ports for cameras and instruments for visualization, diagnosis, and treatment.  

Procedures that are most performed during thoracoscopy are for the diagnosis and treatment of pericardial diseases and tumors, such as pericardial effusion. Pericardial effusion (fluid in the membrane around the heart) compresses the heart and leads to heart failure. The classic treatment for this disease is to remove the pericardium which involves cutting through the sternum. With thoracoscopy, surgeons make a small window in the pericardium to allow the fluid to escape and decompress the heart.  

Thoracoscopy is also used to diagnose various cancers of the thorax, including lung tumors, mesothelioma, thymoma, and ectopic thyroid tumors. In some cases, these tumors can also be treated with thoracoscopy.  

Is My Pet a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Surgery?

There are many factors that must be evaluated to determine if your pet would benefit from minimally invasive surgery, including: 

  • Comprehensive review of your pet’s medical history 
  • Thorough physical exam 
  • Bloodwork and other tests as needed to confirm your pet’s overall health and readiness for surgery.  

How Do I Prepare My Pet for Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Your pet will undergo general anesthesia for their surgery. They must fast at least 12 hours before surgery. Your surgical team will let you know when to stop your pet’s medications before surgery (if needed).  

Your pet will be closely monitored during and following anesthesia. After they are awakened from the surgery, they will recover in a kennel with warm bedding in a calm environment. We will continue to closely monitor them while they are with us overnight.  

What Postoperative Care is Needed for My Pet?

Postoperative care for your pet is critical following minimally invasive surgery. Although the recovery plan varies pending the type of procedure performed, it generally consists of the following for two to four weeks:  

  • Your pet should only be let out on a leash to urinate or defecate. 
  • Your pet should avoid stairs or slippery floors. 
  • No running, jumping, playing, or stair climbing.  
  • When your pet is not under your supervision, they should be confined to a small area, cage, or crate. 

Before your pet is discharged from MedVet, we will provide you with written postoperative care instructions and demonstrate any key points with you. Our goal is for your pet to have the best post-recovery possible and improve their quality of life.

Pet Care Resources

For ways to ensure your pet lives a happier, healthier life, visit our Pet Care Resources library.

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Pet Care Resources

For ways to ensure your pet lives a happier, healthier life, visit our Pet Care Resources library.

View Resources