Useful resources and information if you are considering keyhole surgery for your animal

Frequently Asked Questions  

What is laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy also commonly referred to as "keyhole" surgery, minimally invasive surgery, or endosurgery (see the glossary for a more detailed explanation), is a method of performing abdominal (or other body cavity) surgery by inserting a surgical telescope or endoscope, and very thin, specially designed instruments through tiny incisions in the body. In many cases the wounds are only 5mm in size.

Why is laparoscopic surgery benificial?


Laparoscopic surgery has become the gold standard for a wide range of operations in humans, but sadly is still only rarely performed in animals. Just as in humans, the very small incisions mean a much faster recovery, less risk of post-operative infections, less risks of post-operative wound complications, and most importantly, significantly less pain than with old-fashioned open abdominal surgery. For many major operations performed this way, animals need shorter hospitalisation, meaning they can return home to the family sooner. 

What if my veterinary practice does not offer keyhole surgery?

Unfortunately it is estimated that less than 1% of suitable operations in dog and cat surgery in the UK is performed laparoscopically. Remember, that unlike the NHS in the UK, you pay for your animals treatment by a veterinarian, either directly yourself, or if insured via your insurance company (and your insurance premiums). You are perfectly within your rights to ask for a procedure to be performed this way, and if this is not possible at you veterinary practice, to ask for a referral to a veterinary practice that does perform laparoscopic surgery, or you may also choose to change practice.  The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), can be contacted for details on this and referrals.

List of Veterinary Private Practices offering Laparoscopic Neutering of dogs and other laparoscopy is given here.

Is laparoscopic surgery more expensive than old-fashioned "open" surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery is normally slightly more expensive than old -ashioned open abdominal surgery, so if you want the cheapest option, then this may not be for you.The slightly higher fees are however not unreasonable for all the advantages. Laparoscopic surgery equipment is also costly to purchase and maintain, it takes extra training, experience and a higher level of surgical expertese, and so is often performed by more experienced soft tissue surgeons.

Is keyhole surgery covered by pet insurance?

With all the advantages of laparoscopic surgery it is great to know that in the vast majority of cases, the costs of laparoscopic surgery are covered just the same as old-fashioned open surgery, as they are in the animals best interest. Remember you have the choice! The only exception is routine neutering of healthy young bitches, as this is an elective procedure, and wether open or keyhole, is not covered by pet insurance. The cost is however usually only slightly higher. The surgical neutering of male dogs that have a retained abdominal testicle (cryptorchid) is often covered by pet insurance, and this too may be erformed by laparoscopy.

Is "Keyhole" surgery the same as laparoscopic surgery?

While in human surgery the layman's term "keyhole" surgery is usually taken to mean laparoscopy, this is not always so in veterinary practice Unfortunately it may occasionaly be misused to mean performing normal open surgery, just through a small incision. The two should not be confused. Laparoscopic sugery is minimally invasive, but still visual surgery, where everything can be seen well via the video endooscope, making it safe surgery. Performing open surgery through small incision is actually worse than open surgery from a reasonable sized wound. A surgeon yanking on organs he can't see through a small hole is neither safe surgery, nor painfree - animals are often really painful after this poor form of surgical technique. Make sure if its keyhole surgery that it is laparoscopic surgery!

How do I go about finding a veterinary Practice that performes laparoscopic surgery?

Click on the Vets Offering Keyhole Surgery tab on the sub-menu, or click here

How do I find out more?

Unfortunately there are few authoratative sources of professional information on keyhole surgery available to animal owners. This website portal aims to correct that, and we will be adding a large amount of useful information over the next month. Keeping checking back here regularly!