Laparoscopy for Pets

LAPAROSCOPY - Minimally Invasive Surgery is 65% less painful!*

Laparoscopy now for pets too.

Laparoscopic surgery is the extremely popular minimally invasive surgery for humans. Now pets can benefit from all of the advantages of this technology. Animal Hospital of North Asheville was the first veterinary hospital in Western North Carolina to equip and train for this capability and continues to be the leader since 2007.

How is Laparoscopy different?

Instead of a large entry incision into the abdomen or chest, one or two very small holes (½ inch) allow a high detail, color, magnifying camera with an integral fiber optic light to enter the abdomen, actually allowing better visualization on a large screen than is possible with the naked eye. Tiny details can be visualized. Then, small, highly specialized instruments are able to enter a small second hole and perform the surgery.

What are the advantages?

Our commitment to this technology benefits our patients. Small incisions allow less depth of anesthesia and result in much reduced postoperative pain, less risk of infection and a faster recovery time. A recent study in the American Veterinary Medical Association Journal showed up to 65% less pain* than with the traditional incision spay. Not only do healthy patients having surgery benefit (such as a spay), but many patients are sick and simply need a small liver biopsy for a diagnosis to be made. These patients need the most gentle, fastest and least traumatic surgery because they are ill.

Dr. Duncan (left) and Dr. Earley (right) performing minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.

Specialized instruments make laparoscopic surgery possible.

We are the first, and currently the only, veterinary hospital in Western NC to have a human technology, the Harmonic Scalpel. This instrument cuts tissue and seals blood vessels with ultrasonic vibrations rather than a knife or a hot instrument. This technology is much faster than clamping and tying off tissues (less time under anesthesia), reduces risk of bleeding and is less traumatic. The Harmonic Scalpel also benefits patients having open surgery procedures such as spleen removal.

Laparoscopic surgeries that we perform:

  • Spay: Removal of the ovaries
  • Cryptorchid Castration: Removal of testicles retained in the abdomen.
  • Biopsy: Liver, pancreas or abdominal mass
  • Abdominal Exploratory: Can visualize abdominal disease when X-ray or Ultrasound is not specific.
  • Gastropexy: Prevents life threatening condition in large breed, deep chested dogs termed Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat

Why Don’t More Animal Hospitals Offer Laparoscopic Surgery?

Veterinary schools have not been teaching this technology to students. Learning to use the equipment and the procedures requires a time commitment and specialized continuing education. Also, the education and the equipment are expensive. The Harmonic Scalpel is approximately $20,000 and the operating towers (cameras, electronic recorders, detail monitors and the instruments and ports) can cost $20,000 or more. Veterinary units are beginning to be developed, but all of our equipment (two towers and the harmonic scalpel) is human quality. This equipment requires a form of sterilization that is not commonly found in the veterinary field. We are one of the few in Western NC with that capability. We committed to laparoscopic technology eight years ago as part of embracing our mission statement of looking at every experience as though through the eyes of our patients and thinking what would we do differently if we were the patient. We want to do whatever we can to make your pet comfortable and safe.

This large screen allows for better visualization during laparoscopic surgery.

What About Cost?
At Animal Hospital of North Asheville, our equipment is used to care for the patients of eight veterinarians and because we frequently have referrals from other veterinary clinics, our equipment does not sit idle as it would if we were a smaller hospital. Using the equipment frequently reduces cost per use and allows for state-of-the-art equipment. For example, our ultrasound is a human GE Logic Ultrasound with color flow doppler; our laparoscopic towers are human Stryker equipment; our Harmonic Scalpel is for humans and made by Ethicon; our X-ray is digital but there are three tiers of digital and we have the most detailed, DR with a Cannon Plate at a cost of $100,000.  Because of our size, we can offer this high quality, at about the same price as other facilities with less expensive equipment. Having this quality of equipment available for your pet allows for a more comfortable recovery, an accurate diagnosis and may actually be life-saving.


I should post a picture of Noelle, since she was the very first patient Dr. Earley and my husband, Dr. Robinson did a lap spay on. I’ll never forget how astonished everyone was at her lightening fast rapid recovery. She practically bounded off the table, ready to go home. We feel privileged to have played a part in AHNA being able to offer this surgical technique. >^..^<

Dr. and Mrs. Robinson are truly THE BEST! We at the animal hospital get to see their love of their own pets. By going above and beyond in assisting us with laparoscopic surgery, they are demonstrating their love to all the animals who might benefit throughout Western North Carolina.