What is Colopexy?

A colopexy is a surgical procedure in which the colon is attached to the abdominal wall and secured. It is most commonly used to treat rectal prolapse in dogs. Rectal prolapse occurs from any health issue that causes excessive abdominal straining. The problem is usually visually obvious, as a portion of the colon will be protruding out from the dog's anus. 

A colopexy is generally the final option of treatment if a reduction and string suture have proved ineffective. This surgery is not high risk and is done on a fairly regular basis. It works by using sutures to secure the colon to the abdominal wall until fibrous collagen tissue bind the organ permanently. It should be performed by an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon. If laparoscopic surgery is needed, a specially trained surgeon will be required.

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Colopexy Procedure in Dogs

Before a surgery can be decided on, full blood work including a complete blood count will need to be run on the dog. This can reveal how the dog's general health is and if it will be stable enough to undergo general anesthesia. If surgery is deemed appropriate, the dog will have to fast for 12 to 24 hours prior to the operation. No liquids will be allowed in the six to 12 hours before the procedure. 

Intravenous fluids and medications will be administered before the surgery begins. The dog's abdomen will be shaved after it is sedated. At this point, either one large abdominal incision will be made, or two to three portal incisions for laparoscopic surgery will be made. These will be done in the lower left area of the abdomen. Once the abdomen is opened, the colon can be sutured to the abdominal wall by its serosal flaps.  Multiple rows of sutures made through the muscles of the abdomen may be used to secure the colon. Care should be given to prevent the lumen of the colon from being penetrated. The incision(s) can then be closed using sutures or staples. Once this is completed, caudal traction can be used to determine whether the procedure was successful or not.

Efficacy of Colopexy in Dogs

This surgery is often successful and carries minimal complications. A surgical incision has been proven to be more effective than simple sutures alone, although it is often performed after simple sutures have failed. Laparoscopic colopexy is associated with less pain and faster recovery times than open surgery. The dog's intestines are not compromised by this procedure. Overall prognosis for the animal will heavily depend on the original reason for the rectal prolapse.

Colopexy Recovery in Dogs

This surgery is quite painful, and as such pain medication should be given as the dog is waking up from the anesthesia. Analgesia should be continued for several days thereafter. To keep the incision site free from infection, povidone iodine solution should be administered to the area for up to ten days post-surgery. An Elizabethan collar can be used to keep the dog from licking or scratching at its incision. 

A prescription for antibiotics will be given to the dog to prevent infection. A follow-up appointment will be needed 10 to 14 days after the operation. At this appointment, the dog's health status will be evaluated and its sutures will be removed. If the procedure was unsuccessful, it will likely be evident within 8 weeks after surgery.

Cost of Colopexy in Dogs

The cost of a colopexy can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on who does the surgery and if it needs to be paired with other procedures. Laparoscopic colopexy generally costs more than open surgery due to the requirements for high-tech equipment and specially trained surgeons. An incision colopexy is more commonly performed and usually costs less. The condition cannot be left untreated, as the portions of the colon that protrude from the body will die and the digestive tract will then be compromised.

Dog Colopexy Considerations

As with all surgical procedures, the use of general anesthesia can lead to severe complications in some dogs. Dogs with pre-existing health issues are at a higher risk of developing reactions from the anesthetic. Some studies suggest that laparoscopic colopexy may carry a higher risk of colon leakage. Hemorrhage and inflammation are both possible complications from the procedure. In most cases, minimal or no complications from cloplexy will be present, and the dog's colon will be restored to its natural function.

Colopexy Prevention in Dogs

Preventing rectal prolapse will depend on your dog's age and condition. All puppies should be fully dewormed. This will stop any parasitic infections from developing in the intestines. Keeping your dog leashed at all times when it is outdoors can greatly lessen the likelihood of blunt force trauma (often from vehicle accidents). 

If your dog is older, bowel cancer is something that should be tested for at regular check-ups. It can help to know if bowel cancer runs in your dog's family, so always request this information when obtaining a new dog. Preventing exposure to known cancer causing agents can help delay the onset of the disease. This would include keeping your home free of cigarette smoke, as second hand smoke negatively affects animals as well as humans. Any abdominal straining can lead to rectal prolapse. If your dog is experiencing this symptom, take it to get checked by a vet immediately.