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Research Article

Prevalence of Cholecystic Diseases in Dogs: An Ultrasonographic Evaluation

S. Bandyopadhyay, J.P. Varshney, M. Hoque, M. Sarkar and M.K. Ghosh
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The present investigation was conducted to explore the prevalence of cholecystic disorders through ultrasonographic evaluation in 130 dogs of different age, sex and breed irrespective of their health status. Sludge, ultrasonographically characterized by echogenic bile or sediments within dependent part of gallbladder without acoustic shadowing was diagnosed in 54 (41.53%) dogs without any sex, breed and age predisposition. Mucocele, ultrasonographically characterized by stellate or striated gravity independent bile pattern and cholecystitis with uniformly thickened reflective gallbladder wall was diagnosed in four (3.07%) and three (2.30%) dogs, respectively.

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  How to cite this article:

S. Bandyopadhyay, J.P. Varshney, M. Hoque, M. Sarkar and M.K. Ghosh, 2007. Prevalence of Cholecystic Diseases in Dogs: An Ultrasonographic Evaluation. Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances, 2: 234-238.

DOI: 10.3923/ajava.2007.234.238



Cholecystic diseases may be defined as the disorder of the gallbladder and its associated structures. Because of the diagnostic paradox, very few holistic and comprehensive studies are available on cholecystic disorders thus remained as uncommon clinical entities (Holt et al., 2004; Voros et al., 2001; Besso et al., 2000). However, in view of increasing urbanization, environmental pollution, unscientific feeding, stress and abuse of common therapeutic drugs, importance of biliary diseases cannot be ignored. It appears that a detailed and systematic study is really lacking to reflect the magnitude of the problem in India (Tiwari, 2002). Therefore, the present investigation was undertaken to carry out an ultrasonographic survey of cholecystic disorders in dogs.


The study was conducted in the Referral Veterinary Polyclinic, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, India for a period of eight months (2002-03). Total one hundred and thirty dogs irrespective of their breed, sex, age and health conditions were included for the study.

Ultrasonographic examination of the liver and gallbladder of these dogs were performed with scanner 200 vet (Pie medical, Netherlands) using a 5.0 MHZ AAS transducer. The animal was prepared by overnight fasting whenever required. Activated charcoal was administered in the morning to reduce gas in gastrointestinal tract. An area from 11th rib to the umbilicus on either side of ventral abdomen was taken after proper shaving, cleaning of the area and placing the animal on dorsal recumbency.

Entire hepatic area was examined by placing the scanner head dorsally or laterally to the caudal area of xiphi-sternum. Both the longitudinal and transverse images of the gallbladder were obtained. Each sonogram was evaluated for hepatic echogenicity, vascularity, gallbladder contents and diseases (like, sludge, mucocele and cholecystitis).


Sludge was identified ultrasonographically as echogenic bile or sediment in the dependent part of gallbladder without acoustic shadowing (Bromel et al., 1998) in 54 dogs (Table 1, 41.53%). Recently Tiwari et al. (2002) also recorded cases of biliary sludge in India. Bromel et al. (1998) reported 53, 62 and 48% incidences of gallbladder sludge in healthy dogs, dogs with hepatobiliary and other diseases, respectively. Though, sludge is considered as precursor of gallstone in human beings, its clinical importance in canine is still not known (Bromel et al., 1998). Mild degree of inflammation or biliary stasis was conjectured to be associated with gallbladder sludge (Voros et al., 2001). However, a close and careful investigation is required owing to its resemblance with tumour (Voros et al., 2001) mucocele (Pike et al., 2004) and cholelithiasis (Jensen et al., 1994; Ward, 2007) with acoustic shadowing.

In the present study, two patterns of sludge were ultrasonographically evident. One was characterized by a clear line of interface between the echogenic sludge and anechoic bile (Fig. 1) as seen in human beings (Bromel et al., 1998). While in other, ill defined accumulation of echogenic materials (Fig. 2) was observed in gallbladder. The gallbladder wall was mostly isoechoic with liver (Bromel et al., 1998) except in three dogs where it appeared hyperechoic. Interestingly in two cases of biliary sludge where there was no obstruction, cystic duct as a continuation of gallbladder neck was discernible unlike earlier findings.

Biliary sludge was not restricted in any specific canine breed (Table 2). The cases were distributed in Pomeranians (27.77%), German Shepherd (16.66%), Labrador (3.7%), Dobermann (3.7%), Great Dane (5.55%), Bhootia (5.55%), Dalmatian (7.42%), Boxer (3.7%) and Non-descripts (25.92%). Sex (male 59.35%, female 40.74%) or age (up to 1 year 35.18%, 1-5 year 46.29%) and over 5 year (20.37%) did not influence the predisposition of biliary sludge (Table 2) agreeing with the earlier observations of Tiwari (2002) except little higher incidence in 1-5 year age group. On the contrary, Bromel et al. (1998) observed a little higher mean age of the dogs with sludge. Of 54 cases of sludge, 25 were associated with hypoechoic liver (Table 2) and rest were other wise clinically healthy dogs with no liver involvement.

Table 1: Prevalence of cholecystic diseases in dogs
Values in parenthesis indicates total population of dogs in the study. Out of 130 dogs 54 were recorded with gallbladder sludge, 4 with mucocele and 3 with cholecystitis

Table 2: Age, sex and breed wise distribution of cholecystic diseases in dogs

Fig. 1: Ultrasonographic image of canine gallbladder with sludge. There is a clear line of interface between echogenic sludge and anechoic bile

Fig. 2: Ultrasonographic image of canine gallbladder with ill defined accumulation of sludge particles

Mucocele was ultrasonographically characterized (Reed and Ramirez, 2007) by immobile gravity dependent stellate (Fig. 3) or finely striated bile pattern (Fig. 4) and could be diagnosed in four dogs (3.07%). All the cases were recorded (Table 2) in large sized (more than 30 kg) aged dogs of both sexes (male-2: female-2). Of these four cases, three were detected in German shepherd. Due to limited observations, breed predilection could not be ascertained. However, mucocele was reported in Cocker Spaniel, Basset, Miniature Schnauzer, Daschund, Poodle, Labrador and mixed breed in association with biliary stasis and mucosal hyperplasia (Besso et al., 2000; Pike et al., 2004). The thickness of gallbladder wall was found to be less than 3.5 mm. No specific clinical sign was observed in dogs detected with mucocele.

Fig. 3:

Transverse ultrasonographic image of canine gallbladder. Distal and central bile form a stellate pattern but the peripheral bile is anechoic. The bile did not move when the position of the patient was changed suggesting that it is gravity independent

Fig. 4:

Ultrasonographic image of canine gallbladder with striated pattern of mucocele

Cholecystitis was observed in three (male-2: female-1) middle to aged dogs of small breed (two in Pomeranians and one in Labrador). Ultrasonographically it was characterized by uniformly thickened (more than 3.5 mm), reflective, well-delineated (O’Neill et al., 2006) gallbladder wall (Fig. 5). In India sporadic incidences of cholecystitis were recorded (Vijay Kumar et al., 2001; Tiwari, 2002). Cholecystitis was reported in various diseases like cystic mucosal hyperplasia, infectious canine hepatitis, pancreatitis, chronic bile duct obstruction, renal failure and over-hydration in dogs (Jubb et al., 1993; O’Neill et al., 2006).

Fig. 5:

Ultrasonographic image of canine gallbladder with uniformly thick and hyperechoic wall (Thickness 0.55 mm)

From the above study it may be concluded that ultrasonographic study of the canine gallbladder both in diseased and healthy conditions is a useful weapon to carry out survey of biliary diseases of the dogs. However, an extensive, in-depth and region wise investigation encompassing larger number of patients will be required to get an complete and clear appraisal of status of the canine cholecystic disorders in India.

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2:  Bromel, C., P.Y. Barthez, R. Leville and P.V. Scrivani, 1998. Prevalence of gallbladder sludge in dogs as assessed by ultrasonography. Vet. Radiol. Ultrasound., 39: 206-210.
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3:  Holt, D.E., S. Mehler, P.D. Mayhew and M.J. Hendrick, 2004. Canine Gallbladder Infarction: 12 Cases (1993-2003). Vet. Pathol., 41: 416-418.
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4:  Jensen, A.L., J. Koch and K. Snekvik, 1994. Unusual ultrasonographic presentation of cholelithiasis in a dog. J. Sm. Anim. Prac., 36: 420-422.
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5:  Jubb, K.V.F., P.C. Kennedy and N. Palmer, 1993. Pathology of Domestic Animals. 4th Edn., Academic Press, New York, pp: 890-905.

6:  O'Neill, E.J., M.J. Day, E.J. Hall, D.J. Holden, K.F. Murphy, F.J. Barr and G.R. Pearson, 2006. Bacterial cholangitis/cholangiohepatitis with or without concurrent cholecystitis in four dogs. J. Small. Anim. Pract., 47: 325-335.
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7:  Pike, F.S., J. Berg, N.W. King, D.G. Penninck and C.R. Webster, 2004. Gallbladder mucocele in dogs: 30 cases (2000-2002). J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc., 224: 1615-1622.
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8:  Reed, W.H. and S. Ramirez, 2007. What is your diagnosis? Gallbladder mucocele. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc., 219: 611-612.
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9:  Tiwari, P., 2002. Studies on some clinico-therapeutic aspects of hepatic disorders in dogs. M.V.Sc. Thesis. Indian Veterinary Research institute (Deemed University), Izatnagar, U.P., India.

10:  Vijay Kumar, G., P.S. Thirunavukkarasu and M. Subramanian, 2001. Cholecystitis in dog-ultrasonographic diagnosis. Indian Vet. J., 78: 840-841.
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11:  Voros, K., T. Nemeth, T. Vrabely, F. Manczur, J. Toth, M. Magdus and E. Perge, 2001. Ultrasonography and surgery of canine biliary diseases. Act. Vet. Hung., 49: 141-154.
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12:  Ward, R., 2006. Obstructive cholelithiasis and cholecystitis in a Keeshond. Can. Vet. J., 47: 1119-1121.
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