Double or duplicate gallbladder in a Harlequin breed rabbit



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The liver is a voluminous organ, that takes a certain place in the abdomen. In rabbits, the liver is composed of two main lobes, right and left, that are separated by a deep median cleft. Between these lobes are two accessory lobes: the cranial lobe and and thecaudal lobe. The liver remains in pace in the abdomen thanks to ligaments that attach to the diaphragm and the dorsal wall of the abdomen.

The liver plays a central role in the synthesis of proteins, in the metabolism of sugars and the storage of nutrients, in the degradation of toxins and the treatment of organic waste produced by cells of the body. It has, furthermore, an endocrine function, stimulationg numerous biochemical reactions that are important for the proper functioning of the body, and an exocrine function, with the secretion of bile. The latter is a viscous liquid that helps digest fats. In rabbits, bile is produced continuously and stored in the gallbladder, then secreted into the small intestine (duodenum) through the bile ducts. The vesicle has a pear-like shape.

The gallbladder is located in the right cranial lobule, inside the depression on the caudal surface. It is pear-shaped. The gall of rabbits is composed mainly of billiverdon, with strong anti-oxydative properties, et not of bilirubine. The produced quantity is enormous per rabbit and per day: roughly 250 ml. This represents 7 times the quantity produced by a dog.

Congenital double gallbladder

A double or duplicate gallbladder is a rare congenital anomaly. During the embryonic phase, the first stage gallbladder (primordium) bifurcates, which results in a double or duplicate vesicle. This deformation seems more common in herbivorous animals, like cows (1 in 28 calves) and in sheep (1 in 85). Some cases have been reported in rabbits. Different types of gallbladder duplication have been observed:

              Bifide, bilobed type: a membrane divides the vesicle is divided in its length, creating two side by side pockets;

              Double type: presence of 2 separated gallbladders. Their bile ducts can join before delivering bile into the small intestine, or remain separate.

Several clinical signs have been associated with this congenital anomaly. Abdominal pain at stomach level has been associated with a double gallbladder, which can lead to a lack of appetite in rabbits. In other animals, signs associated to a double gallbladder include biliary colics, pain, acute inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) and the presence of gallstones (cholelithiasis).

Normal rabbit liver and gallbladder (arrow)

Liver and double gallbladder (pocket filled with green liquid - arrows) in a Harlequin rabbit aged 3 months. Since weaning, this rabbit had regular digestive problems and weighted only 2.3 kilos, while his littermates weighed 2.8 kg.

Liver and double gallbladder is well visible in another Harlequin breed rabbit.

More information

Milot L, Partensky C, Scoazec JY, Valette PJ, Pilleul F. Double gallbladder diagnosed on contrast-enhanced MR cholangiography with mangafodipir trisodium. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2005;184(3 Suppl):S88-90.

Moores AL, Gregory SP. Duplex gall bladder associated with choledocholithiasis, cholecystitis, gall bladder rupture and septic peritonitis in a cat. J Small Anim Pract. 2007;48(7):404-9.

Stingl H. [Vesica fellea duplex and vesica fellea divisa in rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)]. Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 1971;84(21):420-2.

Stolkind E. Double gall-bladder report of a case and review of 38 cases. British Journal of Surgery Vol 27 (108), 1940: 760766.