Dubble or duplicate gallbladder in a Harlequin breed rabbit



Michel Gruaz


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In rabbits, the liver is comprised two main lobes, right and left, that are separated by a deep median cleft. These two lobes are subdivided in cranial and caudal lobes. The liver is a voluminous organ that takes an important part of the abdomen. It has both 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 almost 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.

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 inappetence in rabbits. Biliary colic, 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.


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