• Open Access

Diagnostic Utility of Abdominal Ultrasonography in Dogs with Chronic Diarrhea


Corresponding author: Michael S. Leib DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM, C.R. Roberts Professor of Small Animal Medicine, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061; e-mail:mleib@vt.edu



Chronic diarrhea is common in dogs and has many causes. Ultrasonographic descriptions of many gastrointestinal diseases have been published, but the diagnostic utility of ultrasonography in dogs with chronic diarrhea has not been investigated.


Diagnostic utility of abdominal ultrasound will be highest in dogs with GI neoplasia and lowest in those with inflammatory disorders.


87 pet dogs with chronic diarrhea.


Prospective study in which medical records were reviewed and contribution of abdominal ultrasound toward making diagnosis was scored.


In 57/87 (66%) of dogs, the same diagnosis would have been reached without ultrasonography. In 13/87 (15%) of dogs, the ultrasound examination was vital or beneficial to making the diagnosis. Univariable analysis identified that increased diagnostic utility was associated with weight loss (= .0086), palpation of an abdominal or rectal mass (= .0031), diseases that commonly have mass lesions visible on ultrasound examination (< .0001), and a final diagnosis of GI neoplasia. Multivariable regression indicated that utility of abdominal ultrasonography would be 30 times more likely to be high in dogs in which an abdominal or rectal mass was palpated (odds ratio 30.5, 95% CI 5.5–169.6) (< .0001) versus dogs without a palpable mass. In 15/87 (17%) of dogs, additional benefits of ultrasonography to case management, independent of the contribution to the diagnosis of diarrhea, were identified.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance

Overall, the diagnostic utility of abdominal ultrasonography was low in dogs with chronic diarrhea. Identification of factors associated with high diagnostic utility is an indication to perform abdominal ultrasonography in dogs with chronic diarrhea.