Comparison of radiography and ultrasonography for diagnosing small-intestinal mechanical obstruction in vomiting dogs

Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 2011 May-Jun;52(3):248-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8261.2010.01791.x. Epub 2010 Dec 28.


A cross-sectional study was performed on acutely vomiting dogs to compare the accuracy of radiography and ultrasonography for the diagnosis of small-intestinal mechanical obstruction and to describe several radiographic and ultrasonographic signs to identify their contribution to the final diagnosis. The sample population consisted of 82 adult dogs and small-intestinal obstruction by foreign body was confirmed in 27/82 (33%) dogs by surgery or necropsy. Radiography produced a definitive result (obstructed or not obstructed) in 58/82 (70%) of dogs; ultrasonography produced a definitive result in 80/82 (97%) of dogs. On radiographs, a diagnosis of obstruction was based on detection of segmental small-intestinal dilatation, plication, or detection of a foreign body. Approximately 30% (8/27) of obstructed dogs did not have radiographic signs of segmental small-intestinal dilatation, of which 50% (4/8) were due to linear foreign bodies. The ultrasonographic diagnosis of small-intestinal obstruction was based on detection of an obstructive lesion, sonographic signs of plication or segmental, small-intestinal dilatation. The ultrasonographic presence or absence of moderate-to-severe intestinal diameter enlargement (due to lumen dilatation) of the jejunum (>1.5 cm) was a useful discriminatory finding and, when present, should prompt a thorough search for a cause of small-intestinal obstruction. In conclusion, both abdominal radiography and abdominal ultrasonography are accurate for diagnosing small-intestinal obstruction in vomiting dogs and either may be used depending on availability and examiner choice. Abdominal ultrasonography had greater accuracy, fewer equivocal results and provided greater diagnostic confidence compared with radiography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / diagnostic imaging
  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Dog Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnostic imaging
  • Foreign Bodies / veterinary
  • Intestinal Obstruction / diagnostic imaging
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction / veterinary*
  • Intestine, Small / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Radiography, Abdominal / veterinary
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vomiting / etiology
  • Vomiting / veterinary*