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Series 7: No Adrenal Gland Left Behind

Cats have adrenals that need to be imaged, too!

Of course they are smaller, and a little trickier to find. If normal, feline adrenals are generally not a concerning issue if you can’t find them.  However, If they are enlarged due to stress or abnormal due to pathology, they will stand out if you follow the standard SDEP protocol; and certainly if you focus on the key landmarks which vary a bit from dogs.

Remember this canine adrenal anatomy diagram from Series 1? The feline LEFT ADRENAL may be found with similar landmarks and maneuvers. Start by purposefully looking at adrenals on every cat you scan so you get familiar with normal anatomy.

Image credit: Tim Vojt, The Ohio State University Image copyright

  • Follow the aorta from the iliac region to the kidney area
  • Identify the left renal artery, but look more cranial than for the canine adrenal
  • This gland is more variable in position depending on abdominal fat content. It appears oval or egg-shaped in the non-stressed cat
  • Located medial to the spleen, adjacent to the aorta, and generally medial to the cranial pole of the left kidney. It may lie between the cranial mesenteric and celiac arteries

Helpful tips:

  • Subtle probe movements essential
  • Can also try sweeping medially from the left kidney
  • Use a linear probe to help delineate more clearly


The feline RIGHT ADRENAL gland can be elusive

  • It can be localized in a position contiguous with the caudal border of the right liver
  • The CVC and AO are still used as landmarks, positioned in long axis. Twist to lengthen the vessels. The adrenal will be between the two but closer to the CVC

Normal right feline adrenal gland

Can you spot the not-so obvious right adrenal gland?

Feline “stress” adrenals:

  • Found in ill or otherwise physiologically stressed cats
  • Prominent and swollen in contour, shape may be irregular
  • Distinct, hypoechoic appearance compared to surrounding fat and isoechoic to liver
  • Not pathological


Now for some interesting pathology!
*Note - even though these pathological adrenals do stand out, you need to be familiar with the normal positioning as seen above, to correctly identify that what you are seeing is an adrenal and nothing but an adrenal!

Mineralized right adrenal gland

Need to review the whole series? Click the link below to navigate back to the main page to view the list of the entire series. "No Adrenal Gland Left Behind".