Causes & Treatment of Gallbladder Diseases in Dogs » Petibom

Causes & Treatment of Gallbladder Diseases in Dogs » Womiraz

Causes & Treatment of Gallbladder Diseases in Dogs » Womiraz

Located between the lobes of the liver, the gallbladder is a small organ in the body of humans and some animals that aids in digestion. While this organ often works silently alongside the liver, dogs can develop gallbladder diseases and problems that negatively affect them. If the gallbladder is not working properly, bile can build up, rupture the gallbladder, or cause other serious problems. If gallbladder problems are not addressed in a timely manner, dogs can become very sick and this disease can lead them to death. This is why it’s so important for dog owners to have a basic understanding of these potential concerns and know what they can do to help.

Liver in Dogs

The liver is an auxiliary organ that performs numerous functions in the digestive tract. It plays an important role in filtering toxins to prevent them from being absorbed by the body. It also metabolizes different substances and chemicals to aid in the absorption of certain drugs and supplements. The liver is also the organ responsible for the production of various hormones, enzymes, proteins and bile.

Bile is essential for the proper digestion of fatty acids in the dog’s diet, without it, they cannot use the fats in their food as an energy . Not all of the bile produced by the liver is used and the excess is stored in an organ called the gallbladder, located between the liver lobes.

Gallbladder in Dogs

Between the different lobes of the liver is the dog’s gallbladder, a sac-like organ that serves as a storage for bile produced by the liver. The gallbladder is connected to the bile duct that empties into the intestine. This common bile duct is also connected to several ducts from the liver and allows the bile produced by the liver cells to pass into the gallbladder.

When a dog swallows food containing some fat, the gallbladder contracts to empty the bile contents into the intestine and aids in digesting dietary fat for absorption. Without the help of bile acids produced by the liver and released by the gallbladder, a dog cannot absorb fat molecules.

Health problems or conditions affecting the gallbladder will cause changes in the production and release of bile acids and fat metabolism. Additionally, gallbladder problems can cause serious health complications that can be life-threatening if not properly treated or addressed.

What is gallbladder disease in dogs?

Gallbladder disease affects the normal, healthy function of this organ, which deals with bile from the liver, often involving inflammation, infection, or obstruction. Located in the abdomen under the liver and near the pancreas, the gallbladder is a small, sac-like organ that collects, concentrates and transports bile in a dog. Bile is secreted from the liver through the bile ducts to the gallbladder and then sent to the small intestine to help digest fats and some vitamins. Bile also helps to remove waste materials from the body. In animals without a gallbladder, such as horses, bile goes directly from the liver to the small intestine. There are many problems that the gallbladder can develop, such as gallstones or gallbladder cysts.

Common Types of Gallbladder Disease in Dogs

Diseases that affect a dog’s gallbladder often cause a wide variety of symptoms depending on the specific cause. Dogs suffering from any gallbladder disease usually present with some degree of abdominal discomfort, decreased appetite and general malaise.

Some patients may experience excessive vomiting, and in severe cases of gallbladder disease, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes) may occur. An infected gallbladder often causes fever and marked lethargy in canine patients. Elevated liver enzymes and bile acids are often seen in dogs with gallbladder disease.

Below are some of the most common forms of gallbladder disease in dogs:

1. Bile Duct Obstruction

Bile duct obstruction is often associated with digestive system disorders such as pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, hepatitis and cancer. Inflammation of tissues closely associated with the bile duct can cause obstruction and cause reflux and eventually a buildup of bile in the gallbladder. Cholangitis, or inflammation of the bile duct system, can also cause obstruction of the bile ducts.

Diagnosis of bile duct obstruction relies on laboratory tests, ultrasound, and radiographs. Visualization of the bile duct system by abdominal ultrasonography can confirm the presence of an obstruction in the bile duct. Medical treatment to control the inflammation can help relieve the blockage, but surgery may be required in some cases.

2. Cholecystitis (Inflammation of the Gallbladder)

Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) in dogs is usually caused by bacterial infections, liver trauma, cancer, or bile duct obstruction. This results in loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever, excessive vomiting and lethargy in affected dogs.

Cholecystitis can be diagnosed based on laboratory tests and ultrasound examination of the gallbladder. Confirmation is made by biopsy and bacterial culture of samples taken from the gallbladder. Treatment usually requires complete removal of the gallbladder followed by the use of antibiotics to control the infection.

3. Gallstones

Diseases related to the presence of gallstones in a dog’s gallbladder, although rare, usually occur in middle-aged and older dogs. Clinical signs of gallstones (cholelithiasis) in dogs include vomiting, loss of appetite, jaundice, abdominal pain, and discomfort and fever, especially after eating. However, many dogs with gallstones are asymptomatic and do not show any external signs of disease. These stones are made up of cholesterol, bilirubin and other components in very filled bile. If most of these substances pass into the gallbladder, they may contribute to stone formation. Sometimes stones float in the gallbladder. In other cases, they create a blockage in one of the ducts and cause bile to accumulate.

Ultrasound examination is usually sufficient to confirm the presence of gallstones in the gallbladder. Dogs with gallstones who do not show any signs of serious complications can be treated medically with antibiotics. Surgery is indicated when gallstones obstruct the bile duct.

4. Gallbladder or Bile Duct Tear

Bile duct or gallbladder rupture is usually caused by bile duct obstruction or severe cholecystitis. Pressure from the accumulated bile causes the walls of the bile duct or the gallbladder itself to rupture, causing bile to leak into the abdomen. Less common causes of bile duct and gallbladder rupture are cancer and parasite infestation.

Leakage of bile into the abdomen causes severe abdominal inflammation or peritonitis. Veterinarians may do blood work or ultrasound to determine if the gallbladder has ruptured, which may result in cholecystectomy surgery to remove the organ. 4 All cases of gallbladder and bile duct rupture are considered urgent and require immediate veterinary intervention, usually in the form of surgery, to repair the rupture and remove the bile that has leaked into the abdominal cavity.

5.Safra Case Cellar

As a result of various other diseases and genetic predisposition, mucus may form in the gallbladder and this causes the formation of mucocele. A gallbladder mucocele is a buildup of mucus in the gallbladder that causes the gallbladder to stretch and become larger than normal. Mucocele can also cause secondary problems such as sludge buildup and ultrasound may be done for diagnosis. In severe cases, such as gallbladder rupture, cholecystectomy surgery is usually performed to remove the gallbladder.

6. Cancer in the Gallbladder

Cancerous tumors, more common in older dogs, can invade the gallbladder, liver, and bile ducts. Tumors often block the flow of bile, causing bile to back up and secondary problems. Veterinarians can do blood work, ultrasound, and further tests to diagnose these cancers. Surgery is not always an option, but systemic chemotherapy is sometimes recommended.

7. Gallbladder Cysts

Cysts are formations that can block the flow of bile into and out of the gallbladder. These cysts are usually filled with mucus and are diagnosed by veterinarians via ultrasound. This condition can develop alongside gallbladder mucoceles.

Symptoms of Gallbladder Disease in Dogs

Many symptoms of gallbladder disease can be confused with those of other common diseases. Digestive problems such as vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite can indicate a variety of problems in your dog, including gallbladder disease. However, other symptoms will typically be present to help narrow down the problem.

The signs and symptoms of gallbladder disease in dogs are as follows;


Jaundice is the most recognizable and obvious sign of liver or gallbladder disease in dogs. Jaundice causes yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes due to the accumulation of bilirubin in the body.

Stomach ache

Dogs suffering from abdominal pain may be sensitive to touching their bellies or changing their posture (like walking in a hunchback). They may also breathe abnormally, make troublesome noises when moving, or have trouble standing up. If you think your dog has pain, you should definitely go to the veterinarian to determine the location and cause of the pain.


Like humans, dogs may vomit due to a simple stomach ache often accompanied by eating grass. However, vomiting can also be a sign of serious health problems, which can include gallbladder disease, digestive system problems, and more.


Gallbladder disease can cause your dog’s stool to be abnormal and cause diarrhea. If you notice any unusual symptoms, you should talk to your veterinarian to determine if testing is necessary.

Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite in dogs with gallbladder disease can occur alongside other symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Abdominal Tension

Dogs with severe gallbladder disease may have a swollen or rounded belly due to fluid buildup in the cavity or enlargement of the liver. This symptom indicates that the disease is progressing and that it should be intervened as soon as possible.

Causes of Gallbladder Disease in Dogs

It is not known exactly what causes gallbladder disease in dogs, but there are some plausible factors that can lead to the development of these diseases.

  • Diets high in fat or cholesterol can contribute to saturated bile and therefore gallstones and blocked bile ducts.
  • Liver disease can also cause secondary gallbladder disease because the two organs in the body work so closely together.
  • Certain diseases, such as Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism, can increase the risk of problems with the gallbladder.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) likely have a genetic predisposition to develop gallbladder mucoceles.

Diagnosing Gallbladder Disease in Dogs

To diagnose gallbladder disease in your dog, your veterinarian will first listen to your complaints in detail and perform a physical examination. There are various tests that he can do afterward. X-rays and ultrasound may show gallstones, mucoceles, cysts, or tumors in the gallbladder. Blood tests may show elevated liver enzymes, bile acids, cholesterol, and bilirubin. Aspirates may also be taken to sample masses or fluid within the gallbladder. In some cases, when x-rays and ultrasound are not enough, your veterinarian may refer you for advanced imaging methods such as MRI and CT.

Treatment of Gallbladder Diseases in Dogs

Depending on the specific type of gallbladder disease, your veterinarian may recommend several treatment options. Treatment will address both the symptoms and the underlying problem, so various medications, supplements, and sometimes even surgery may be recommended. Appetite stimulants, gallbladder support supplements, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, pain relievers, anti-nausea medications, and surgical removal of the gallbladder are all options for treating gallbladder disease.

Prognosis for Dogs with Gallbladder Disease

As there are several different diseases that can affect your dog’s gallbladder, the prognosis will depend on the specific condition the dog is diagnosed with. If these diseases are left untreated, gallbladder rupture can occur (though rupture can also result from trauma). This is a serious condition that requires immediate surgery to treat, but if caught in time, your dog can live comfortably later on with medications supervised by your veterinarian. However, especially in cases involving gallbladder cancer, treatment options may not ultimately be effective.

How to Prevent Gallbladder Disease?

Since no one knows exactly what causes all types of gallbladder disease, there is no specific thing you can do to ensure your dog never has problems. But there are some things that can help keep your pup healthy. In addition to giving your dog a properly formulated diet, you can avoid fatty foods and use supplements that can help support gallbladder health if recommended by your vet.

Causes & Treatment of Gallbladder Diseases in Dogs » Womiraz

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *