What is Bile Duct Obstruction?
Bile duct obstruction, or cholestasis, occurs when bile isn't able to properly flow from the gallbladder into the small intestine. When the bile is prevented from leaving the bile duct, a cat may become very ill as it can't get the proper nutrition it needs. Excess red blood cell breakdown products affect the lungs, brain, kidneys and heart.
Bile is a fluid that aids the cat's body in the digestion of food. It is made in the liver and is stored in the gallbladder. After eating, bile travels through the bile duct into the intestines, where it helps break down the food in order for the cat to get the needed nutrients and deposit the excess as waste.
Symptoms of Bile Duct Obstruction in Cats
Symptoms of the condition may vary, depending on the condition or disease that is causing the obstruction to occur.
- Fatigue that progresses into lethargy
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive hunger
- Jaundice, which is presented with yellow eyes, yellow mucous membranes and/or yellow skin
- Weight loss
- Dark yellow or orange-colored urine
- Pale-colored stool
- Bleeding disorders
Causes of Bile Duct Obstruction in Cats
Bile duct obstruction isn't a disease in itself, but rather a secondary condition that arises from another disease or condition.
- Gallstones that grow large enough and block the bile from leaving the gallbladder
- Pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas
- Liver inflammation that prevents bile from entering the gallbladder
- Bile tract disease that causes sludged bile or fibrosis that doesn't flow properly
- Cysts in the liver and bile duct
- Parasitic infestation
- Abdominal surgery
- Bile duct tumors
- Benign or malignant growths
Diagnosis of Bile Duct Obstruction in Cats
The veterinarian will ask for the cat's complete health history, details about when the symptoms began and any possible trauma or recent surgeries that could have caused the obstruction to occur. Next, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and a biochemistry panel will be taken. These tests will help the vet to determine what underlying diseases may be causing the obstruction and any other problems, such as anemia, that resulted due to the blockage. If the labs show that the cat's bilirubin levels are high, this indicates that waste products are building up in the bloodstream. A stool analysis will help the vet determine if normal amounts of bilirubin are leaving the body. Too much bilirubin in the body is indicative of an obstruction of the bile duct. The cat's liver enzymes will show if liver damage or disease is present that are causing the obstruction. A urinalysis will help the vet determine how the kidneys are reacting to the obstruction.
The veterinarian may also perform an abdominal ultrasound or x-ray to look at the pancreas, gallbladder, and liver. These tests will allow the veterinarian to see any inflammation, growths or scar tissue that is causing the obstruction. Exploratory surgery may be done if the labs, ultrasounds, and x-rays don't give conclusive results as to what is causing the obstruction.
Treatment of Bile Duct Obstruction in Cats
Treatment of bile duct obstruction depends on the underlying disease or condition that caused the blockage to occur.
- Medications: Medications may be given to the cat to dissolve the gallstones, decrease the inflammation in the pancreas or liver or improve the consistency of the sludged bile in bile tract disease, allowing the bile to flow freely to the small intestine. Antibiotics may be given prior to surgery to prevent infections from occurring.
- Surgery: Surgery may be done to remove large gallstones, scar tissue, cysts, abnormal growths or tumors. Surgery may also be done to take a biopsy of any liver or pancreatic tumors to determine if they are benign or malignant.
- Fluid Therapy: Cats with bile duct obstruction often present dehydrated and malnourished. Fluids will be administered to the cat in order to replace the fluids lost due to vomiting or diarrhea.
- Blood Transfusions: If the cat has a bleeding disorder as a result of liver disease, a blood transfusion may need to occur if levels are too low.
- Dietary Restrictions: The vet may place the cat on a special diet or restrict high-fat foods in order to help the gallbladder and liver function at their best.
Recovery of Bile Duct Obstruction in Cats
Bile duct obstruction needs to be treated promptly as it can result in severe damage to the liver and gallbladder. The cat will need to follow-up as directed by the veterinarian after initial treatment in order to monitor their underlying condition. If dietary restrictions were recommended, the cat will need to follow these in order to prevent the duct from becoming blocked once again. Cats who experience bile duct obstruction have a good prognosis as long as the underlying conditions are treated promptly and are managed under a veterinarian's care.
Bile Duct Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat is a 15 year old domestic longhair. His name is Oreo. He has been healthy until a last year when he started to lose a lot of weight. The vet did not suggest anything. Then he started to be ravenously hungry, ate whenever he could, but continued to lose weight. He does not have hyperthyroidism (had full blood panel and free T4 test) or worms (I dewormed him.) His stools are also much more foul smelling and clayish in color. I have another younger cat who eats the same food, so I don't think the food that is the problem. His fur is also matted as he doesn't seem to groom himself properly anymore.
After spending hundreds on tests, my vet won't even talk to me without charging a fee for a phone conversation. I want to avoid surgery as Oreo is 15, very skinny and I am concerned he won't survive surgery.
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My cat had exploratory surgery because she was not eating and was throwing up bile. During surgery they found adhesions on her liver and gallbladder. The vet resolved the problem but I never got a diagnosis or advice on food to give her. What is the best food for a cat that has had adhesions on liver and gall bladder?
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My kitty has been very very sick for a long time now. She has been misdiagnosed by multiple vets. So i kept moving on to the next as they gave me diagnosis' but no evidence supporting their claims. She started at 12 lbs and now is 4 lbs 14oz.I finally found a board certified Saim doctor. It didn't take much for her to figure out the problem. It is a benign tumor pressing against her bile ducts. And a list of things that would end up causing. It's been months almost a year though... It has taken a toll on my poor Marshmellow. She has fought hard. She's still fighting, but so very weak.. Before this she was a beyond healthy cat. My question is about what to do now. Prednisone, clavimox, cerenia have been prescribed. I'm hesitant on the steroids and how frail she is. She doesn't have much muscle to spare. Is it honestly possible for her to recover from this far gone?. I spend all my time with her. Encouraging her to eat, drink, keeping her warm on my lap. She still hasn't given up. But I don't want to put her through pills, force feeding, etc if she is too far gone. If it is her last days, I want to keep our relationship. We are quite the codependent couple. No one in life has ever made me feel as loved as this cat does. I want to remain her safe place and not make her feel as if I turned on her when she needed me most. But if she stands a chance, then we will get past it later. I really am stuck on what to do.
Her prognosis is somewhat up in the air. Her age makes everyone want to directly give up hope on her. But just 7-8 months ago, the first vet didn't seem to believe me in how old she was. He said he'd have guessed her at 5 or 6 maybe. I personally feel if she could get through this, if it has worn too hardly on her body, and she returned to her previous health, i wouldn't be surprised to see her live another 10 years. Yes I know it is extremely rare for cats to live that long. But she was just that healthy. I take very good care of her and watch her diet quite carefully. To me, food is the biggest key to feline longevity. As long as no other side issues arise. Food and keeping them properly hydrated. But anyways.... The vet originally had planned to treat the condition. Get her healthy and then see if it would be possible to remove the tumor. But she lost 5 ounces since her last visit a month ago and now she is telling me she just wants to treat the symptoms because of her age and her weight. I honestly don't understand why her age seems to be such a big deal to everyone. Her health before this happened is a more realistic perspective of things. It is just a very hard decision to make for me. Our relationship is very important to me. And to her. When we go to the vet, she hides in my shirt for security. I tell them when they are poking and prodding her that as long as she can see and make contact with me, she will let them do anything to her. If not she will fight it hard. It don't take long for them to realize that it is 100% true. She scared a nurse once by growling at her, but she ran to me so friendly and lovingly it was almost amusing. She is so important to me too. I don't want to loose her. I don't know how it will effect me but I know it will be bad. I don't want her to go through any unnecessary suffering at all though. I'd send her lab results and ultrasound but it won't let me.
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