What is Gallbladder Inflammation?
Gallbladder inflammation, also called cholecystitis, is usually a result of bacterial infection in the intestines or an obstruction or inflammation of the liver or bile ducts. Gallstones may be present, and in rare cases the inflammation may be a symptom of gallbladder cancer. When gallbladder inflammation is diagnosed early and proper treatment is administered, prognosis is fairly positive. If a cat is displaying symptoms that may indicate an inflammation of the gallbladder, prompt veterinary consultation is recommended.
The gallbladder is a critical component of the digestive system. It is located in the abdomen, attached to the liver. Its function is to store and concentrate bile, the fluid responsible for aiding in digestion, fat absorption, and the elimination of certain waste products. Bile flows from the gallbladder through the bile duct and into the small intestine. Proper function of the entire digestive system is necessary for a cat’s overall health.
Symptoms of Gallbladder Inflammation in Cats
A cat that is suffering from gallbladder inflammation may present one or more of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice of skin, mucous membranes, or eyes
- Palpable tissue mass located in upper right abdomen
- Shock (shallow breathing, low body temperature, pale gums, weak but rapid pulse)
Causes of Gallbladder Inflammation in Cats
Gallbladder inflammation can occur in cats of any breed or age and is equally likely to occur in males or females. There are many possible causes including:
- Impaired bile flow
- Intestinal bacterial infection
- Emphysematous cholecystitis
- Liver disease
- Reverse flow of pancreatic enzymes
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Abnormal gallbladder development
- Restricted blood flow to the gallbladder
- Complications from abdominal surgery
Diagnosis of Gallbladder Inflammation in Cats
The veterinarian will review the cat’s full medical history and discuss the details regarding the onset and severity of symptoms. Tests will be performed to rule out other common digestive system disorders in order to reach a differential diagnosis. Standard laboratory tests will be ordered, including a complete blood count (CBC), electrolyte panel, and urinalysis. X-rays and an abdominal ultrasound will provide a visual aid. A biopsy and tissue analysis are also likely to be performed.
Treatment of Gallbladder Inflammation in Cats
Treatment recommendations will depend on the severity of the condition and its underlying causes.
If the condition is not critical, outpatient treatment may be sufficient. This primarily involves the use of prescription antibiotics. If gallstones are present, additional medications may be prescribed to help dissolve the stones.
When the inflammation is more severe, the cat is likely to need hospitalization. Fluids will need to be restored and electrolytes stabilized before surgery can be considered. This often involves the administration of I.V. fluids and plasma. In some cases, a blood transfusion will be needed.
If the gallbladder inflammation has caused bile to leak it can cause an inflammation of the abdominal linking, known as peritonitis. Exploratory surgery and repair of the gallbladder may be necessary to save the animal.
In most cases, surgical removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy) will be recommended. When the gallbladder and related organs are handled, there is an increased risk of cardiac arrest. During surgery, medication may be prescribed to slow the output of secretions and minimize the nervous system’s reaction to stimulation. It will be critical to monitor the cat’s urine output, heartbeat, and blood pressure. Pre-surgical antibiotics and Vitamin K1 may be prescribed to help ensure a positive outcome.
Recovery of Gallbladder Inflammation in Cats
There is a high possibility of complications following surgery including a rupture in the bile system or abdominal inflammation. Recurrence is also very likely. If the cat survives the first two to three days, the surgery will likely be considered successful.
Owners should pay close attention to the cat’s behavior and immediately seek veterinary attention if it displays signs of unusual distress or other symptoms. Indications of pain include growling or a deep cry, trying to bite when the surgical site is touched, reluctance to eat, hiding, or avoiding people. The vet may prescribe pain medication or anti-inflammatories to help ease symptoms.
Cats should be kept indoors following surgery and activity should be restricted to allow for healing to occur. An Elizabethan collar may be needed to curb licking, although this does not prevent the cat from scratching the surgical site. In some cases, sedative medications may be needed. Follow-up exams and routine testing will be needed every two to four weeks until the condition has fully resolved. Once healing is complete, cats can be expected to have a normal lifespan.
Once the gallbladder has been removed, bile will flow directly from the bile ducts in the liver into the small intestine. Fatty foods should be eliminated from the diet as the removal of the gallbladder reduces the concentration of the fat-absorbing bile fluid.