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What is Cholecystectomy?

Cholecystectomy is the surgical procedure used to remove the gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile created by your cat’s liver, which is used to break down fats in your cat’s digestive systems. Cats and other animals can function without this organ if removal becomes necessary due to disease or chronic obstruction. Chronic obstruction such as gallstones may be removed surgically or treated with medications, however, if they become chronic, surgical removal of the gallbladder may be indicated. Other conditions such as severe trauma or cancerous tumors may also require removal of the organ by a veterinary surgeon.

Cholecystectomy Procedure in Cats

Surgery to remove your cat’s gallbladder may be performed as a result of a condition discovered during radiography tests such as x-rays and ultrasounds or may be discovered as a result of exploratory surgery to ascertain gastrointestinal dysfunction. 

The night prior to surgery you will need to fast your cat from food in order to reduce the danger of aspiration during anesthesia.

When you arrive at the veterinarian, a physical examination will be performed to ensure infection is not present. 

Your cat will be given a sedative to calm them followed by intravenous anesthetic, a breathing tube will be inserted, and anesthesia maintained by gas for the duration of the procedure.

The abdominal area will be shaved and cleaned antiseptically. During the procedure, your cat's vital signs will be monitored closely. 

An incision will be made in your cat’s abdomen and tissues moved to expose the liver and gallbladder. The gallbladder is isolated and stay sutures are placed in the gall bladder to hold it in place while it is excised from the liver. The connection to the liver contains many blood vessels which need to be tied off to prevent bleeding. The gallbladder is dissected away from the liver and sutures are placed where the connection to the bile duct occurs. The gallbladder is cut away at this point, leaving the bile duct and sutures. All abdominal organs are checked and the surgical site is observed for signs of leakage prior to closing the abdominal incision. If a tumor is removed, surrounding organ tissue may also be biopsied and the biopsies and gallbladder tumor tissue sent for laboratory examination to determine if cancerous cells are present.

Your cat may require hospitalization for a few days postoperatively depending on the degree of damage and illness present pre and post-surgery.

Efficacy of Cholecystectomy in Cats

Because trauma or illness necessitating removal of the gallbladder is serious, prognosis can be poor if the condition is not treated at an early stage. Removal of the gallbladder is usually performed in response to a life-threatening condition and fatality would result if the surgical procedure was not performed. Your cat can live without its gallbladder successfully, and surgery to remove the gallbladder will resolve the condition. 

Cholecystectomy Recovery in Cats

Surgery to remove the gallbladder is invasive and may require cage rest for a few days. Once released home, your cat will be given pain medication and possibly antibiotics or anti-inflammatories if required. Your cat should rest and be restricted from exercise or outdoor activity for two weeks. A special diet, low in fat, subsequent to gallbladder removal should be fed as bile may not be as concentrated post-surgery.

Cost of Cholecystectomy in Cats

The cost of cholecystectomy in your cat usually ranges from $1,000 to $2000 depending on the cost of living in your location. This includes tests, anesthetic, procedure, postoperative care, and medication. 

Cat Cholecystectomy Considerations

As with any surgical intervention, there is a risk to your cat from general anesthesia. Risks of hemorrhaging due to high vascularization of the gallbladder and associated structures and infection due to peritonitis from leakage at the surgical site are high with removal of the gallbladder, however surgical procedures for cholecystectomy are well established and mitigate the risks. If the gallbladder ruptures, peritonitis infection will occur, and extensive medical treatment will be required.

Cholecystectomy Prevention in Cats

Removing hazards from your home and monitoring outdoor activity in a controlled environment will reduce the likelihood of injury and damage to the gallbladder from trauma . A healthy balanced diet, without excessive fat, and exercise to maintain appropriate weight will help in maintaining a healthy digestive system and reduce the likelihood of your cat experiencing gallbladder blockages and other medical conditions that would necessitate cholecystectomy.