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What is Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction?

The gallbladder is a storage organ for bile produced by the liver. It is a pear-shaped organ next to the liver. Bile is a greenish-brown substance, created by the liver to break down dietary fats in the gastrointestinal tract so that your cat’s body can absorb them. It also processes toxins to prevent them from being absorbed. Bile is transferred by a bile duct to the gallbladder where it resides until required by the body, at which time it is released to the pancreas and then to the intestines in your cat's digestive system. If chemical imbalance occurs in the gallbladder this bile can harden and form stones (gallstones) which may cause obstruction in the gallbladder or associated ducts. Other diseases and conditions, such as cancer or inflammation, can also cause obstructions in the gallbladder or associated bile ducts. If this occurs, surgery to remove the obstruction, reroute bile from the gallbladder directly to the digestive system or removal of your cat's gallbladder may be required. The gallbladder is not required for digestion, it only serves as a reservoir for bile and your cat can function without this organ if required. Surgical removal of the gallbladder is referred to as a cholecystectomy. Although this procedure is common in people it is not required as frequently in animals. Surgical removal of the obstruction without removing the entire gallbladder may be possible, however, if the condition becomes chronic a cholecystectomy may be recommended.

Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction Procedure in Cats

If surgery to remove obstruction in your cat’s gallbladder, bile duct, or the gallbladder itself is required, your veterinarian will provide you with instruction on pre-surgery care. Your veterinarian may perform tests prior to surgery, including urine and blood tests and xrays or ultrasound to ascertain your cat's condition.

The night prior to surgery you will need to fast your cat from food and water.

When you arrive at the veterinarian your cat’s temperature will be taken rectally to ensure infection is not present. 

Your cat will be given a sedative to calm them, followed by intravenous anesthetic to put your cat into a deep sleep. A breathing tube will be inserted into your cat's throat, 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. A large incision will be made on the midline of the abdomen and any fatty tissue moved to the side to present an unobstructed view of the liver and gallbladder. If the gallbladder is not repairable it will be removed (cholecystectomy). This area is highly vascularized and care will be taken when removing the gallbladder, the bile duct will tied off and the gallbladder cut away. If gallstones can be removed without removing the gallbladder, your veterinarian will perform surgery to remove these obstructions.

If obstruction is in a bile duct, the duct will either be opened by incision and the blockage removed, or the duct will be catheterized to remove the obstruction. Gallbladder surgery may be performed laparoscopically if your veterinarian is equipped for that procedure.

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 Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction in Cats

Gallbladder blockage may not be diagnosed until after the disease is progressed and, therefore, the procedure to unobstruct the gallbladder has a guarded prognosis as extensive disease may have occurred.

If successful, your cat can live without its gallbladder successfully, and surgery to remove the gallbladder itself or any obstructions will resolve the condition. Alternatively, medications to dissolve blockages such as gallstones may be attempted, but if not successful surgical intervention is required.

Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction Recovery in Cats

Surgery to remove gallbladder or gallbladder blockage is invasive and may require hospitalization 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,  should be fed subsequent to gallbladder obstructions, as bile may not be as concentrated post-surgery.

Cost of Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction in Cats

The cost of surgery to remove obstructions or the gallbladder in your cat will range from $750 - $1,500 depending on your location and degree of intervention required. Additional medication or hospitalization may incur additional charges.

Cat Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction Considerations

As with any surgical intervention, there is a risk of infection and hemorrhaging, and risks due to anesthesia administration. Gallbladder surgery can be complicated if inflammation is present and if rupture occurs, peritonitis is a concern. When gallbladder obstruction is present that can not be resolved with medication, surgical intervention is necessary or the cat will need to be euthanized.

Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction Prevention in Cats

Gallbladder obstructions in cats are not particularly common and preventative methods are unclear. A healthy balanced diet, not high in fat, and exercise to maintain appropriate weight will help in maintaining a healthy digestive system and may reduce the likelihood of your cat experiencing gallbladder blockages and other medical conditions.

Surgical Removal of Gallbladder Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Stray cat
3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


my cat was only 3 years old and on a sunday he started acting like sick then on a monday his conditions were really bad the vet came collected him and gave him surgery, found gallbladder stones/sand. He said that the urinary sack was red and seriously inflamed. After about 3 days of surgery he got worse and he was operated again. More sand was removed, then the cat died. I wanted to know, what is the possibility of death from an operation of gall bladder stones/sand removal?

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12 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


Hi my cat Jaffa is 12. He has been diagnosed with a bile duct obstruction which in turn has affected his pancreas and liver function. He has been going through treatment for the last 2 weeks to assist in inflammation reduction, jaundice and liver function. All of which he is responding well to.
The obstruction in his bile duct (stones) will it seem be an ongoing problem and my vet has advised surgery to remove them.
I am extremely nervous about this and want a prognosis going forward that reassures me that Jaffa will make a full recovery and live a longer and pain free life should i go ahead.
I appreciate there are no guarantees, but am also concerned that the bile duct can rupture and its a bit of a time bomb.
Should i, shouldn't i...... I'm a little scared for his wellbeing going forward.
Any feedback would be most welcome

thanks nicole

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15 Days
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Tired and will not eat
Tired a

My cat is resting and calm and somewhat peaceful. He's 15 years old and the did a ultrasound and said he either has a blockage at the gallbladder and is inflamed . Possibly pancreatitis. I spent close to 5000.00 on all proceedures. She acted like it would not be wise to do surgery. What do you think?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Your Veterinarian would be able to advise you better than myself, however in a cat of 15 years it would always be useful to be cautious since there are many possible complications which may occur especially if there are issues with the gallbladder; your Veterinarian would have taken into account Tigger’s overall health including heart and lung function, blood test results (blood counts as well as liver and kidney function) before making their recommendation. Without examining Tigger myself, I cannot say if I would do anything differently but I probably wouldn’t recommend surgery in this case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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