What is Bile Duct Obstruction?
Cholestasis is most often caused by pancreatitis or the inflammation of the pancreas. Bile duct obstruction can also be a result of liver or gallbladder diseases, and is most commonly found in the Miniature Schnauzer and Shetland Sheepdog breeds. There is no association with either gender; however, bile duct obstruction is more commonly found in middle-aged and senior dogs. Most of the causes of bile duct obstruction are easy-to-treat; however, bile duct obstruction left untreated can severely damage both the liver and the gallbladder.Cholestasis, or obstruction of the bile duct, prevents the normal passage of bile from the liver to the gallbladder and intestines. Bile aids in digestion, removal of wastes, and processing of fats into fatty acids for use by the body. An obstruction of the bile duct causes bile to accumulate to unhealthy levels in the liver and halts the digestive processes.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Bile Duct Obstruction in Dogs
As bile duct obstruction has varying underlying causes, symptoms may vary. However, common symptoms include:
- Jaundice, or yellowing of eyes, skin and mucous membranes
- Excessive appetite
- Excessive bleeding
- Weight loss
- Pale-colored stools
- Orange urine
Causes of Bile Duct Obstruction in Dogs
- Cholelithiasis, or gallstones
- Cancers of the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, intestines or lymph nodes
- Parasitic infection
- Complication of abdominal surgery
- Blunt trauma
Diagnosis of Bile Duct Obstruction in Dogs
You can aid in the veterinarian’s diagnosis by giving a thorough report of your dog’s health history, the onset of symptoms, and any incidents that may have precipitated symptoms (such as surgery or trauma).
The veterinarian will conduct a physical examination, which will identify jaundice if present. Additionally, a complete blood count will measure red and white blood cells, identifying possible anemia, which may or may not accompany bile duct obstruction. A chemical blood profile will measure liver enzymes and possible increased level bilirubin. An elevated level of bilirubin in the blood is what causes jaundice. A urinalysis will also measure bilirubin levels, as well as other electrolytes. A stool sample will be taken in order to evaluate color and composition. Bilirubin is a waste product of red blood cells, the pigment that breaks away from the red blood cells as they degrade. It is also what gives your dog’s stool its normal, dark color. Therefore, a pale colored stool is indicative of bile duct obstruction, as bilirubin accumulating in your dog’s blood and urine means it is not being processed through your dog’s digestive tract.
A blood coagulation test will be conducted in order to measure the ability of your dog’s blood to clot. X-rays and ultrasounds will be utilized in order to examine the liver, pancreas and gallbladder so that the direct causation of the bile duct obstruction may be identified. In extreme cases, exploratory surgery may be necessary in order to find the obstruction. While diagnostic surgery is an aggressive measure, it carries the added benefit of often doubling as treatment, as the surgeon may be able to remove the obstruction upon finding it.
If abnormal tissue growth, or neoplasia, is found, a biopsy will be necessary in order for the veterinarian, or specialist, to establish what type of growth she's encountered. It will either be benign or cancerous.
Treatment of Bile Duct Obstruction in Dogs
Initial treatment will focus on stabilization, as your dog will likely require IV fluids and other supportive therapy, often antibiotics to control infections, particularly if the cause is found to be a parasitic infection. As with most conditions, the treatment suggestion will vary and depend upon the cause of the bile duct obstruction. Your dog may require surgery or treatment for cancer. However, the most common cause of bile duct obstruction is pancreatitis, which is most often treated through a diet of easy-to-digest, low-fat food for a long period of time, or throughout your dog’s life.
Recovery of Bile Duct Obstruction in Dogs
As the causes of bile duct obstruction are highly variable, so is the prognosis. The prognosis for the most common cause, pancreatitis, is very good, and the treatment is easy to manage through diet. Conversely, the prognoses for the possible cancers vary but are guarded.
It is important to follow the veterinarian’s care instructions, as recovery will vary according to your dog’s individual cause and course of treatment. When you first arrive home with Fido, be sure she is provided and is drinking plenty of water. If your dog is put on a specific diet, follow the diet very strictly, never giving or allowing others to give your dog treats or human food, and being sure always to secure your trash. If your dog is prescribed any medication, follow all of the veterinarian’s instructions and monitor your dog for any side effects.
Bile Duct Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. Her poops have been yellow for several years and most recently is sometimes yellow and sometimes light clay or grayish yellow most always soft serve or diarhrea. Her last blood work up showed increased conjugated bilrubin in blood. Could that mean a bile duct obstruction? I do not have money for ultrasound or xrays to confirm but is there any medications that could help or supplements or diet?
Add a comment to Greta's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Hello my dog recently had 6 non cancerous lumps removed her bloods taken at the time showed increased liver enzymes we treated with antibiotics and re tested a month later liver enzymes are up again and ggt levels have also increased ? I'm really worries
Add a comment to Jazzy's experience
Was this experience helpful?
My dog Maggie made a very odd bowel movement this morning. It was yellow, not mucousy and easy to pick up. She does not have any jaundice anywhere, her energy and attitude is normal. No fever does not display any signs of pain....just perfectly normal. She does have some digestive problems at times. They crop up every few months. Last week, she had 2 vomiting episodes and one bad poop. We went to the vet, she got a thorough exam, and the vet gave her an injection of Cerenia. What I am wondering is, should I rush to the vet, or wait until I see the next bowel movement?
Changes in the colour of faeces can be shocking to an owner but may occur without incident, especially if Maggie received a different treat, had some human food or got into something he shouldn’t. If you notice blood (red or black) in the stool, mucus, abdominal pain or any other worrying symptom, visit your Veterinarian for a check up. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Maggie's experience
Was this experience helpful?
I am at a loss with our 5 yr old mini dashound Mojo. In Nov/16,she jumped off our bed (bypassed stairs for her) and I took her into the vet for a sore back. They took an x-ray and all looked good, vet said it was a sciatic problem.She slowed down a bit because she was sore but we still walked once a day and feed normally.(beniful beef dry) She was 14lbs at that visit.(yes 2lbs over-weight) Thru Christmas she started getting depressed and lethargic. Her back was fine.We saw beniful was recalled, switched to pedigree. She slowly got more depressed, walking slow, tummy extremely hard and round but pooping normal hard poos.. On Jan9/17 She couldn't walk when I got home, rushed her to the vet, she had gained 2 lbs, now 16lbs! I did not increase food given. An xray showed she was very constipated, just full of poop. She came alive, smiling wagging tale at vets.. then once out the door sad and depressed again. Real faker. We gave her laxatives. As a mom, i knew something was wrong, so i took her back on Jan 27th, another side view x-ray showed a blockage of some foreign object in her bowel, she was now 18.4lbs!! The circular blockage was the size of a ping pong ball which showed up only on side view, not face on view. 2lb gain in 2 weeks.We tried enemas all thru the night and scheduled surgery next morning. I requested 1 more x-ray the next morning and nothing was there. I was outside with her when she went poop, but I couldn't see anything in her poop. So we did not go thru with surgery. So now I have an 18.4 lb depressed, sad, no interest in anything .. i know something is wrong.When the vet did a blood test i remember him saying she had a small amount of bile in her blood. Everything else was normal and i also had her poop checked which came back normal. She is addicted to food, she never was like this before. Her stomach is hard and round, and she has a swag when she walks. She winces lying down, no longer goes on her back, lethargic, wont greet us at the door. This is the only diagnosis that says an increase in eating. We have another dashound Izzy who has lost weight because i have cut down on their food so much. On Friday I have switched their food again to a quality brand wet food Natures variety instinct grain free. 95% meat. 3/4 can a day. I just want my Mojo back!I Mojo's tummy hard all the time. Thank-you for your time. Marilyn :) I'm saying serious because I know there is something wrong. She comes alive at the vets so he finds it hard to believe she is sick.
If there is an increase in weight, a weight management diet may be best for Mojo and feed Mojo and Izzy separately so that Izzy is getting an adequate amount of food. If there is a bile duct obstruction, there can be an increase in bilirubin in the blood; an ultrasound may show an obstruction of the bile ducts. The circular blockage is an interesting finding, but may have been an anomaly on the x-ray film or a problem with the processing (only applicable for old style x-ray machines). There are many different conditions which may cause an increase in appetite including parasites, hormonal conditions (Cushing’s Disease for example), nutritional disorders, pancreatic disorders, thyroid disorders etc… It may be useful to call your Veterinarian to your home as Mojo may perk up being in a different environment with different people, familiar territory may show her in her true mood. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Mojo's experience
Was this experience helpful?