Gallstones in Dogs

Gallstones in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Gallstones in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Gallstones?

The gallbladder is an organ situated between the lobes of the liver, with a primary function of storing, concentrating and releasing of bile. Bile has many functions. It is important to your pet’s immune system, killing substances such as fungus and bacteria. It also serves to neutralize potentially toxic stomach acids and has the important work of stimulating food to move down the small intestine for processing. Due to the necessary functions of bile, a blockage caused by gallstones can lead to serious complications for the health of your pet.

Gallstones, also known as choleliths, are solid particles which vary in composition. They usually contain bile, cholesterol, bacteria, proteins and calcium salts. The gallstones can range in size from a tiny particle to stones large enough to cause a blockage in the gall bladder. Immediate veterinary care is necessary with a gall bladder blockage or perforation.

Gallstones Average Cost

From 18 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Gallstones in Dogs

While gallstones can be present with no symptoms, a large gallstone that causes a blockage in the gallbladder or leads to a perforation of the organ, which allows for spillage of the bile into the abdomen, can be life threatening. Symptoms of a problem with the gallbladder include:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal tenderness to touch
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite.
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Causes of Gallstones in Dogs

Gallstones are primarily caused by the hardening and formation of bile into large and small stone like fragments. It has been noted that gallstones are most often secondary to other underlying issues as listed below:

  • Nutrient deficiencies such as taurine
  • Environmental toxins
  • High concentration of gallbladder bile
  • Decreased bile flow
  • Changes to the lining of the gallbladder which can lead to complications such as bile forming a sludge and becoming thick.
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Diagnosis of Gallstones in Dogs

If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms normally seen with gallbladder complications, it is crucial to take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. Diagnosing gallstones in the earliest stage possible is important due to the risk of a rupture of the gallbladder, and the development of a life threatening obstruction or permanent organ damage.

At the start of the examination, your veterinarian will ask you to describe the symptoms and behaviors you are seeing in your pet. Physical observations will also be made by checking the abdomen for tenderness or pain, and by looking for signs of jaundice. Further diagnosis will involve ordering blood work to check the elevation of liver enzymes in the blood. An x-ray does not always provide a definitive diagnosis; additional investigation may include an abdominal ultrasound.

Unfortunately, due to lack of obvious symptoms in the early stages of gallstones, the diagnosis is not often made until there has been a blockage or rupture.

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Treatment of Gallstones in Dogs

Some gallstones are small enough that your veterinarian may choose to dissolve them with a medication proven to give results. This conservative treatment is followed when the veterinarian feels a resolution of the gallstones is possible, along with an improvement in the flow of the bile.

If there is evidence that a blockage is present, or if a blockage appears to be imminent, surgery will be necessary in order to prevent serious health issues for your dog. Cholecystectomy, or removal of the gallbladder is done to avoid the likelihood of a life threatening situation. Gallbladder surgery may involve a stay of a few days at the clinic for your pet. Prior to surgery day, blood work will be done to rule out any underlying illnesses or problems with your pet’s health.

As with any surgery, risks associated with anesthesia are present. Your dog will be well monitored during the surgery, assuring a stable heart rate and pulse at all times. A cholecystectomy involves intensive care support throughout the procedure due to the possibility of bile entering the abdominal cavity. Bleeding must be controlled as well.

Recently, the veterinary surgical field has evolved to use the procedure of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy which has shown to be successful in many patients, with the bonus being that the procedure is less invasive and recovery is excellent.

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Worried about the cost of Gallstones treatment?

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Recovery of Gallstones in Dogs

If your veterinarian chooses to use medication to dissolve the gallstones, antibiotics will also be administered to avoid infection. Vitamins and a high protein diet will be prescribed. Chances are that your pet will remain on a veterinary prescribed diet from now on, in order to prevent the recurrence of gallstones by ensuring the diet is conducive to good health.

Recovery and management after surgery will be more involved. With regular gallbladder surgery (as opposed to the laparoscopic method) there is a need to keep your dog quiet for a minimum of two weeks in order to avoid a tear in the incision. Your dog must be kept on leash when outside. It is recommended to use an Elizabethan collar to minimize licking the incision. Medication to aid in pain relief will be prescribed, along with a prescription to avoid infection.

Resolution of gallstones is possible; the result depends on whether the gallstones have advanced to a stage where further organ damage was done. If you suspect your dog is unwell for any reason, consult your veterinarian without delay.

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Gallstones Average Cost

From 18 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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Gallstones Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Darcy

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Chow Shepherd

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17 Years

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Stomach
Stomach Ache

My dog has gallstones & inflammation in the gallbladder severe the vet can’t operate dog is to old the vet is going to use a needle to drain out the fluid today she’s alert good appetite 4 small meals a day skinless boneless boiled chicken scrambled eggs or fresh broiled fillet fish we were told to limit her water to 16oz and only after meals any other options on medication or food otherwise she a healthy dog thanks she was on medication and was getting a daily shot was doing good now it’s bad again what can we do her stomach also making gergerling noise like she hungry

March 24, 2018

Darcy's Owner

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1 Recommendations

I don't really have anything else to add since many options like surgery are not an option due to Darcy’s age; your Veterinarian will guide you through the options they see appropriate given Darcy’s condition and current health. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 24, 2018

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Tiger

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Boxer Mix

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12 Years

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2 found helpful

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2 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Bloood In Urine

My dogs urine contains blood in it, not during the initial full out empty bladder pee when u first take home out but as we walk and marks his territory those little bits of wgat should be pee is blood . Starting to worry . He will not eat his dry k/d prescribed food unless I mix it with a can of the same wet food . I took him to our vet and he put him on antibiotics hoping it's an infection and would clear things up . We are almost a week into the antibiotics and no change . His behaviour is normal otherwise and doesn't seem to be in any discomfort other than the blood in pee and not touching his food . What can this be ? Worried if I put him through surgery it might be a rough recover considering he had surgery in sep to remove a big growth near his chest and really struggled to get to himself . I read a bit online and mentions gullstones or tumors . Is surgery only option and how safe is it with him being 12 ?

Jan. 28, 2018

Tiger's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Before we start thinking about surgery, we should be focused on diagnosing the underlying condition which may be due to infection, urinary stones, tumours, kidney disease among other issues; if there is no improvement you should return to your Veterinarian for blood test, x-rays and possibly ultrasound to get an idea of what the underlying cause may be. If surgery is indicated, this is something you should discuss with your Veterinarian regardless his last surgery and his recovery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 28, 2018

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Gallstones Average Cost

From 18 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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