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Your dog’s gallbladder stores bile that is produced in the liver. The gallbladder then releases bile into the dog's digestive system to break down fat. Disease or blockage of the gallbladder in your dog is a serious medical condition that can become life-threatening if inflammation persists and/or rupture of the organ occurs. It may be necessary for your veterinarian to remove blockages in the gallbladder with a surgical procedure known as a cholecystotomy. Fortunately, dogs do not often experience disease or obstruction of the gallbladder. If your dog does develop gallbladder dysfunction and requires a cholecystotomy, an experienced veterinary surgeon will be required to perform this procedure.
If your dog presents with gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy that may indicate gallbladder disorder your veterinarian will conduct tests to determine the cause which may include blood and urine tests to look for increased enzyme levels indicating gallbladder dysfunction and imaging such as ultrasounds and x-rays to look for inflammation and blockages. Sometimes exploratory surgery is performed, and gallbladder disease is located as a result.
If cholecystotomy is indicated, your veterinarian will provide you with preoperative instructions which will include fasting your dog prior to surgery and may include antibiotics if deemed necessary. Immediately prior to surgery your dog will be examined to ensure they do not present any undue risks for anaesthetic and surgery, such as the presence of infection or breathing difficulties.
Your dog will be put under general anesthetic for this procedure. The abdominal area will be shaved of all hair and cleaned antiseptically to remove dirt and bacteria. Your dog's vital signs will be closely monitored during the procedure as fluctuations in blood pressure or heart arrhythmia can occur during this surgical intervention.
An incision will be made in your dog’s abdomen and tissues moved to isolate the gallbladder. An incision will be made in your dog’s gallbladder and gallstones, tumor or muscle surgically removed. The gallbladder incision is closed with sutures 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 sent for laboratory examination to determine if cancerous cells are present.
Your dog may require hospitalization for a few days postoperatively depending on the degree of damage and illness present pre and post-surgery. Intravenous fluids will be administered post-operatively.
Other surgical procedures to remove blockages and medications such as antibiotics and antiinflammatories may be effective in addressing gallbladder blockages and inflammation, however, if your dog does not respond to these interventions, or the problem recurs and becomes chronic, surgical intervention to remove the blockage may be necessary to resolve the problem. Cholecystotomy usually resolves blockages in the gallbladder, however they can recur and then surgical removal of the gallbladder may be indicated.
Your vet will require that your dog’s activity be restricted for at least two weeks post-surgery; cage rest may be recommended for a few days after surgery. An Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking or chewing their abdominal incision will usually be necessary. Follow-up by your veterinarian to ensure healing is progressing without complications and removal of stitches may be required. You should monitor your dog's surgical wound for signs of infection which may include redness, soreness, or infected discharge. Any worsening of your your dog's condition including lethargy, behavioral changes, or lack of appetite should be addressed with your veterinarian. Your dog will require a special diet which is low in fat on an ongoing basis so as not to stress the biliary system and to prevent blockages from reforming.
The cost of cholecystectomy in your dog usually ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 depending on the cost of living in your location. This includes tests, anesthetic, procedure, postoperative care and medication.
The indications for cholecystotomy are very serious illness resulting in severe distress to your pet that will eventually lead to death if surgery is not performed. If your dog is experiencing distress from organ dysfunction prior to surgery, this decreases their prognosis for a complication-free recovery. Risks from cholecystotomy for your dog include aspiration during anesthesia, hemorrhaging, and infection from peritonitis due to leakage or rupture of the gallbladder or bile ducts or anastomotic leakage at the surgical site. Close monitoring of your dog's vital signs and anesthesia and an experienced surgical team will mitigate these risks. Your dog's condition and prognosis should be discussed with your veterinarian prior to the procedure.
Obesity in your dog due to a high fat diet and lack of exercise will contribute to the chances of your dog developing gallbladder disease in their lifetime. A balanced diet and exercise will mitigate the risk of your dog requiring surgery to remove the gallbladder. Ensure your dog gets regular veterinary check ups and that any symptoms of illness or disease are addressed with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Gallbladder symptoms that are addressed at an early stage may be treated with other surgical procedures, diet changes, or medications that would avoid the necessity for complete removal of the organ.
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