Photos: The dog's liver, gallbladder, and digestive system are highlighted to show how interconnected these organs are.
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.
The liver right nearby secretes bile, a substance that assists with digestion and absorption of fats and with elimination of certain waste products from the body. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and is released into the small intestine through the bile duct.
Jaundice (a yellow tinge noticeable in the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes) is often the main sign of diseases of the gallbladder and bile duct. An exception is cancer of the gallbladder, which may not cause jaundice. There are quite a few diseases that affect the gallbladder: Obstruction of the bile duct, Inflammation of the Gallbladder (Cholecystitis), Gallbladder Mucocele, Gallstones and rupture of the gallbladder or bile duct.
How can we help our dogs be healthier and happier throughout their lives? We want our dogs to live richly, but this seems much harder to achieve when diagnosed with a complication, such as a gallbladder problem.
Gallbladder problems are typical for dogs to experience and are often attributed (at least partially) to what the dog is eating. As a caring pet owner, you will naturally want to know all about what to feed your dog if your dog is diagnosed with a gallbladder issue. Continue reading to understand possible complications and how a fresh, natural diet with raw protein can help.
Gallbladder and Bile Duct Diseases
A dog's gallbladder functions similarly to a human's. We would like to discuss a few of the many common diseases that a dog can experience relating to the gallbladder or bile duct.
1.Obstruction of the Bile Duct
Obstruction of the bile duct is associated with several conditions, including inflammation of the pancreas, gallbladder, or small intestines. Tissue swelling, inflammation, or fibrosis can cause compression of the bile duct. Diagnosis is based on laboratory tests, X-rays, and ultrasound. If gallstones are the cause of obstruction, the gallbladder may need to be removed.
2. Rupture of the Gallbladder or Bile Duct
Rupture of the gallbladder or bile duct often happens due to gallstone obstruction, inflammation of the gallbladder, or blunt trauma. This can also occur as a result of cancer or certain parasites. Rupture leads to leakage of bile into the abdomen, causing a severe condition called bile peritonitis, which may be fatal if the rupture is not repaired. Treatment includes surgery, which consists of placing a stent in the bile duct, removing the gallbladder, or connecting the gallbladder with the small intestine.
3. Inflammation of the Gallbladder (Cholecystitis)
Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) can be caused by bacterial infections, cancer, trauma to the liver, gallbladder obstruction, or blood clots. In some cases, the gallbladder wall is damaged, and bile leaks into the abdomen, causing severe abdominal infection and inflammation, which can be fatal. Loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice, fever, and vomiting are common signs. The dog may be in a state of shock due to abdominal inflammation.
The inflammation can also spread to the surrounding branches of the bile duct and the liver. Diagnosis is based on blood tests and ultrasound findings and can be confirmed by biopsy for bacterial cultures and tissue analysis. Treatment usually consists of the removal of the gallbladder and appropriate antibiotic medication to treat the infection. The outlook is good if surgery and appropriate antibiotics are started early but is less favorable if diagnosis and treatment are delayed.
4. Gallbladder Mucocele in Dogs
A gallbladder mucocele is an abnormal accumulation of bile within the bile ducts that results in a bile duct obstruction. The mucocele can lead to inflammation, tissue death, or rupture of the gallbladder as it expands. The condition may be inherited in some breeds, for example, Shetland Sheepdogs.
Underlying diseases can also predispose dogs to the condition. Some mildly affected dogs can improve with medications alone; however, most will require surgery to remove the gallbladder. Liver biopsies are often taken during surgery. Antibiotics are usually necessary for 4–6 weeks after surgery.
Gallstones are diagnosed by ultrasound and rarely cause disease. When it does occur, the disease is usually seen in middle-aged to older dogs and may be more common in small-breed dogs. Signs include vomiting, jaundice, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever, and discomfort after eating, though many dogs show no signs.
Medications, including antibiotics, can treat dogs with the uncomplicated disease. Surgery to remove the stones is necessary if they are obstructing bile or causing cholecystitis. Removal of the gallbladder may also be necessary.
Created by an excess of bacteria and other deposits that crystalize into stones, gallstones can cause disastrous blockages in the gallbladder. These stones can range in size from a poppy seed to a dime. Doctors have not determined there to be one surefire cause of gallstones, but diet seems to be a significant contributing factor. Another factor to be aware of is your dog's breed. Some breeds, like miniature schnauzers, shelties, and poodles are predisposed to experience gallbladder issues.
Meet With Your Vet
If any of these symptoms begin to become evident in your dog, it may be time for a visit to the vet. These signs are not solely indicative of gallstones; this will need to be professionally determined. To definitively discover if your dog is suffering from gallstones, they will likely need X-rays done. Some cases cannot be discovered without exploratory surgery, but your veterinarian will discuss the best course of action for your dog's health issues and history.
Once you have received an official diagnosis of gallstones or another type of gallbladder issue, there are several treatment options to choose from. If your dog's case is milder, a round of antibiotics alone may be sufficient. Vitamin deficiencies may be found to be the root issue, and adding a vitamin E or K supplement to your dog's diet may be enough to treat or prevent further gallbladder issues. More severe cases may require removing either the gallstones or the gallbladder itself.
It is important for the dog to eat small frequent meals that are low in fat but contain adequate soluble fiber. The soluble fiber in Volhard’s Rescue diet will help the dog's body to get rid of bile acid sterols. Fatty cuts of meat can lead to some digestive distress but lean protein does not always cause disruptions and can be used.
Why Diet is Important
When your dog is having issues, the best diet for them is a fresh, natural one with the use of minimally processed ingredients and whole food sources.Diets like Volhard Rescue consist of fresh, natural, food-grade ingredients and when fed with raw protein , managed fat levels, and the appropriate vegetables and herbs issues with the gallbladder can be managed. You can find our Volhard case study, a 21-day cleansing and balancing diet for a 50-pound dog, and a brief discussion on Traditional Chinese Medicine here.
A healthy, quality diet is the first step to take to ensure that your dog has a healthy immune system, a happy digestive system, and a fully-functional gallbladder. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!