GALL BLADDER DISEASE

Dr. Tomas Infernuso, DVM, DACVS

WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF THE GALLBLADDER?

The gall bladder’s primary function is to store bile (breakdown of red blood cells from liver), which eventually flows into the intestine and helps with the digestion of fat. There are conditions such stones (gallstones), masses (tumor), or thickened bile (mucocele) that can obstruct the bile flow and make the patient critically ill.

HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY PET HAS GALL BLADDER DISEASE?

Gall bladder disease is common in dog and cats and the clinical signs are non-specific. Patients with obstruction of the gall bladder present for belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and yellow color of the skin, and gums (jaundice). If the gall bladder is fully obstructed and ruptures, the bile could flow into the abdomen and caused death and sepsis.

WHICH TESTS ARE PERFORMED TO DIAGNOSE GALL BLADDER DISEASE?

Patient with suspected gall bladder disease / obstruction should have blood work done to determine the bile level (total bilirubin) in the blood stream. Additionally, x rays and ultrasound are needed to determine the size of the gall bladder, free bile in the belly, gall bladder stones, and tumors.

HOW IS GALL BLADDER DISEASE TREATED?

The gold standard for gall bladder disease is surgery. In human as well as in veterinary medicine the surgical treatment involves removing the gall bladder (cholecystectomy), and ensuring that the tube that connects the gall bladder to the intestine is patent. If the gall bladder is ruptured, the belly is lavaged, a drain is placed to remove the pathologic fluid and the gall bladder is removed.

WHAT IS THE PROGNOSIS WITH GALL BLADDER REMOVAL: 

Gall bladder removal surgery has a high survival rate (good prognosis) in uncomplicated conditions, however the mortality rate could rise up to 50 percent if there are bile / bacteria in the abdomen (bile peritonitis) due to the loss of integrity of the gall bladder wall. The prognosis is usually poor if the gall bladder is affected by cancer.

WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS WITH GALL BLADDER SURGERY?

The complications associated with gall bladder surgery include sepsis, kidney failures and death. Additionally, bile could continuously leak in the abdomen and cause a recurrence of the clinical signs. The best recommendation is to perform surgery in the early stages of gall bladder disease, because it could become a fatal condition if the gall bladder ruptures.