Like in humans, dogs can experience gallbladder issues and gallbladder disease; however, this condition is rare in canine companions. Knowing the signs and symptoms of gallbladder issues can help get Fido in for care faster!
The gallbladder is a small organ located just under the liver and sharing several ducts with the liver. In normal dogs (and other species with a gallbladder), this organ secretes digestive enzymes to help break down foods after a meal. The bile acids found in the gallbladder help to color the stool brown, as when they are broken down into their components, the acids give a brown tint to the stool. If you know that the gallbladder is responsible for stool color, it can indicate when the gallbladder is not functioning as it should.
Problems can occur with the gallbladder itself, with the bile acids or with the ducts used to move the acids into the digestive system. Inflammation of the gallbladder and ducts can occur if there is an infection or build up of gallstones, a hardened product of bile acids becoming stuck or malformed in the bladder. Symptoms of gallbladder disease can be similar to liver disease and can include jaundice (yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes), painful abdomen, vomiting and loss of appetite, or a characteristic greening of the stool when bile acids are not properly broken down.
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Can I Prevent Gallbladder Issues in My Dog?
As gallbladder issues can come suddenly or may be asymptomatic until major problems occur, it is hard to prevent issues. Gallbladder issues can be caused by numerous reasons, from the malfunctioning of muscles or digestive system to problems with the formation or secretion of bile acids or even bacterial infection and inflammation of the tissues itself. However, proper exercise and a balanced diet are needed to ensure optimal health and prevent a myriad of health issues in your dog.
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Dog Has A Gallbladder Issue?
Treatment depends mostly on the cause behind the gallbladder issues. If a bacterial infection is suspected, a course of antibiotics may be needed to get the infection under control. Gall stones or bile buildup may also be able to be dissolved via medication. Dogs with very serious attacks of gallbladder inflammation and disease may also need to be hospitalized and placed on IV fluids to help restore fluid balance and treat any secondary symptoms such as vomiting or loss of appetite.If you suspect your dog is having a gallbladder issue, scheduling an examination with your veterinarian is important.
Gallbladder issues can often mimic many other digestive illnesses and usually determined by ruling out other more common illnesses first. Your vet will perform a complete exam, and will likely recommend X-rays and blood work to check for other illnesses. X-rays may show signs of inflammation or disease in the gallbladder itself, and blood work can look for elevated enzymes, such as bilirubin, that may rise in gallbladder disease. By checking the stool and urine, your vet can diagnose any gallbladder issues versus other common diseases.
In some cases, it may be recommended to remove your dog’s gallbladder. Chronic cases of frequent attacks or severe malfunction and inflammation of the gallbladder may indicate a need for surgery. Surgery usually involves the removal or resection of all or part of the gallbladder to relieve symptoms. A gallbladder surgery can be tricky in dogs, so hospitalization and close monitoring pre, during and post surgery is needed. Additional after care medications and even long-term medications may be needed to help the body adjust to having lost biliary function. Dogs without gallbladders may experience frequent diarrhea or greasy stools, requiring supplements to return the stool to normal.
Natural Remedies for Treating Gallbladder Issues in Dogs
In minor gallbladder issues, herbal supplements may be useful for stimulating normal function. However these herbs may be harmful in the case of acute or serious gallbladder disease, and a holistic or conventional veterinarian should be contacted prior to continuing their use. Some herbs recommended for gallbladder function include Cholagogue and Dandelion. Additional herbal supplements for treating digestive issues, diarrhea or immunity problems may also help support gallbladder function indirectly.