Dogs get gallbladder disease, too!
Like people, our canine friends also can develop gallbladder diseases, including gallstones and infections. It’s important for owners to learn more about gallbladder diseases and options your veterinarian may recommend both to prevent and treat gallbladder problems.
Certain breeds, as well as older female dogs, have an increased risk for gallbladder problems. High-risk breeds include Shetland sheepdogs, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers and Chihuahuas. Although golden retrievers have not been identified as one of the at-risk breeds, gallbladder diseases have been reported in almost every breed of dog.
The three most common diseases affecting the gallbladder of dogs are cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), gallstones, and gallbladder mucocoele (collection of thick, jelled bile).
Gallbladder diseases in dogs don’t always cause clinical signs, and many are found incidentally (for example, during routine abdominal ultrasound). However, sometimes these diseases can cause serious illness.
The most common signs of gallbladder disease are poor appetite, vomiting and lethargy. Because these signs are seen with many diseases, veterinarians use a variety of diagnostic tests to differentiate one disease from another. Many experts promote ultrasound as the best way to look for gallbladder problems. Gallstones and gallbladder mucocoeles have a very characteristic appearance on ultrasound, making diagnosis easier.
Both medical and surgical treatments are available for gallbladder disease in dogs. Gallbladder surgery for our veterinary patients has not become as sophisticated as in humans, but is sometimes the best option. Left untreated, some diseases can lead to gallbladder rupture, which can be life threatening. Your veterinarian can guide you toward appropriate diagnostic tests if a gallbladder problem is suspected. The good news is that many gallbladder diseases are treatable, and have good long-term outcomes if caught early.
Understanding risk factors for gallbladder disease, particularly gallbladder mucocoele formation in dogs, is an area of intense research. Morris Animal Foundation has funded several studies on gallbladder diseases in dog, including a recently completed study looking at the causes of mucocoele formation. You can read the research paper for more in-depth information. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study also might shed light on gallbladder disease as we follow our study participants through their lifetimes and look for risk factors and disease correlations.