Enlarged Gallbladder in Dogs

An enlarged gallbladder may signal that the dog has a liver problem, but may also be indicative of various other health problems. The gallbladder is an organ that helps the digestion, and the liver sends the bile in the gallbladder. Gallbladder problems in dogs are rare.

Causes of Enlarged Gallbladder in Dogs

Most commonly, an enlarged gallbladder is caused by a liver problem, because the gallbladder is located close to the liver. Conversely, if the gallbladder is affected, it will most likely affect the liver. Other causes of enlarged gallbladder in dogs include:

  • Pancreatitis, or the inflammation of the pancreas
  • An internal infection, affecting the liver or the gallbladder
  • A diet that is rich in fats (over the recommended 15 percent that is normal in a dog's diet)
  • A cyst or tumor on the gallbladder
  • Lack of exercise

The causes of an enlarged gallbladder may also be idiopathic, in which case they are not known.

Enlarged Gallbladder Symptoms

An enlarged gallbladder may cause the following symptoms in dogs:

  • Chronic vomiting; the vomit may contain bile, which is yellow in color
  • Lethargy
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Vision problems
  • Lack of appetite
  • General state of weakness

The dog may also have additional symptoms that are specific for a liver condition. These symptoms may include:

  • Jaundice or the yellowing of the eye whites, gums and other mucous membranes
  • Enlarged and painful abdomen
  • Fatigue

Detecting an Enlarged Gallbladder in Dogs

An enlarged gallbladder can be detected by performing an EKG or ultrasounds and x-rays. However, to detect other possible abnormalities and the cause of the enlargement, the vet will perform blood tests.

Treatment Options

The vet will establish the cause of the enlarged gallbladder and recommend medication treatment, if this is possible.

The gallbladder is an organ that may be removed if need be. In fact, many animals don't have a gallbladder. The surgery will remove the gallbladder and the possible cysts or tumors that are present. If the tumors are spread through the rest of the body, the dog will require chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

In some cases, especially if the gallbladder enlargement is idiopathic, the vet will only recommend a change in diet. The diet will have to be low in fats (less than 10 percent) because the gallbladder emulsifies fats. Reducing fats will allow the gallbladder to regenerate and recover.

You will also have to give the dog a lot of vegetables and fruits, which are a rich source of fibers and will assist the digestion. Some vets will recommend a period of vegetarian diet, which can be administered for up to 2 months. However, some vets will not recommend a diet that lacks meat, because the dog needs meat, especially if he is used to eating it.