Yellow Eyes, Nausea, Pain? Sounds Like Symptoms of This Dog Issue

Yellow Eyes, Nausea, Pain? Sounds Like Symptoms of This Dog Issue

One important but often overlooked organ in your dog’s body is the gallbladder. This small organ stores and releases bile, which is secreted by the liver. Bile neutralizes stomach acid, aids in the digestive process and assists the immune system by killing off bacteria. Unfortunately, the gallbladder is not immune to health problems over time. One common issue dogs might experience in their gallbladder is the formation of gallstones, or cholelithiasis.

Gallstones are firm deposits that form from an accumulation of bile, bacteria, calcium, cholesterol and proteins in the gallbladder. Unfortunately, these stones can grow large enough to cause blockages in the gallbladder—an uncomfortable and very serious problem.

Not all gallstone cases are severe. Minor cases may not present any symptoms at all. However, severe cases can cause life-threatening problems for your pup. Therefore, it’s important to be away of the signs and seek veterinary help right away if you suspect your dog’s gallbladder needs attention.

Understanding and identifying gallstones

A number of things can lead to the development of gallstones, but the most important thing to know is that it is usually a secondary issue to another health problem. In most cases, problems with the gallbladder’s functionality lead to gallstones. This might include an interruption in bile flow out of the gallbladder or the excessive presence of calcium or cholesterol in the bile. Gallbladder inflammation can also cause gallstones to form, as well as protein deficiency.

Middle-aged and older dogs are most commonly afflicted by gallstones. Some dog breeds, including Shetland sheepdogs, poodles and miniature schnauzers, are more susceptible to gallstone formation than others.

Gallstones don’t often produce symptoms if they are small. Unfortunately, larger gallstones can cause other problems, like blockages or infections. These problems can lead to a range of symptoms—many of which are common signs of other illnesses, such as vomiting, a fever, pain in the abdomen, lethargy, a loss of appetite and mood changes or sudden aggression.

One more unique sign of gallstones is jaundice, or a yellowing of your dog’s skin and/or eyes. If you notice that your dog’s tissues have taken on an unnatural color, it’s definitely time to visit the vet.

If gallstones are large and go untreated, there is a possibility that they will perforate the gallbladder. This allows bile to seep out of the organ into the body, which can be life threatening.

Treating canine gallstones

Diagnosing gallstones in dogs can be a complicated endeavor. Your vet will likely need to run a number of tests to rule out other health problems. They may also require X-rays; however, gallstones are not always visible on these scans. Other scans, like ultrasounds, may be necessary to verify the presence of gallstones.

Once diagnosed, treatment is usually straightforward. Your vet might recommend that your dog take prescription medication to dissolve the gallstones and to treat any secondary infections. If the gallstones are more serious, your dog may require intravenous fluids and potentially even surgery to remove them if they have caused blockages.

It’s possible that the gallbladder will need to be removed entirely. Dogs can live long, healthy lives without a gallbladder—they just might need more dietary restrictions to ensure proper digestion.

A balanced diet is usually the best means of managing chronic gallstone issues. Dogs with frequent gallstones of any size usually need to be switched to a high-protein, fat-restricted diet.

Other forms of gallbladder disease

Gallstones are not the only things that can affect the gallbladder. A number of other issues can cause similar symptoms.

Cysts and tumors can grow on the gallbladder, as well, blocking bile ducts and causing inflammation. Infections of and trauma to the gallbladder can also cause the organ to rupture, which is an extremely serious and time-sensitive problem.

Other problems, such as pancreatitis, can cause localized inflammation that affects the gallbladder, as well. Typically, treating the source of the inflammation alleviates the problems occurring in the gallbladder.

Don’t let gallbladder problems worsen

Although gallstones and other gallbladder issues are not particularly common in dogs, they can be extremely serious if they do occur. It’s very important to monitor your pup for signs—particularly jaundice—and seek veterinary help right away to prevent a major issue like perforation or rupture. Caught early enough, gallbladder problems are treatable, allowing your dog to rest and heal right away.