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Dog Gallbladder Removal Costs and Procedure

Dog Gallbladder Removal

Dog gallbladder removal costs and procedure is information dog owners may need in order to better understand what is happening to their canine companions. Dog gallbladder removal costs tend to vary from one location and another. The price may also vary based on whether the surgery is done by a specialist (recommended) or a general practitioner. As for the procedure, understanding what the procedure entails before and after removal is important as well, so that dog owners know what to expect. Following is information about dog gallbladder removal costs and procedure.

bile duct

Function of the Dog's Gallbladder 

Your dog's gallbladder is a structure that is shaped like a pear and hides under the liver. The gallbladder is part of your dog's biliary tract. It's main function is to store and concentrate bile, a special fluid produced by the liver that is yellowish-brown in color. Bile contains water, bile acids, bilirubin, cholesterol, fatty acids, lecithin, alkaline phosphatase and electrolytes.

The purpose of bile is to break up fats so that they are easier to assimilate. Every time your dog eats a meal, once food enters his small intestine, a special hormone known as cholecystokinin is released.

This hormone is released when proteins and fats enter the dog's small intestine telling the gallbladder to contract and secrete bile into the dog's small intestine through a special duct, known as the bile duct. When not used for digestion, the gallbladder stores bile as a reservoir for future use.

When all works well, the dog's gallbladder is an efficient worker. On top of breaking up fats into smaller particles, the gallbladder removes waste products produced by the liver (cholesterol and bilirubin) and delivers them into the duodenum, a section of the small intestine. However problems may start when something gets into the way of the bile duct preventing the efficient flow of bile.

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Obstructions of the gallbladder may be caused by presence of a gallbladder mucocele, presence of gallstones, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), cancer and narrowing of the bile duct passage (stricture). Some of these conditions may or may not requite removal of the gallbladder.

Conditions Needing Gallbladder Removal 

As seen, the dog's gallbladder plays several important roles. It's therefore important to only remove the gallbladder when there is no other option.

Dogs suffering from gallbladder disorders often have vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, jaundice, gray or light tan stools (due to lack of bile, which is what gives feces its distinct brown color) and ascites.  Severe cases may include fever, weakness and collapse.

Initial problems with the gallbladder are often shown through blood work. The dog's blood chemistry profile may show elevated levels of ALT, ALP and GGT. X-rays may show presence of gallstones. A good way to assess the condition of the dog's gallbladder is through an ultrasound. In an ultrasound, the vet can detect abnormalities such as stones, tumors, obstructions, congenital defects and presence of sediment (sludge). However, sludge is not always indicative of disease as it happens in humans, it may be a common finding in healthy, senior dogs.

Gallbladder removal surgery may be needed when there are risks for the gallbladder to rupture. A rupture can happen when there is presence of a blockage preventing the outflow of bile as it happens when there are stones or cancer. A rupture of the bile ducts may occur as a result of trauma. A common finding in dogs is presence of a biliary mucocele (accumulation of mucus in the gallbladder) which may too lead to rupture.

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A ruptured gallbladder in dogs is a problem because it can cause bile leakage into the body. Bile can be very irritating and painful and could potentially harm organs causing them to fail. A widespread infection known as sepsis may also take place which can quickly turn life threatening. There is a higher chance for complications when a dog's gallbladder is surgically removed after it ruptures.

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" As far as surgery on a dog that isn't obstructed due to the gall bladder stone, many don't recommend that. I would recommend having a second opinion locally with a specialist who can evaluate the gall bladder better with an ultrasound. Is it possible to try medical dissolution? When a dog is blocked due to a bladder stone, then surgery is absolutely the treatment option of choice." ~Dr. Bruce 

Dog Gallbladder Removal Procedure

dog gallbladder removal surgery

Dog gladder bladder removal surgery is medically known as cholecystectomy. A main advantage of this procedure is prevention of secondary gallbladder infection and rupture. A main disadvantage is that it's a challenging surgery that comes with risks, particularly when the gallbladder has already ruptured.

Can dogs lead a normal life with no gallbladder? The answer is yes, just as it happens in humans, dogs can live without a gallbladder, but a low fat diet is needed to help the dog from incurring in digestive problems.

 A less invasive type of surgery is what's known as laparoscopic cholecystectomy. In this type of surgery, also known as keyhole surgery, several small openings in the abdomen are made versus a larger incision. This leads to less post-surgical pain and a faster recovery.
Dog gallbladder removal surgery survival rates tend to vary, based on how early in the disease the dog is diagnosed. In most cases, dogs are diagnosed late, and this leads to lower survival rates. Complications of dog bladder surgery include pancreatitis and bile peritonitis (the peritoneum being a highly absorbing surface). Lavage of the dog's peritoneal cavity along with antibiotics can help prevent this latter complication.

Dog ACTH test costs

Dog gallbladder removal costs may vary.

Dog Gallbladder Surgery Costs

Because gallbladder removal surgery is a delicate surgery, it's best to have it performed by a specialist. A board-certified veterinary surgeon may be the best candidate for this type of surgery.

As mentioned costs for dog gallbladder surgery may vary based on location and the type of surgery carried out.

Generally, dog gallbladder removal costs may range anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000, with the upper end applying when it is performed by a specialist. Of course, these numbers may go further up if there is onset of complications.

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  • DVM360: An update on gallbladder mucoceles in dogs
  •  Brömel C, Barthez PY, Léveillé R, et al. Prevalence of gallbladder sludge in dogs as assessed by ultrasonography. Vet Radiol Ultrasound 1998;39(3):206-210.

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