Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy

or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

PetMD Seal

Gallbladder Obstruction in Dogs


Gallbladder Mucocele in Dogs


Gallbladder mucocele causes obstruction of the gallbladder's storage capacity due to the formation of a thick, mucoid bile mass inside the gallbladder, impairing its ability to function. The accumulated bile may extend the gallbladder, resulting in necrotizing cholecystitis – tissue death due to inflammation of the gallbladder. 


Gallbladder mucocele is common among middle-aged to older dogs, particularly Shetland sheepdogs, cocker spaniels and miniature schnauzers, and is not gender-specific. 


Symptoms and Types


Gallbladder mucocele may be symptomatic or asymptomatic (without symptoms). The general symptoms are:


  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Yellowish skin (jaundice)
  • Polyuria/polydipsia (excessive urination/excessive thirst)
  • Collapse – vasovagal or bile peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal lining or dysfunction of the blood vessels)




  • Lipid metabolism problems, particularly among Shetland sheepdogs and miniature schnauzers—this condition may be inherent in some dogs.
  • Gallbladder dysmotility (lack of intra-organ movement)
  • Cystic hypertrophy (abnormal enlargement) of the mucous-producing glands of the gallbladder, a common feature among older dogs—this condition may act as a trigger for gallbladder mucocele.
  • High-fat diet, raised cholesterol or hyperthyroidism
  • Typical or atypical adrenal hyperplasia – the abnormal multiplication of cells, and previous glucocorticoid therapy.  






The determining diagnosis of gallbladder mucocele will be based on the distinctive conditions that would cause abnormal functioning (dysmotility) of the gallbladder. Some of the possible factors responsible for bile blockage (stasis) are neoplasia (tumor growth), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and choleliths (gallstones), amongst other observed causes. 


Diagnosis is made through blood biochemistry, hematology, lab tests and imaging studies. The common observations are:



  • Analysis of liver enzymes, ALP, GGT, ALT and AST—high liver enzymes indicate illness. Sometimes, this may be the only sign of illness in dogs or it may manifest in the acute stage of the disease.
  • Increased bilirubin
  • Low albumin
  • Electrolyte abnormalities with fluid and acid-base disturbances, which are due to excessive loss of fluids from vomiting or triggered by bile peritonitis.
  • Pre-renal azotemia



  • Anemia
  • Leukocyte imbalance


Lab tests

  • High triglycerides



  • Radiography or ultrasound studies showing liver abnormalities, distended gallbladder and bile duct, gallbladder wall thickening, presence of gas in the liver, and loss of detail in the abdomen due to inflammation of the soft lining of the abdomen (peritonitis).
  • The common diagnostic procedure is aspiration sampling of fluids drawn from biliary structures, or from the abdominal cavity, by use of laparotomy (incision into the abdominal cavity), liver biopsy, bacterial cultures and sensitivity tests, and cell examinations.



Related Articles

Increased Appetite in Dogs

When a dog increases its food intake, to the extent that it appears ravenous most or all of the time, the condition is referred to as polyphagia.

Intestinal Tumors (Apudomas) in Dogs

Apudoma is a gastrointestinal tumor found in dogs and cats which secretes peptide hormones -- hormones that play a role in regulating metabolism,...

Stomach Flu with Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is identified by blood in the vomit and/or stool, often due to a food borne illness. Because it is a serious disorder...

Acute Vomiting in Dogs

It is not uncommon for dogs and cats to vomit from time to time. Learn how to treat acute dog vomiting at PetMd.com.