Gallstones in Dogs

3 min read

Cholelithiasis in Dogs

Cholelithiasis is a medical condition resulting from the formation of stones in the gallbladder. Gallstones are typically made up of calcium or other secreted substances. Gallstones occur in dogs, but, the bile in dogs is different from that in humans in that it has low cholesterol saturation. In fact, in dogs there is usually lower cholesterol and calcium stone composition than in humans. Miniature Schnauzers, Poodles, and Shetland Sheepdogs may be predisposed to gallstones. Stones in the bile ducts or the gallbladder may be visible on an X-ray, or they may not. Unless there are serious symptoms, surgery is not recommended for gallstones.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

There are cases where there are no apparent symptoms. However, if there is an infection in addition to the gallstones, the dog may display vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and jaundice.


There are several causes for gallstones that will be considered. A failure of the gall bladder to function can interrupt the bile flow, or the bile may be sludging; the bile may be supersaturated with pigment, calcium, or cholesterol; stone formation may be caused by inflammation, an infection, a tumor, or the shedding of cells; or, the stones may bring on inflammation and allow the invasion of bacteria.

Low protein can lead to the formation of stones in the gallbladder.


In working toward a conclusion for the cause of cholelithiasis, your veterinarian will need to confirm or rule out diseases of the liver, pancreatitis, inflammation of the bile duct or gallbladder, and a gallbladder distended by an inappropriate accumulation of mucus.

A complete blood count will be ordered to look for bacterial infection, obstruction in the bile duct, or other underlying factors that could be causing the symptoms. X-rays are not usually very effective in looking at the gallbladder, but your veterinarian will probably want to use ultrasound to make an internal visual examination. Ultrasound imaging can detect stones, a thickened gallbladder wall, or an over sized bile tract. This can also be used as a guide for the collection of specimens for culture. Should surgery be recommended, a thorough examination of the liver before surgery will be necessary.

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