Your dog's liver secretes a fluid called bile that plays a vital role in the digestion of food in the stomach and the removal of waste along the digestive tract. Bile moves from the liver to the gallbladder, and once food moves into your dog's small intestine, bile is released into the small intestine to help break down food particles and emulsify the waste that cannot be used by the body. When an obstruction develops in the bile duct, it puts pressure on your dog's liver and digestive system, and insufficient bile in the digestive tract can cause other health conditions to develop, such as malnutrition due to a reduced ability to break down food and absorb essential nutrients from it. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for bile duct obstruction in dogs:
Causes And Symptoms
It's not always possible to identify why a dog develops a bile duct obstruction, but it can develop as a side effect of abdominal surgery or due to abdominal trauma. There are also other health conditions that increase the risk of your dog developing bile duct obstruction, such as gallstones, pancreatitis and abdominal tumours. The obstruction itself will vary depending on the cause and may present as a build-up of sluggish bile or a narrowing of the duct due to scar tissue or pressure from surrounding organs.
Symptoms of bile duct obstruction include an unexplained increase in appetite and lethargy. Your dog will also have pale stools, which may be foamy due to fat malabsorption, and dark urine. Over time your dog will lose weight and may develop jaundice, which is categorised by yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will diagnose your dog by taking details of their symptoms and collecting blood and urine samples, which can provide information on the health of your dog's liver, whether they are malnourished and whether the bilirubin level in their blood is too high, which is indicative of not enough bile flowing through the digestive tract. Diagnostic imaging, such as an ultrasound or X-ray, will also be used to view the liver and gallbladder.
Treatment for bile duct obstruction may include your dog being prescribed digestive enzymes to help break down and process their food in the small intestine. They may also need intravenous fluids or nutritional supplements to address malnutrition. Surgery is typically required to unblock the bile duct and ensure it stays open, which may require the positioning of a surgical stent or the removal of adhesions or scar tissue that has formed due to trauma or previous surgery.
If your dog has any of the symptoms associated with bile duct obstruction, or oi you have any concerns about their digestive health, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.