What Causes Gallstones In Dogs

Vet explaining what causes gallstones in dogs

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Gallstones are not only possible in humans, but in dogs as well. They are incredibly painful, uncomfortable and can cause some serious health conditions. To learn what causes gallstones in dogs, keep reading this article.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones in dogs form from calcium salts, cholesterol, proteins or bacteria. If large enough, gallstones can cause blockages in the gallbladder.

They can vary in size, from very small to larger enough to cause perforations. Cholelithiasis is the formation of gallstones in the gallbladders of dogs.

The gallbladder plays an important part in the digestion of food, but also in the immune system. It’s enzymes neutralize the stomach acid and help move food to the small intestine. However, if gallstones cause blockage in the gallbladder, different complications in these processes can occur.

Gallstones symptoms in dogs

The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. In fact, In some cases, there are no symptoms at all.

However, larger gallstones tend to cause more severe symptoms and can lead to blockages or even perforations. They need to be treated as a medical emergency.

Common symptoms of cholelithiasis are:

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Abdominal pain
  4. Fever
  5. Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  6. Loss of appetite
  7. Weakness
  8. Change of behavior

What causes gallstones in dogs

Gallstones are most commonly a secondary condition. Certain breeds are more prone to developing gallstones than others. These breeds include Poodles, Schnauzers and Shetland Sheepdogs. However, any dog breed can potentially have gallstones.

What causes gallstones is the inability of the gallbladder to function properly. Bile flow is interrupted and it becomes too saturated. That causes the gallstones to form.

Additionally, a build-up of bile can occur due to inflammation, infections, or gastrointestinal diseases.

Gallstones can also form due to taurine deficiency, different environmental conditions, hereditary factors or changes in the lining of gallbladder.


If you notice any symptoms of cholelithiasis in your dog, contact your vet. Most of them can be seen on X-rays.

If the gallstones are small enough, your vet will simply dissolve them and follow up with antibiotics. Additionally, he may also prescribe some supplements for deficiencies that caused the gallstones.

Usually, vets will also recommend a high-protein, fat-reduced diet for dogs who have experienced gallbladder complications.

However, if the gallstones are larger enough to cause blockages or perforations, your vet may consider surgery. Very often, the whole gallbladder will be removed. However, that doesn’t have to worry you. Dogs can live a long and healthy life even without their gallbladder. But you will have to follow some specific dietary guidelines.

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