Gallstones in Dogs


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 23, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. Gallstones in dogs are hardened deposits that can form in the gallbladder or bile ducts.
  2. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gallstones, such as abdominal discomfort and vomiting, is crucial for early detection.
  3. Treatment options for gallstones in dogs include dietary changes, medications, and, in severe cases, surgical removal.
  4. Preventative measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight and regular veterinary check-ups, can help reduce the risk of gallstone formation.
Gallstones in Dogs

In the world of canine health, gallstones represent a concern that every dog owner should be aware of. Gallstones, medically known as cholelithiasis, are hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder or bile ducts of dogs. Understanding gallstones is essential because these crystalline structures can lead to discomfort, pain, and even severe health complications in our beloved pets. While not as common as in humans, gallstones do occur in dogs, and their prevalence can vary depending on factors such as breed and diet. Recognizing the risk factors associated with gallstones, which may include obesity or certain medical conditions, is crucial for proactive prevention.

Pet insurance can play a significant role in providing financial support for the diagnosis and treatment of gallstones, ensuring that our canine companions receive the best possible care. In this informative journey, we will delve into the world of gallstones in dogs, covering everything from their formation to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, empowering dog owners to safeguard their furry friends' well-being.

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones, a term often associated with human health, also affect our canine companions. These are crystalline formations that develop in the gallbladder or bile ducts of dogs, causing a range of health concerns. Gallstones in dogs can be categorized into two main types: cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones, as the name suggests, primarily consist of cholesterol and are more common.

Pigment stones, on the other hand, are composed of bilirubin and are less frequently encountered. These stones form when there is an imbalance in the substances that make up bile, leading to their gradual accumulation. Understanding the types and formation of gallstones is essential for dog owners to recognize the potential risks and take proactive measures to maintain their pets' gallbladder health.

Signs and Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gallstones in dogs is crucial for early intervention and optimal care. Clinical signs of gallstones often include abdominal discomfort or pain, which may manifest as restlessness or frequent changes in body position. Dogs with gallstones may also exhibit common symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. In more advanced cases, gallstone complications may arise, leading to jaundice, where the whites of the eyes or the skin turn yellow due to liver involvement.

Additionally, severe pain and discomfort can cause behavioral changes in dogs, such as agitation or vocalization. Understanding these indicators is essential for dog owners to seek prompt veterinary attention, ensuring that their furry companions receive the necessary care and treatment to alleviate gallstone-related issues.


Diagnosing gallstones in dogs requires a thorough and systematic approach by veterinarians. It typically begins with a comprehensive veterinary examination, where the dog's medical history and clinical symptoms are assessed. Diagnostic tests play a pivotal role in confirming gallstone presence. Imaging techniques like ultrasound are often employed to visualize the gallbladder and detect the presence of stones. Blood tests may also be conducted to evaluate liver function and identify any related complications.

Moreover, veterinarians consider differential diagnoses to rule out other potential causes of similar symptoms, ensuring accurate identification of gallstones. This meticulous diagnostic process enables veterinarians to make informed decisions about treatment and management, ultimately preserving the health and well-being of our canine companions.

Treatment and Management

The treatment and management of gallstones in dogs encompass a range of approaches tailored to each individual case. In less severe instances, medical management may be recommended, involving dietary changes to help dissolve certain types of gallstones and the administration of medications to alleviate symptoms and support gallbladder function. For more advanced cases, surgical intervention may become necessary. This can take the form of surgical removal of gallstones, where the stones are extracted from the gallbladder or bile ducts, or in some cases, a complete removal of the gallbladder itself through a procedure known as cholecystectomy. Nursing care and post-treatment support play a crucial role in a dog's recovery, ensuring their comfort and well-being as they heal. This comprehensive approach to treatment and management aims to alleviate pain, resolve complications, and ultimately provide our canine companions with the best possible outcome in their battle against gallstones.


Preventing gallstones in dogs is a key aspect of responsible pet ownership. A combination of preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of gallstone formation. A well-balanced diet and proper nutrition play a central role, as obesity is a known risk factor for gallstones in dogs. Maintaining a healthy weight through portion control and regular exercise is essential. Routine veterinary check-ups are equally crucial, allowing veterinarians to monitor a dog's overall health and identify any potential issues early on. These visits provide an opportunity to discuss dietary needs, identify any predisposing factors, and establish a proactive plan for gallstone prevention. By adopting these preventative measures and staying vigilant with diet, nutrition, and veterinary care, dog owners can help ensure the long-term gallbladder health of their furry companions.


Understanding the prognosis of gallstones in dogs is essential for both dog owners and veterinarians. Several factors can influence the prognosis, including the type and size of gallstones, the presence of any related complications, and the timeliness of diagnosis and treatment. In many cases, when diagnosed early and appropriately managed, dogs with gallstones can experience a positive prognosis with a full recovery. However, in more severe or advanced cases, the prognosis may be less optimistic, and there is a potential for long-term effects and complications. These may include ongoing issues with gallbladder function, recurrent gallstone formation, or related liver problems. Close collaboration between dog owners and veterinarians, along with proactive measures, can help mitigate complications and improve the overall prognosis, ensuring the best possible outcome for our canine companions facing gallstone challenges.


In conclusion, our journey into understanding gallstones in dogs has emphasized the importance of early detection and prompt intervention in preserving the health and well-being of our beloved canine companions. We've learned that gallstones can be a source of discomfort and health complications, but with a vigilant eye, proper nutrition, and routine veterinary care, many cases can be successfully managed.

Key takeaways include recognizing the signs and symptoms, understanding diagnostic processes, and exploring treatment options tailored to each case's severity. Looking ahead, future research and developments in gallstone management hold promise for even better strategies to protect our dogs from this condition. By staying informed and proactive, dog owners can ensure a brighter, healthier future for their furry friends, free from the challenges posed by gallstones.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do for a dog with gallstones?

In general, veterinarians recommend low-fat diets and vitamin E supplementation for dogs with gallstones. The outlook for dogs without symptoms or those with mild to moderate symptoms is favorable. Dogs that have undergone gallbladder removal can lead healthy lives, particularly when they adhere to a low-fat diet.

What dissolves gallstones in dogs?

Ursodiol is a naturally-occurring hydrophilic bile acid prescribed to manage liver conditions like primary sclerosing cholangitis, chronic hepatitis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is also used to facilitate the dissolution of gallstones.

Can dogs live with gallstones?

Although gallstones can be a significant concern in certain dogs, they typically do not require surgical or invasive treatments. In the majority of cases, even dogs with secondary infections due to gallstones can be effectively managed with medication and a carefully controlled diet.

How much does gallstone surgery cost for a dog?

A cholecystectomy is a procedure that comes with significant expenses, often totaling at least $1,000. Prior to diagnosis, there are additional costs, including multiple ultrasound scans (approximately $200 each) and diagnostic blood tests, which can range from $50 to several hundred dollars.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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