Protecting Dogs From Pests and Wildlife: A Pet Owner Blog

Understanding the Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment Options for Gallstones in Dogs

by Courtney Wheeler

When gallstones form in your dog's gallbladder they can cause abdominal pain, jaundice, vomiting, fever, and obstruct the flow of bile from the gallbladder. The stones are often formed from calcium deposits and can vary in number and size. Certain breeds including Shetland sheepdogs and poodles appear to be more genetically predisposed to gallstones than others.

Here's an overview of the causes, diagnosis and treatment options for gallstones in dogs:


Gallstones in dogs can be caused by any of the following:

  • Low protein levels
  • Impaired gallbladder function
  • Too much calcium or cholesterol in the bile
  • Inflammation or infection of the biliary system


Your vet will use blood tests and ultrasound imaging to diagnose gallstones and rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms such as pancreatitis. A full blood count test will determine if inflammation or infection is present, while an ultrasound can tell the vet how many gallstones are present and whether the gallbladder appears to be obstructed.

Treatment Options

Your vet will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of your dog's symptoms and the number and size of stones present in their gallbladder. If your dog has developed jaundice as a complication of gallstones, they will be treated with intravenous vitamin K1. If infection is present, your dog will be prescribed antibiotics.

The vet may suggest drug treatment to try and dissolve your dog's gallstones, particularly if the stones are small and not causing your dog too many problems. Drug treatment can take several weeks to be effective and isn't always successful, but your vet will monitor your dog during treatment to establish whether this approach is working.

An alternative to drug treatment is surgical removal of the gallstones by removing the gallbladder. This approach prevents any further gallstone formation and can be performed using keyhole techniques. The bile produced by the gallbladder helps break down dietary fat, so after your dog has their gallbladder removed they should consume a low fat diet to prevent abdominal upset.

After treatment your vet may want to monitor your dog's bile system and liver function for a few months to ensure they are working as they should, and you should inform the vet immediately if your dog appears to be experiencing any abdominal pain or fever.

If you're concerned your dog may be suffering from gallstones, schedule an appointment with clinics like Veterinary Specialist Services as soon as possible.