Cholestasis is a condition found most often in middle-aged or older dogs, both male and female. This disease involves bile duct obstruction, which prevents bile from moving from the liver to the duodenum, an important part of the small intestine. Since the body removes waste materials and digests the food properly with bile, a duct obstruction is a very serious condition.
Some dogs, like miniature schnauzers and Shetland sheepdogs, are susceptible to inflammation of the pancreas and easily develop cholestasis. Gall stones cause cholestasis as bile is stored in the gallbladder and stones cause gallbladder dysfunction. Liver and pancreas diseases are also major causes of this condition. Parasites cause blockages of the bile duct and blunt trauma to the body can damage the intestines. Cholestasis can be a side effect of abdominal surgery due to injury inside the intestines.
Jaundice is a common symptom, characterized by yellowing of the eyes and skin due to liver disease. Polyphagia, a constant hunger, leads to over eating without obesity. Bleeding disorders and anemia are common symptoms as well as unexplained weight loss, orange urine and pale colored stools. The dark color comes from bilirubin, cast offs from dead red blood cells, so when it is not present in the stool, the familiar brown color is missing as well.
Abdominal x-rays and ultrasound images are used to look at the internal mechanisms of the liver, intestines, pancreas and gall bladder. If nothing is found, exploratory surgery is performed to locate the cause of the cholestasis. If neoplasia, a benign or malignant growth, is found inside the bile duct, the veterinarian will determine if it is malignant or not and treat it accordingly. Blood tests are also done to determine the presence of excessive bilirubin in the bloodstream.
Diagnostic surgery often serves a dual purpose, diagnosing and treating the condition by removing the obstruction. In the case of malignancy, follow up chemotherapy or other cancer treatments might be given to the dog. Treatments of non-cancerous causes include vitamin and mineral therapy and herbal remedies. In cases of severe anemia, blood may be given to the dog. De-worming medication is used to prevent the recurrence of parasites if they were the cause of the blockage.
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