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Gallbladder sludge and liver disease in dog

by Sciascia
(Milan, Italy)

My Rat Terrier Beano is 13 yrs old and 13 lb and has traveled the world with us since he was a baby. He's always enjoyed a healthy and fun life, from Paris to New York, Rio to Milan, this dog has been places!

Since 2009 Beano has had some minor health issues, like bladder stones, that we constantly kept under control with sonograms and urine tests both in New York and Milan, because we live between the two.

One day during one of the sonograms we were told there was sludge in his gall bladder, and he was put on a 25ml of Ursacol a day for the rest of his life (Ursacol is the Italian name for Ursodesossicolic Acid). Both Vets in Milan and New York agreed that the gallbladder had "mucocele" and the sludge was becoming solid.

We were told that this kind of condition was untreatable and we could only keep it under control with sonograms and bloodwork. Of course we were told that if the gallbladder ruptured the dog would die, as the contents of it are extremely toxic.

We never missed a sonogram and his blood work was always ok, until this summer he got really sick, vomiting, shivering, and showing great pain in his abdomen.

We rushed him to a clinic, and the vet there performed a sonogram were it showed a great amount of fluid in the abdomen. To my surprise though, I was told the gallbladder hadn't ruptured, and it was a Colangio-hepatitis probably caused by clogged bile ducts or some kind of "offense" to the liver. Beano's liver was very enlarged, amost half the dog, and he was clearly getting a lot of toxins through his body!

On that day his blood work showed elevated values of ALT (at 174) and Alkaline Phospatase 1485 (normal should be between 53-128!) Ac Bilirubin 54.5 and very high white blood cells.

During that acute phase the dog was given fluid intravenously twice a day for 5 days, antibiotics, diuretics, cortisone and vitamin B.
He was also given something called Lactulosio (which is a laxative that supposedly gets rid of toxins in the liver).

After 5 days the dog had improved:

he was eating, moving and wagging his tail, his blood work looked slightly better with all the levels reduced to almost normal (although still elevated they told us they were acceptable), and the fluid in his abdomen was almost all gone.

We were told to stop the diet we were giving him (specifically for bladder stones) and start a liver-friendly diet.

After this acute phase the dog has been doing very well and then not well at all, it's so frustrating! At times he shakes uncontrollably (is it nausea or is it the effect of the cortisone?), at times he is lethargic and depressed, and at times he is anxious and famished.

We stopped all medication and went to see a specialist, who took another blood sample. This time (two weeks after the initial incident) his levels were great, aside from Phosphate alkaline which was still a little elevated (but it had gone from 1485 to 287 so the vet said it was totally acceptable).

The specialist confirmed the mucocele with another sonogram and x-rays and hepatopathy. He suggested a liver biopsy, but we don't want to put our old dog though that.

Our main concern is to keep this dog healthy through proper diet and keep his liver free of toxins as much as possible!

Because we are always traveling, and often are in hotel rooms I can't cook for him every day, but I've started giving him white rice and proteins in small doses every day. He is always famished, but sometimes he throws up, and most of all he shivers as if he was being electrocuted. I know there is "poison" going through him and i want to clear him of anything that can harm him.

I've ordered Five Leaf liver diet, but I need to be better educated on how to keep this dog from feeling nauseous. I know some of the drugs he was given are still being metabolized through his body. My vet in Milan told me cortisone can take up to 10 days to wear off, but I want to do the best "natural" thing to improve his life, as little or as long as he has left.

Thank you


Comments for Gallbladder sludge and liver disease in dog

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Sep 09, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Gallbladder sludge and liver disease in dog
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Sciascia,
For your Rat Terrier, Beano, with gallbladder sludge and liver disease (due to inability of the liver to drain bile into the gall bladder), I am very glad that the Alkaline Phosphatase has returned almost to normal using 'conventional' methods.

Now, it is important to feed a diet that is EASY for the liver to metabolize and to DECREASE the production of bile. Basically, this is what you are already doing, feeding a diet of medium protein, HIGH carbohydrates, and LOW/NO fats.

So, the diet would look like this:

1. 1/3 part PROTEIN: lean chicken or turkey;
2. 1/3 part cooked vegetable: potato, carrots, green beans, yams
3. 1/3 part grain: rice, wheat, or barley.

NO FATS added.

I realize that you mentioned you have a difficult time cooking for him, but these are ALL considered 'people' foods, so you should be able to make some of your own food and 'share' it with him!

This is NOT a totally balanced diet, but is to be fed for the next 3-6 weeks while he is "recuperating." See Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD for more specific recipes for liver health.

And once he is recuperated, you can find some 'commercial' diets that contain similar ingredients that will also be OK for his liver. In the US, I suggest Spots Stew for Dogs or Nature's Recipe Vegetarian.

supplements to heal the liver and the gall bladder.
Check out this product by Standard Process: CANINE HEPATIC SUPPORT It comes in a powder form that you mix into the food.

You must also start him on MILK THISTLE 8mg per lb (4mg per kg), TWO times daily. You can also add this to the food.

You need to support his immune system, with the addition of a Vitamin/Mineral supplement that contains a buffered form of Vitamin C. See OrthoMolecular Specialties, Mega C Powder


Sep 09, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Gallbladder sludge and liver disease in dog
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Sciascia,
Here is the rest of my response.

Grating raw beets 1-2 tsp into each meal, plus minced/chopped raw parsley, are also good liver stimulants, according to Dr. Pitcairn.

You must also monitor the pH of Beano's urine. Normal dog urine should have a pH of 6-6.5 to prevent the formation of more bladder stones.

Too many vegetables may cause the urine to become alkaline (greater than pH of 7). Therefore, you may need to add some more protein to his diet or add a small amount of apple cider vinegar 1/4 tsp to each meal to maintain an acidic pH of the urine.

Beano ALSO needs the homeopathic remedy Nux vomica 6c or 12c, given 2-3 times daily for the next 3-4 weeks to remove the 'side effects' of drugs. Cortisone can stay in the system longer, up to 6 weeks in some individuals. This is also a good remedy for indigestion, nausea and vomiting.

In the meantime, you should seek the help of a holistic veterinarian to continue to 'fine tune' his care as he responds to the diet, remedy and supplements. I am not familiar with the Five Leaf Liver Diet (I was able to find the Five Leaf Pet Pharmacy, but I am not sure if that is to what you are referring).

Click here to find a holistic veterinarian in your area. Another resource for vets knowledgeable in homeopathy is

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

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DISCLAIMER: The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

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Nov 19, 2014
Home made dog food
by: Karen

My 8 year old papillon is also being treated for bilary sludge. I'm able to cook for him. When you give indications such as 1/3 rice, 1/3 vegetable and 1/3 turkey do you mean raw or cooked? Do you mean by weight or by volume? Thank you.

Nov 19, 2014
Home made dog food
by: Karen

My 8 year old papillon is also being treated for bilary sludge. I'm able to cook for him. When you give indications such as 1/3 rice, 1/3 vegetable and 1/3 turkey do you mean raw or cooked? Do you mean by weight or by volume? Thank you.

Nov 19, 2014
My Online Vet Response For: Gallbladder sludge and Liver disease in dog
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

November 19, 2014

Hi Karen,
Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help, but we only accept new questions from subscribers (the original question above was from a subscriber).

However, I can answer you briefly regarding the proportions to feed. It is best to calculate how many calories she needs first. For a Papillion, if she weighs 10lbs, she should be fed 250 calories for the day.

Feeding two meals daily, she would get 125 calories in one meal.

Therefore, if ONE meal has cooked rice (100 calories/cup)

cooked vegetables of green beans and carrots, (1 cup of green beans has 20 calories) 5 baby carrots about 20 calories

1 TBSP of raw meat, chicken, beef, turkey, or lamb about 100-200 depending on the meat

You would feed about 1/4 cup rice, 1/2 cup green beans, 2 baby carrots and 3/4 TBSP of raw meat, to equal about 125 calories in one meal.

She also needs liver support, and a multi-vitamin mineral supplement for maintenance.

Please click here to sign up and submit your question and photos. I'll then get back to you right away at the bottom of your newly created web page.
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Jun 30, 2015
You saved my dog! NEW
by: Peter D

Hi folks,
About a month ago I came home to my 15 yr. old dog biskit ( ~18lb golden/shelty mix ) vomiting, and then would not eat or drink. Took to the vet where they did a blood test and said the liver was abnormal. Brought her back a 2nd time and they tried to do ultrasound but failed, and then said due to the yellow skin and yellow eye 'white', probably had gallbladder failure. They recommended another animal treatment center, and then euthanasia if not corrected. I took her to the other animal hospital and after relieving me of $500 for an ultrasound, told me the gallbladder looked pretty bad, like it had buildup that couldn't be cleared. They said either a 3-day stay there where they might try to operate, and then recovery, which would come to around $6,000, no guarantees, or else euthanasia. They gave her back with dried yellow bile on her nose which she obviously her body was trying to eliminate; she almost choked later that day because of the buildup in her nose. I guess the $500 didn't include making her comfortable.
I took biskit home and followed your advice - got the hepatic powder and milk thistle, but first had to feed biskit water/chicken soup/B vitamins through her mouth using a plastic syringe as she wouldn't even drink ( 7 days elapsed since onset. She lost about 3 lbs ). She started appearing to recover due to the water/soup/vitamins. Lo and behold that night she ate chicken and rice out of my hand. We put her on chicken/rice/hepatic powder/milk thistle and she also started doing poopers which was great!! As I write this, she is sleeping on the floor next to me; has been fully recovered and has her personality back! Praise the Lord. And thank you VERY much for your article!!!

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