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Inflammation of the Abdomen Due to Bile Leakage in Dogs

Bile Peritonitis in Dogs

Bile, a bitter fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, plays a crucial role in digestion by aiding in the absorption of fats in the small intestine. However, under abnormal circumstances, bile can leak into the abdominal cavity, leading to irritation of the organs and subsequent inflammation. This can occur due to various factors such as injury, gallbladder infection, gallbladder swelling, duct blockage, or bile leakage.

Bile peritonitis typically indicates a more serious underlying condition. In cases where it is caused by an infection, bile peritonitis has a high fatality rate, with up to 75 percent of infected animals succumbing to the disease.

Symptoms and Types

The signs of bile peritonitis can manifest as acute or chronic, depending on the underlying cause. In cases of infectious bile peritonitis, symptoms are typically acute, whereas non-infectious bile peritonitis may present with long-term symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling, appearing larger than normal
  • Yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes
  • Potential collapse (in cases of infectious peritonitis)
  • Fever (in cases of infectious peritonitis)


Bile peritonitis typically stems from inflammation of the gallbladder or an injury leading to its rupture or breakage in dogs. Furthermore, gallbladder inflammation may result from infection or obstruction of the gallbladder ducts, which can be attributed to:

  • Cancer
  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Narrowing (stenosis) of the gallbladder ducts


Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, considering the history of symptoms and potential triggering incidents. A comprehensive blood analysis, including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis, will be performed as part of the standard examination.

For dogs with bile peritonitis, elevated liver enzymes and the presence of bile in the urine will be evident in the blood chemical profile. To pinpoint the source of bile leakage, abdominal x-rays and ultrasound imaging will be utilized by your veterinarian to visualize the liver and gallbladder area. With ultrasound guidance, your veterinarian may extract samples of liver tissue and abdominal fluid for biopsy, which will be sent to the laboratory for analysis.


The treatment approach will be tailored to address the underlying cause of bile leakage from your dog’s gallbladder into the abdomen. Fluid therapy will be administered as a standard measure to prevent dehydration, while antibiotics will be prescribed to mitigate the risk of infection. Additional medications and the necessity for surgical intervention will be determined based on the specific cause of the leakage.

However, it’s crucial to note that the underlying cause of bile peritonitis is often severe and can pose a life-threatening risk if not promptly and effectively treated.

Living and Management

Recovery from bile peritonitis is gradual, and consistent follow-up appointments with your veterinarian are crucial to monitor progress and make necessary adjustments to medications or treatment strategies. During these appointments, bloodwork and samples of abdominal fluid will be collected to assess for any ongoing infection or bile leakage. Additionally, repeat x-rays and ultrasounds may be conducted at each visit to track changes and ensure optimal management of the condition.

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