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Seeking insights on what to do for gallbladder mucocele

Discussion in 'Diseases & Illnesses' started by Ryan0007, Jan 14, 2020.

  1. Ryan0007

    Ryan0007 Forums Novice

    Jan 11, 2020
    Hello everyone,

    I am actually the owner of a 10 year old little dachshund who as we recently learned, has sludging of his gallbladder with an "emerging" mococele, and the gallbadder is over extended. Through my research I've learned this is relatively common with Shelties and so I hope you don't mind me seeking your community's insights and experience's with this issue..

    Essentially, I am debating whether to try medical management (ursodiol) or go straight to surgery to remove the gallbladder. Our little guy is in good health otherwise, and the only way of knowing he has the emerging mococele is from the ultrasounds, as all his blood work and chem analysis is good. Of course I would very much prefer if he didn't have to do surgery, but I also worry a lot about effectiveness/risk of ursodiol and the long-term risk of the mococele development..

    So, I am wondering your experiences/thoughts on A) going straight to surgery versus B) medical management versus C) trying medication for a little while with plan to go to surgery if no improvement, considering the following..

    - 10 years old, good health (including good weight and plenty of exercise), nothing abnormal in blood/chem analysis.
    - Only discovered issue with his gallbladder about two weeks ago so only have one baseline ultrasound so far.
    - He is currently taking milk thistle and on a low fat diet. But he wasn't really on a "high" fat diet before or anything anyway..
    - He's been taking Advantix for last 5+ years. I've now read the studies about this.. and wouldn't be surprised if this is behind this.. :(
    - gallbladder has sludge and emerging mococele, and gallbladder is overextended.
    - From what I've read, there are *some* success stories with ursodiol, but the chances of actually reversing the issue seem quite rare.
    - From my research, some sources say it's best to remove the gallbladder at first sign of mococele while gallbladder still has some integrity and there are no other clinical signs that will make surgery more complicated/risky (such as if liver function gets compromised as bile gets backed up).
    - I am worried that ursodiol, as it begins to liquify the sludge, may cause a chunk of the mucus to block the duct and thus cause further overextension leading to rupture or leakage, wherein now we're looking at emergency surgery, and a much riskier surgery..
    - I am also worried that with ursodiol, even if it stops the progression or reverses it somewhat, that the mococele will come back once medication stopped, or that it won't regress, and then we're looking at surgery again down the road when he is older..
    - On the other hand, I have a hard time coming to terms with putting him into what is still a relatively risky (but safer now than later if it came to it) surgery when he is a happy and healthy dog otherwise...

    Truly appreciate you sharing any experiences, thoughts, insights, or recommended practitioners/vets, etc. As all our pups are, he is like our child and we will do whatever it takes.

    Thank you so much,

  2. Calliesmom

    Calliesmom Moderator

    Mar 29, 2008
    near Mobile, AL
    Hey Ryan,
    welcome and you are correct that this problem affects many shelties. I have not had to deal with this issue but there are people on here who have.
    I don't know if you've tried the search function but at the top right search box you can type in gallbladder and see what others have already posted.....
    I'm sure that some of the people with personal experience will share with you....
  3. Ann

    Ann Moderator

    Feb 25, 2008
    Western Connecticut
    Hi Ryan....I'm sorry to hear about your boy with GBM. I have a thread on here with lots of information about the illness, but to give you the short version, four of my six Shelties are being treated for it, some with ursidiol and two who have had their gallbladders removed. One was 11 when she had the surgery; the other was 8. Both have done wonderfully well and are just fine without their gallbladders.

    I struggled with the same decision as you about doing the surgery. But I know far too many Sheltie owners who have lost their dogs in 24 hours from this dreadful illness. To me, I'd rather have the surgery done when it's not an emergency and the dog is in good health rather than wait for the inevitable crisis and gamble on emergency surgery. Once your dog exhibits symptoms (which can also be hard to define in time) you have VERY limited time to get him to surgery. Several people I know have lost their dogs on the table.

    Two of my other dogs are maintained at the moment on ursidiol. We have regular ultrasounds, every 3 to 6 months, to monitor them. So far, both are doing well on the meds and the sludge is not increasing. My guideline has been at the first sign of a mucoceles forming, or increasing sludge, we have the surgery done. That would be my best advice to you as well. Don't wait: It's not worth the risk if you see a mucocoles there.

    You can do a search here for more information using "gallbladder mucoceles." Let us know if you have any other questions, we're happy to help and I hope your boy is OK!
    ghggp and Sharon7 like this.
  4. Ryan0007

    Ryan0007 Forums Novice

    Jan 11, 2020
    Thank you Ann, appreciate you guys welcoming me to the community and sharing your knowledge. So your pups on ursodiol only have sludge, not any form of mococele, right?

    Thanks again <3
  5. Sharon7

    Sharon7 Moderator

    Oct 31, 2009
    Southern California
    What Ann said. I have not had this experience with my dogs thank God, but, a relative of Faith did have mucocele and had surgery at age 7 and was fine afterward. I am a retired nurse and I can tell you my inclination would be have it done now, 10 is not that old for a Dachshund, and like Ann said you don't want to find out he needs emergency surgery! Much, much more risky and expensive.

    I loved Doxies, they are such characters. I hope your boy will be OK, and that you have a good surgeon to do the surgery if you choose. Let us know what happens. And, I'd love to see a photo of your undoubtedly adorable pup.
    ghggp, Calliesmom and Ann like this.
  6. Ann

    Ann Moderator

    Feb 25, 2008
    Western Connecticut
    That's correct. At the first sign of any mucoceles on the ultrasound, I schedule the surgery. Things can become critical very quickly once that happens. In fact, I didn't wait for mucoceles with my 8-year-old. We could see that she was chock full of sludge and not improving. My vet and I opted for the surgery and the surgeon who took her gallbladder out said he'd rarely seen one as bad as hers was.

    I should add that both my girls who have had their gallbladders removed were on ursidiol for quite some time before the surgery. So it isn't always effective, even if you use it.
    ghggp and Piper's mom like this.
  7. ghggp

    ghggp Moderator

    Aug 28, 2011
    Grosse Pointe, Michigan
    Welcome, Ryan,
    So sorry to hear you are battling Gallbladder issues with your pup.

    Great responses so far from the most senior members of our group with loads of experience under their belt. Great guidance!

    My personal experience with the disease was with my rescue sheltie, Mr. Chance. We found the sludge starting to build up after an ultrasound. I lost my first rescue sheltie to this disease and learned more than I ever wanted to know about it. I understood that an early ultrasound was imperative. I adopted him at 6 and he got his first ultrasound at 7. He was put on ursodiol. He was on that medication until has passed at 14 of old age. Just my personal experience with the medication.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
    Piper's mom, Sharon7 and Ann like this.
  8. Ryan0007

    Ryan0007 Forums Novice

    Jan 11, 2020
    Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and stories. Truly appreciate it. Not sure what we'll do just yet - still going to consult some veterinary experts, but for now this helps.

    Thanks again,

    ghggp, Ann and Sharon7 like this.
  9. Caro

    Caro Moderator

    Jan 14, 2009
    Canberra, Australia
    Tully was tested about 4 years ago after a lot of discussion on the forum. It did show sludge build up, but there was some movement in the sludge. Vet said treatment is very much dependent on the viscosity of the sludge. She was treated with Ursodial and her next u/s was ok. Roll forward and she is now being treated for IBD and chronic pancreatitis and often shows sludge build up in the gallbladder. Because it always has movement her specialist (Internal Medicine) said it is probably due to the IBD and not a mucocele.
    I just realised too - got her teeth cleaned last week and forgot to get the u/s done , drat.
    ghggp and Ann like this.
  10. Ann

    Ann Moderator

    Feb 25, 2008
    Western Connecticut
    This is a good point, Caro. If the sludge is moving, it's a good sign and you can wait and just monitor with continued ultrasounds. When it isn't moving it's time to worry.
    ghggp and Caro like this.

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