Gallstones in Cats

Cholelithiasis in Cats

Gallstones are typically made up of calcium or other secreted substances, which form into small stone-like structures within the body. Cholelithiasis is a medical condition that can result from the formation of stones in the gallbladder. Stones in the bile ducts or the gallbladder may be visible on an X-ray, or they may not. Unless there are serious symptoms, surgery is not recommended for gallstones.

Symptoms and Types

There are cases where there are no apparent symptoms. However, if there is an infection in addition to the gallstones, your cat may display vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and jaundice.


There are several causes for gallstones that may be considered. A failure of the gall bladder to function can interrupt the bile flow, or the bile may be sludging; the bile may be supersaturated with pigment, calcium, or cholesterol; stone formation may be caused by inflammation, an infection, a tumor, or the shedding of cells; or, the stones may bring on inflammation and allow for the invasion of bacteria. In cats, cysts, or inflammation of the bile ducts can lead to failure of the bile to flow normally.


Your veterinarian will need to confirm or rule out diseases of the liver, pancreatitis, inflammation of the bile duct or gallbladder, and distension of the gallbladder from an inappropriate accumulation of mucus.

A complete blood count will be ordered to check for bacterial infection. Other underlying factors that could be causing the symptoms, such as obstruction in the bile duct, will also be considered. X-rays are not usually very effective in looking at the gallbladder, but your veterinarian may want to use ultrasound to perform an internal visual examination. Ultrasound imaging can detect stones, a thickened gallbladder wall, or an over sized bile tract. It can also be used as a guide for collecting specimens for culture. Should surgery be recommended, a thorough examination of the liver before surgery will be necessary.

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