ISSN 2398-2950      

Bile duct: disease


Phil Nicholls

Rachel Korman

Synonym(s): Extrahepatic bile duct obstruction, EHBDO


  • Cause: obstruction of bile drainage from the common bile duct into the duodenum may occur due to luminal, intramural or extramural causes.
  • Signs: anorexia, vomiting, jaundice.
  • Diagnosis: clinical pathology, imaging, histopathology; most commonly is diagnosed due to subsequent liver damage/disease.
  • Treatment: surgical or medical depending on etiology.
  • Prognosis: good to poor depending on etiology.



  • Obstruction of the biliary tract may be due to:
    • ​Inflammatory mural disease - occurring secondary to (or causing) cholangitis Liver: cholangitis. This is thought to arise as a consequence of bacterial infection ascending from the small intestine.
    • Inflammatory extramural disease - including pancreatitis Pancreatitis, lymphadenopathy Lymphadenopathy or duodenal disease.
    • Intraluminal obstruction - including sludged bile, blood clot or cholelithiasis:
      • Cholelithiasis may be incidental.
      • Bilirubin cholelithiasis has been reported in a young Somali with pyruvate kinase deficiency Pyruvate kinase deficiency.  
    • Biliary tract neoplasia.
    • Congenital or anatomical abnormalities, eg polycystic liver disease, congenital stenosis or atresia.
    • Rupture of the gall bladder or bile duct Gallbladder disease: overview:
      • Rare complication of abdominal trauma with disease due to bile peritonitis. Entrapment in a diaghragmatic hernia is also reported.
    • Infection with Patynosomum concinnum, a liver fluke, occurs in tropical and subtropical countries and can cause liver disease or be asymptomatic.


  • Varied, can be acute over 1-2 days, eg obstructive cholelithiasis but often insidious onset over days-weeks, eg chronic inflammatory disease or neoplasia.


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to start a free trial to access all Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds and videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to start a free trial to access all Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds and videos, or Login


This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now to start a free trial to access all Vetlexicon articles, images, sounds and videos, or Login

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Galliot H A, Penninck D G, Webster C R et al (2007) Ultrasonographic features of extrahepatic biliary obstruction in 30 cats. Vet Radiol Ultrasound 48 (5), 439-447 PubMed.
  • Harvey A M, Holt P E, Barr F J et al (2007) Treatment and long-term follow-up of extrahepatic biliary obstruction with bilirubin cholelithiasis in a Somali cat with pyruvate kinase deficiency. J Feline Med Surg 9 (5), 424-431 PubMed.
  • Brain P H, Barrs V R, Martin P et al (2006) Feline cholecystitis and acute neutrophilic cholangititis: clinical findings, bacterial isolates and response to treatment in six cases. J Feline Med Surg (2), 91-103 PubMed.
  • Eich C S & Ludwig L L (2002) The surgical treatment of cholelithiasis in cats: a study of nine cases. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 38 (3), 290-296 PubMed.
  • Center S A (1998) Nutritional support for dogs and cats with hepatobiliary disease. J Nutr 128 (12 Suppl), 2733S-2746S PubMed.
  • Day M J (1998) Immunohistochemical characterization of the lesions of feline progressive lymphocytic cholangitis/cholangiohepatitis. J Comp Pathol 119 (2), 135-147 PubMed.
  • Pastor J, Majo N, Arbona C et al (1997) Sclerosing adenocarcinoma of the extrahepatic bile duct in a cat. Vet Rec 140 (14), 367-368 PubMed.
  • Gagne J M, Weiss D J, Armstrong P J (1996) Histopathologic evaluation of feline inflammatory liver disease. Vet Pathol 33 (5), 521-526 PubMed.
  • Léveillé R, Biller D S, Shiroma J T (1996) Sonographic evaluation of the common bile duct in cats. J Vet Intern Med 10 (5), 296-299 PubMed.
  • Adler R, Wilson D W (1995) Biliary cystadenoma of cats. Vet Pathol 32 (4), 415-418 PubMed.
  • Fahie M A, Martin R A (1995) Extrahepatic biliary tract obstruction - a retrospective study of 45 cases (1983-1993).  JAAHA 31 (6), 478-482 PubMed.
  • Jackson M W, Panciera D L, Hartmann D (1994) Administration of vancomycin for treatment of ascending bacterial cholangiohepatitis in a cat. JAVMA 204 (4), 602-605 PubMed.
  • Lawrence D, Bellah J R, Meyer D J et al (1992) Temporary bile diversion in cats with experimental extrahepatic bile duct obstruction. Vet Surg 21 (6), 446-451 PubMed.
  • Nakayama H, Uchida K, Lee S K et al (1992) Three cases of feline sclerosing lymphocytic cholangitis. J Vet Med Sci 54 (4), 769-771 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Balkman C (2009) Hepatobiliary neoplasia in dogs and cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 39 (3), 617-625 PubMed.
  • Center S A (2009) Diseases of the gallbladder and biliary tree. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 39 (3), 543-598 PubMed.
  • Day D G (1995) Feline cholangiohepatitis complex. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 25 (2), 375-385 PubMed.

Related Images


Abdomen: trauma




Anemia: overview

Anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning


Blood biochemistry: alanine aminotransferase (SGPT, ALT)

Blood biochemistry: alkaline phosphatase

Blood biochemistry: ammonia

Blood biochemistry: bile acid stimulation test

Blood biochemistry: creatinine

Blood biochemistry: folate

Blood biochemistry: gamma glutamyl transferase

Blood biochemistry: ionized calcium

Blood biochemistry: total bilirubin

Blood biochemistry: trypsin-like immunoreactivity

Blood biochemistry: urea

Blood biochemistry: vitamin B12

Body condition scores




Computed tomography: abdomen

Congenital portosystemic shunt (CPSS)

Cytology: lymph node aspirate

Discolored urine


Escherichia coli

Esophagostomy feeding tube placement

Feline infectious anemia

Feline pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity (fPLI) test

Fine-needle aspirate

Fluid therapy: overview

Gallbladder disease: overview


Hematology: activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT)

Hematology: neutrophil

Hematology: packed cell volume

Hematology: prothrombin time


Laparotomy: exploratory

Laparotomy: midline

Liver: cholangitis / cholangiohepatitis

Liver: lipidosis

Liver: lobectomy

Liver: primary hepatic neoplasia


Maropitant citrate


Nasoesophageal intubation



Pyruvate kinase deficiency

Radiography: abdomen



Therapeutics: glucocorticoids

Ultrasonography: liver

Urinalysis: bilirubin

Urinalysis: protein

Urinalysis: specific gravity

Ursodeoxycholic acid

Vitamin E

Vitamin K

Want more related items, why not
contact us

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

We have an ever growing content library on Vetlexicon so if you ever find we haven't covered something that you need please fill in the form below and let us know!


To show you are not a Bot please can you enter the number showing adjacent to this field