Information on Ursodiol for Dogs

By Betty Lewis

If your dog's been having issues with his gallbladder, your vet may have prescribed ursodiol to help him with his condition. Used to treat gallstones and help address liver problems, ursodiol improves the flow of bile acids and helps to dissolve gallstones. There are few reported side effects with this medication, though it requires veterinary oversight when used.

About Ursodiol

Formally known as ursodeoxycholic acid, ursodiol is a bile acid produced by the Chinese black bear, and has been used for centuries to treat liver disease. The Chinese black bear is safe and can hang onto his bile acids for himself because ursodiol is now produced in the laboratory. The medicine isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration for animal use, however, it's commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat liver problems and gallstones.

How Ursodiol Works

Your dog's liver produces bile, which travels to his gallbladder to be released to his small intestine to aid his digestion. If a dog's liver isn't functioning properly, the acids in his bile can accumulate in his liver to add to his liver damage. Ursodeoxycholic acid, or ursodiol, improves the flow of bile, helping to remove toxic bile acids. Gallstones contain cholesterol and since ursodiol reduces the synthesis, uptake and production of cholesterol, veterinarians rely on the medication to dissolve gallstones.

Using Ursodiol

Available in capsule and tablet form, ursodiol is best absorbed when it's administered with food. Your vet will determine the appropriate dosage for your dog, based on his condition, and may recommend regular tests to monitor liver health.

Side Effects of Ursodiol

Generally, ursodiol has a low risk of side effects, though some dogs may experience nausea. If a dog experiences an allergic reaction, he may display symptoms such as hives and labored breathing. The drug may lower blood cholesterol levels. A dog with liver disease may see the condition progress, including symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and jaundice. Seek veterinary care if your dog experiences these symptoms.


  • Ursodiol can react with a host of other medications, including estrogen, acetaminophen, vitamins, antacids containing aluminum and other supplements; your veterinarian should have a thorough understanding of all the medication your dog takes.

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