What Is A Bile Acid Test And How To Do It?

One day, when you see your dog vomiting yellow or greenish brown liquid with a bitter unpleasant smell, then he might be suffering from a liver disease. In fact, the presence of bile acid in your dog’s body is totally normal, but persistent vomiting would be a serious sign that the gallbladder or liver of your dog is not working properly.

In this situation, the simplest method to find out if the dog bile acid is actually indicative of a liver condition or not is to do a bile acid test.

bile acid test dog

The Function Of Bile Acids

Bile acid is basically a group of compounds which are produced in the liver of a dog and kept in its gallbladder. They play an essential role in the digestion of food by emulsifying fat in the intestine and facilitating nutrient absorption.

When foods are digested, the body of your dog will send the signal to its gallbladder for pushing and contracting bile acids onto its small intestine. Then, the bile acid will combine with the foods in its intestine to break down complex and large fat into small parts that could be taken in more easily.

What Is A Bile Acid Test In Dogs?

Based on the notion that a healthy liver is able to reuse the bile acids, while a defective or damaged liver is not, the bile acid test is a useful way to measure whether the liver of your dog is functioning and performing properly. Specifically, we will determine the levels of bile acid produced by the liver or kept by the gallbladder by drawing its blood before and after a meal. With the results of this test, we can answer 3 following questions:

  • Is bile coming in and out of your dog’s liver freely?
  • Does the liver of your dog have a good blood source?
  • Does its liver have enough healthy cells to function properly?

When Should You Do A Bile Acid Test For Your Dog?

As mentioned above, a bile acid test is highly recommended whenever you notice any signs that indicate the liver of your dog is defective or damaged. This might include:

  • A very young dog that is not growing well: a congenital defect might happen in its blood supply and prevent the liver from functioning properly.
  • A dog that has an abnormally high level of liver enzyme in its blood: in this case, the liver might be harmed and not have the adequate number of normal cells to perform its job.
  • A dog that has a low level of albumin in the blood: this is basically a form of protein produced in a dog’s liver. A low level of albumin often indicates that there are not adequate of healthy cells for normal function.
  • Any dogs that have seizures, including fits or convulsions: a liver problem is often the main causes of several seizure disorders due to an insufficient number of normal liver cells or poor blood source.

How To Perform A Bile Acid Test For Your Dog?


Before you start a bile acid test, the dog should be fasted completely for at least 12 hours. It means that all foods, even chew toys and treats, must be withheld. This is an essential part of the process, so you need to follow it strictly.

The purpose of a fasting period is to give the liver of your dog enough amount of time to recover the remaining bile acids in its bloodstream. In other words, you should make sure that there is just a very low level of bile acid or even no bile acid in its blood stream before you start the test.

How To Perform The Test

Firstly, you need to collect an initial sample of your dog’s blood, which is also called the pre-prandial sample or resting sample. This will establish a starting point or a baseline.

Then, a small amount of food is given to the dog. In most situations, the pet is often hungry, and quickly take all of the food.

After finishing the meal, wait for exactly two hours and collect another blood sample, which is also known as the after eating or postprandial sample. Later, both of these blood samples will be used for testing the levels of bile acid in your dog’s liver.

How To Interpret The Test’s Results

If the results of the test indicate a very low level of bile acid in the preprandial sample and a slightly higher level of bile acid in the postprandial sample, then the liver of your dog is probably still working properly. In other words, it means that bile acids coming from the dog’s gallbladder in this test were re-captured adequately by the liver throughout the two-hour period after the meal. So we can come to the conclusion that the liver of your dog has enough healthy cells and blood supply to function normally, and bile acids are also flowing properly.

Sometimes, the results would be usual even when the liver of your dog is suffering from a problem. This often happens if the issue is not severe or only affects a small area of its liver. In those cases, although the animal has a high level of liver enzyme in its blood, there is usually no decline in the general capability of the dog’s liver to function properly.If the vet suspects that your dog has a liver disease despite usual results of the bile acid test, an additional diagnostic test might be suggested to find out the reasons.

When Shouldn’t The Bile Acid Test Be Done?

During a bile acid test, the bowel and stomach of your dog must work properly. Thus, you should not do this test when your dogs:

  • Have constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting: these issues might change the rate of recycling bile acids or interfere with the digestion.
  • Have experienced a surgery before to cut a part of the small intestine: your dogs might not be capable of recycling bile acids by absorbing them from its intestine.
  • Are recovering from the anesthesia: the bowel and stomach function might not be normal because of the impacts of the drug.

Also, a bile acid test shouldn’t be performed if the dog is being injected bile acid as the treatment for its liver disease. This is because the medication must be withdrawn to get a reliable result from the bile acid test.

»Horner’s Syndrome in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know About

What If The Results Of A Bile Acid Test Are Abnormal?

An abnormal result from the test means that there is probably an issue in the liver of your dog, but it doesn’t provide anything about the causes, reversibility, or severity of the disease. Depending on how abnormal the results are and how sick your pet is, your vet might suggest monitoring the circumstance or recommending taking other diagnostic tests such as a live biopsy or ultrasound.


A bile acid test is always a useful method to find out if the liver of your dog is working properly. We hope that you will find all of the information in this post helpful in preventing your beloved dog from suffering any serious diseases in the liver.

Leave a Comment