Lapis ISSN 2398-2969

Blood biochemistry: bile acids

Synonym(s): Bile salts

Contributor(s): Sarah Pellett, Livia Benato


  • In rabbits, bile acids are produced in a circadian rhythm.
  • Bile acids are predominantly made up of cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid.
  • Primary bile acids are derived from cholesterol in the liver.
  • Bile acids are conjugated in the liver with taurine or glycine and are excreted in bile via the bile duct as their sodium salts (bile salts).
  • Bile acids are secreted at time of eating to small intestine where they aid in digestion and absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Bile acids are reabsorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the circulation.  They are transported to the liver to be re-secreted in the bile.
  • In rabbits, caecotrophy significantly reduced the ability to obtain a fasted blood sample and because of this bile acid measurement is not a routine procedure in clinical practice.
  • To date, as far as the author is aware, bile acids are not included in published references ranges for rabbits.
  • In other species bile acids are a sensitive indicator of liver function and of integrity of liver, biliary and intestinal circulation.


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  • Enyzmatic (spectrophotometer).
  • Radio-immunoassay (RIA) - uncommon in veterinary laboratories.


  • Widely available at commercial laboratories.



  • Increased by performing bile acid stimulation test in other species; this is not performed in the rabbit.


  • In other species, performing a liver biopsy may give more indication of the underlying cause.

Technique (intrinsic) limitations

  • Interpret results in conjunction with other laboratory results (liver enzymes) and/or liver biopsy.

Result Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Proenca L M (2015)Blood Sampling and Intravenous Access in Exotic Species. In: Proc 2nd International Conference on Avian, Herpetological and Exotic Mammal Medicine. Paris, France. pp 122-126
  • Varga M (2014)Clinical Pathology. In:  Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. 2nd edn. Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier, Edinburgh. pp 111-136.
  • Wesche P (2014)Clinical Pathology. In: BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Medicine. Eds: Meredith A & Lord B. BSAVA, Gloucester.  pp 124-137.
  • Eshar D  Mayer J (2013)Bile Acids. In: Clinical Veterinary Advisor Birds and Exotic Pets. Eds: Mayer J & Donnelly T M. Elsevier, St Louis. pp 606-607.
  • Suckow M A, Stevens K A & Wilson R P (2012)The Laboratory Rabbit, Guinea Pig, Hamster and Other Rodents. 1st edn. Elsevier, London, UK.