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Record Adoptions and Liver Shunts in Dogs and Cats

By Dr. Andrew Jones

From: Dr Andrew Jones
Author: Veterinary Secrets Revealed
Website: http://www.veterinarysecretsrevealed.com

Re: Record Adoptions and Liver Shunts


Hello fellow dog and cat advocates.

First a little good news from my local Animal Shelter
(Second Chance Animal Shelter). We had a record number of
animals adopted last month 42..Over 1 dog and cat a day.

Fortunately there was no celebrity scandal….and all
of our ‘regular’ non celebrity clients ( ie you and me),
ALL filled out adoption forms, had references checked,
and abided by the Shelter rules..

Today’s newsletter is in response to a reader who asked
be to write about Liver Shunts.

A portosystemic shunt (PSS), also known as a liver shunt,
is a bypass of the liver by the body’s circulatory system.
It can be either a congenital (present at birth) or acquired

Congenital PSS is a hereditary condition in dogs and cats,
its frequency varying depending on the breed. The shunts
found mainly in small dog breeds such as Miniature Schnauzers
and Yorkshire Terriers, and in cats such as Persians,
Himalayans, and mix breeds are usually extrahepatic
(outside the liver), while the shunts found in large
dog breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds and Labrador Retrievers
tend to be intrahepatic.

Acquired PSS is uncommon and is found in dogs and cats
with liver disease such as cirrhosis causing portal
hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the portal vein.

Congenital PSS is caused by the failure of the fetal
circulatory system of the liver to change. Normally,
the blood from the placenta bypasses the liver and
goes into circulation via the ductus venosus, a blood
vessel found in the fetus. A failure of the ductus venosus
to close causes an intrahepatic shunt, while extrahepatic
shunts are usually a developmental abnormality of the
vitelline veins, which connect the portal vein to the
caudal vena cava. Thus in the juvenile and adult animal
with PSS, blood from the intestines only partly goes
through the liver, and the rest mixes into general
circulation. Toxins such as ammonia are not cleared
by the liver. Most commonly, extrahepatic shunts are
found connecting the portal vein or left gastric vein
to the caudal vena cava.

Congenital shunts are usually solitary. Acquired shunts
are usually multiple, and are caused by portal hypertension
in dogs with liver disease. This is most commonly seen
in older dogs with cirrhosis, but may also be seen in
younger dogs with liver fibrosis caused by lobular dissecting

Symptoms and diagnosis

Symptoms of congenital PSS usually appear by six months of
age and include failure to gain weight, vomiting, and signs
of hepatic encephalopathy (a condition where toxins normally
removed by the liver accumulate in the blood and impair the
function of brain cells) such as seizures, depression,
tremors, drooling, and head pressing. Urate bladder stones
may form because of increased amounts of uric acid in circulation
and excreted by the kidneys. Initial diagnosis of PSS is through
laboratory bloodwork showing either elevated serum bile acids
after eating or elevation of fasting blood ammonia levels, which
has been shown to have a higher sensitivity and specificity
than the bile acids test.

Surgical treatment is best, when it can be performed. Pressure
within the portal vein is measured as the shunt is closed, and
it must be kept below 20 cm H2O or else portal hypertension will
ensue. Complete closure of extrahepatic shunts results in a very
low recurrence rate, while incomplete closure results in a recurrence
rate of about 50 percent. However, not all dogs with extrahepatic
shunts tolerate complete closure (16 to 68 percent).Intrahepatic shunts
are much more difficult to surgically correct than extrahepatic shunts
due to their hidden nature, large vessel size, and greater tendency
toward portal hypertension when completely closed.

When surgery is not an option, PSS is treated as are other forms of
liver failure. Dietary protein restriction is helpful to lessen signs
of hepatic encephalopathy, and antibiotics such as neomycin or
metronidazole and other medicines such as lactulose can reduce
ammonia production and absorption in the intestines.

The prognosis is guarded for any form of PSS.


P.S. Halloween is getting near..And in celebration of
this event, I am going to Reveal a “Scary” Pet Health
Secret that “They” don’t want you to know.
It’s going to happen soon..

P.P.S. There are some Alternative Options that you can
use if your dog or cat is diagnosed with a Liver Shunt.
In this case you would really benefit from having my
Complete Home Study Multimedia Course.
It’s Your Pet. Heal Them At Home!

Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew Jones, DVM

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Topics: Pet health | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Record Adoptions and Liver Shunts in Dogs and Cats”

  1. Avatar Audrey Says:
    September 6th, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I have a 6 month old kitten that has PSS. Surgery for her is not an option. I’ve been feeding her Hills Prescription Diet L/D canned food. Can you recommend other foods that I could feed her? I don’t really think it’s good for her to eat canned food all the time. Is there a dry food that I could feed her?

  2. Avatar mariane Avila Says:
    January 18th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Is there any funding out there for a dog that needs a shunt surgery?

    I recently had my dog (Amber) examined by our vet as she began having seizure recently. The fist one was last March and our vet did not believe it was anything to be concerned about. During the past few months she began having more regular seizures. We again took her back to our vet to checked again. He did a bile acid concentration test on her and found high levels, therefore coming to conclusion that she has a shunt. He told us to get on the internet and start looking for research universities to perform surgery. He also told us it could be upward to $13,000.00. We had rescued this puppy when she was 12 weeks old from a breeder that constantly breed her yorkies. We took two puppies 12 weeks old, the male breeder and the female breeder. The female breeder was pregnant and had to have surgery, upward of $3,000.00 because the puppies two puppies were dead inside of her. During surgery our vet spayed her and four puppies survived.

    Our vet told us that if this shunt it no surgerically repaired, we must but our 3 years old yorkie down. We do not have near $13,000.00 for this of surgery. To look at Amber, she looks like a healthy, happy puppy. We are seeking out a second opinion this week and will then begin our search for for research university to perform the surgery.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely, Marianne Avila, 8 Grand Avenue, Newton, New Jersey 07860 973-579-6115.

    I am also in process of starting a web page for donation for dogs that have this problem. If we cannot help our little yorkie, maybe we can help others who cannot afford surgery.

  3. Avatar Melissa Says:
    January 19th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    My Yorkie was diagnosed with a liver shunt last year around this time and I just had an ultrasound done on her last week to confirm that this is true. I have been giving her Lactolose and K/D dog food for the past year and she has only had a few seizures. Her shunt is on the outside of her liver not inside so she can have surgery, but I wanted to exhaust any other options first. I have been told that the surgery costs around $3000-$5000, def NOT $13,000. I was also referred to Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, NJ. Please do not give up hope on your Yorkie, there is hope!! I am doing a lot of research on this now and I will do anything to save my baby.

  4. Avatar Martha Says:
    February 20th, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I have a 15 year old Lurcher who was diagnosed with a liver shunt in 2003 when he collapsed and went into liver failure.
    The vet initially was guarded and did not give any hope for long term success, but I was not to be put off.
    The vet gave us a low fat, low protein diet-1c cooked rice,1c greenbeans cooked, 1/2c cottage cheese, 1 T corn oil, 2 T bonemeal, garlic powder to taste, fresh ground flax seeds.
    We switched to using only filtered water for the dogs.
    The vet prescribed Destolit (ursodeoxycholic acid) 2 @ 150mg/day.
    The plan was to feed small meals throughout the day so as not to over stress his system.
    From that base I started to do research into natural supplements that would help boost his immune system and help his liver.
    I went into the vet’s with a list of what I felt would be helpful and he just said he was only a conventional vet and if I wanted to take a chance we could see what happens-he also asked how many trees I killed copying off information on alternative measures(good naturely).
    Milk thistle 175mg(no less than 140mg of silymarin) was one of my main choices as well as lecithin granules 1t 3x day.
    (If someone wanted to contact me for more info on my supplement routine they can email me.)
    Initially we were doing regular bile fasting tests and each time you would see an improvement in his liver enzymes and a drop in his cholesterol, which I hadn’t thought about happening.
    To end the tale Winston is still with us and almost as lively as his 3yr. old labrador sister.
    He is also able to eat a more diversified diet as long as one pays attention.
    I opted out of the invasive biopsy because he was too poorly at the time to undergo more than the xray and ultrasound.
    On surgery the vet said that he felt if we fiddled with the present shunt another or others would develop so surgery was not an option for us and he wanted to be conservative based on his age at the time.
    There always is hope and many options to work with, lots of us have experienced something you are just beginning to experience and we are all willing to share our knowledge based on what we have learned and now Dr.AJ has his new material hot off the press!

  5. Avatar debra koch Says:
    March 31st, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    yorkie with liver shunt. I cannot afford surgery but since I put her on science diet prescription KD (we could not find ld) she has returned to perfectly normal and is happy as can be. If I do this and the milk thisle and lactalose(or do I need that) could I even hope that she will live a healthy life and be ok?????

  6. Avatar Tania Triantafyllou Says:
    November 10th, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Please i need help!! My 5 years old shih tzu has liver shunt and also heart murmur. My husband is not willing to pay for his surgery.. Martha, please e-mail me so i can talk to you. Maybe you are able to help me. Thank you

  7. Avatar Summer Says:
    June 14th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Are there any alternatives or hopes for healing a liver shunt? My almost 2 yr old chihuahuas was just diagnosed with PSS. I’m not convinced surgery is the answer. Would welcome any feedback via email.

  8. Avatar sally Says:
    June 18th, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Summer, If you go with diet and medication alone you would not be fixing the problem. The liver would not be getting proper blood supply and would keep shrinking and malfunctioning with time. Since your dog is only 2yrs old i would consider surgery (if she has an extrahepatic shunt). My 5yr old dog was recently diagnosed with what they believe is an extrahepatic shunt and she will have surgery in 2wks. i am still scared because she is older but i think it is worth taking the risk. DogLiver Disease group from yahoo is good.

  9. Avatar Marci Powell Says:
    June 2nd, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Hi I have a tiny mini schnauzer. She weighs 3.3 at 14 weeks. Her parents were normal schnauzers. The mother had 7 pups. The breeder has 3 generations from this line and says no problems. She owns the stud as well. My Brandy acts normal, eats like a little pig, and plays rough too with my other schnauzer. I asked the vet she says she seems normal. I want to get the test. How much later can this show up? You can feel her little hip bones..she is growing taller now. She gained from 1.7 at 8wks to 3.3 now at 14 weeks. Do I have a problem?


Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM