Liver shunts, also referred to as portosystemic shunts -- Normally, blood flows from the intestines to the liver. where the by-products of digestion are metabolized. When there is a shunt, blood bypasses the liver with disastrous and often fatal consequences. Ammonia and other toxins are not metabolized or removed from the circulation, resulting in signs of hepatic encephalopathy (brain inflammation)

Symptoms

  • incoordination
  • sporadic weakness
  • disorientation
  • head-pressing
  • behavioral changes
  • drooling
  • stupor 
  • mental dullness

 

  • anorexia
  • pacing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • blindness
  • seizures
  • coma 

 

 

  • incoordination
  • sporadic weakness
  • disorientation
  • head-pressing
  • behavioral changes
  • drooling
  • stupor 
  • mental dullness

 

  • anorexia
  • pacing
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • blindness
  • seizures
  • coma 

 

 

Symptoms can be dramatic, including stunted growth, persistent vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss and seizures. But they can also be subtle--increased urination, thirst and salivation. Liver shunts are operable, but not always successfully. The errant blood vessels may be inside or outside of the liver, and the ones inside the liver are much more difficult to repair.  Sometimes you may not notice any symptoms at all, as in the case of my dog, Misty.  We found her shunt because we discovered that she had a urinary infection, which did not clear with medications from the vet, so we were advised to have an ultrasound done, and it showed that she had a bladder stone.  Surgery was done to remove the stone and it was sent to Minnesota to be analyzed and the information that came back showed there was some sort of liver problem.  My vet then did the bile acid test and the readings were over 300, so my vet sent us to Purdue.  There they did further testing and it was confirmed that she indeed did have a large shunt outside the liver.  Other than the urinary infection, she never showed any other signs of Liver Shunt, so no symptoms does not mean your dog does not have it.  I advise all owners to have the bile acid test just to make sure, and I tell anyone that is going to get a puppy to have the test done if the breeder does not do it.  The test is much cheaper than the thousands that it cost for the surgery to correct it. 

Most of the liver shunts are congenital. Although some older dogs can have acquired liver shunt as a result of some past illness they may have had. Most dogs with congenital liver shunts develop symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy ( type of brain inflammation caused by high  levels of ammonia and other toxins in the blood) by six months of age, although some dogs may not develop symptoms until middle age or older.  The diagnosis is confirmed by X-ray studies. A bile acid test can be done as young as 10 weeks, and if a pup has high readings at this time, you can bet it is the congenital shunt.  Even at this early age, further testing must be done to confirm it.

Blood tests, ultrasounds and CT scans provide useful information, but the only definitive test is biopsy of the liver.  The prognosis for recovery depends on how long the dog has been ill, the extent of liver damage, and whether the disease can be surgically cured or controlled with medications.  The treatment of choice for liver shunts is partial or complete surgical ligation of the shunt.  This is not always possible.  Medical management is directed toward controlling hepatic encephalopathy.

 

 

information compiled from Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, The 5-minute veterinary consult, and vetinfo.com

Visit our message board by clicking on the little dog.


 YorkieViews Message Board
 

 
Free Message Forums from Bravenet

Looking for other Yorkie owners to talk to?

Join our list: Yorkieviews list

 

Visitors:

 

Because of  robots searching for mail links to use for spam mail, there is NO link to my email address  You will have to copy & past the address into your mail program

mmyorkies@yorkieviews.com

 

Mystic Moon Yorkies
Valparaiso, IN 46385