Liver shunts in dogs is a serious matter. The function of the liver is to filter out toxins carried by the blood vessels which drain the intestine, among other vital organs. The liver processes the toxins and it is supposed to be harmless substances to be used by the body.
Yorkshire Terriers are the number one breed to develop a liver shunt. While the puppy is inside the mother’s womb it’s liver does not function yet.
It relies on the mother’s liver to do the job. Near the end of the mother’s pregnancy, a blood vessel is supposed to shut down so that the puppy’s liver can start functioning. If this doesn’t happen for the puppy a “shunt” is made.
A liver shunt is a blood vessel that carries blood around the liver and not through it. Multiple shunts develop because of serious liver disease like cirrhosis. Liver shunt in dogs is a serious matter. Health Problems From a Liver Shunt
Liver shunt in dogs can cause problems because of its small size (due to its stunted growth). It also has poor muscle development and/or blindness. A neurological problem may be present, causing the puppy to walk in circles, become confused and bump into things due to blindness Seizures can be a sign of liver shunt in dogs.
Breeds That Are at Greater Risk of a Liver Shunt
1. Yorkies (the number one affected breed)
2. Jack Russell terriers
3. Cairn terrier
4. Lhasa Apsos
5. Shih Tzus
Larger Dog Breeds tend to have a shunt inside the liver
2. Old English sheepdogs
3. Australian cattle dogs
4. Irish wolfhounds
5. Cocker spaniels
A shunt is often times hereditary, dogs that have a shunt should be fixed (neutered or spaying). This is so they cannot breed anymore.
How Are Liver Shunt Diagnosed
Blood work is one way to test for liver shunt. They often times have low blood urea nitrogen (blood that circulates through the heart, arteries, capillaries and veins BUN) and albumin (plasma protein, kidney or heart damage)concentrations. They may be anemic. More testing needs to be done.
Liver shunt in dogs is a serious matter there are other test that needs to be done. Advanced ultrasound, portography ( x-rays of blood vessels in the liver), cat scan, MRI, or exploratory surgery are the best way to find liver shunt in dogs.
Also bile acid is present in dogs with liver shunt and is stored in the gallbladder between meals. It may be high 2 hours after eating. That’s why sometimes after the dog eats the symptoms appear worse than at other times.
Treatment of a Liver Shunt in Dogs
The best treatment is surgery which places a device around the vessel which is abnormal which slowly closes it off. Surgeons mostly will use an ameroid constrictor, it is a ring that swells up to close the vessel. The dog will have to wear a cone around its head to prevent it from living, and trying to tear the stitches out.
When surgery is not recommended diet and medication will be used. The surgery can cost $2,000 to $3.000 dollars and not everyone can afford this. If one can afford health insurance for their pet this is a great option for those who cannot afford surgery Of course before your pet needs it.
Some pet insurance can cost around 30 to 40 dollars a month (Embrace Pet Insurance is good). If a dog has multiple shunts like liver dysplasia surgery cannot be done. Therefore, a low protein diet and medications to decrease toxins produced by bacteria. This will buy your beloved dog some time, but surgery can be a cure, but surgery is not always possible.
So then liver shunt in dogs is a serious matter and can decrease the quality of life for your pet, and sometimes greatly shorten his or her lifetime. Be sure to have your dog spayed or neutered so it can no longer have pups and pass this disease onto them. If surgery is not an option for you to find a low protein diet and take him or her to the vet to be put on medicine.
This is a picture of my beloved dog Gabby who may have died from a liver shunt. Don’t let this happen to your precious fur baby. I wish I had this information years ago. To this very day, I still cry!!