How to Care for a Dog with a Liver Shunt
The liver performs a multitude of major functions in the body, such as storing sugar as glycogen, manufacturing and circulating proteins for the body to use, and purifying blood borne toxins. It requires a steady blood flow to accomplish its job adequately. The appearance of a liver shunt in your dog indicates compromised blood flow to the liver.
What is a liver shunt in dogs?
There are two types of liver shunts: Intra- and extrahepatic. Intrahepatic shunts occur during gestation inside the puppy's liver. While it is a natural development during growth and development, it should seal itself off before delivery. A puppy born with an open shunt has an intrahepatic shunt. An extrahepatic liver shunt is a hereditary and genetic irregularity in which an abnormal blood vessel outside liver the reroutes blood flow to the organ. It also develops in utero and endangers blood flow to the dog’s liver.
What triggers liver shunts?
Liver shunts in dogs are a result of a congenital birth defect. A blood vessel connecting the portal vein to the main systemic blood stream does not close at birth, causing the blood supply to bypass the liver. It is not possible for the puppy's body to thrive without sufficient blood flow to the liver.
What are the symptoms?
In severe cases, toxins in the blood pass through the blood-brain barrier. The result is seizures and other central nervous system emergencies. A puppy with a liver shunt will exhibit symptoms of toxicosis from center nervous system depression. Symptoms can include:
• Poor muscle tone
• Lack of physical growth
• More than natural sleeping
If a puppy regularly appears lethargic and underdeveloped compared to the littermates, you should have him checked out by the vet immediately.
What testing is available for a liver shunt?
Diagnosis is made via bloodwork. The best measure of a possible liver shunt made with bloodwork is a liver function test known as bile acids. If the liver doesn't have adequate blood flow required to recycle bile acids, the levels will be extremely high.
What is the treatment for liver shunts?
If proactive blood work indicates your dog has a probable liver shunt but appears otherwise healthy, there are steps you can take to help regulate blood flow impairment in the liver. For example, nutraceuticals and herbal compounds that aid detoxification include SAM-e, dandelion, milk thistle, and Acetyl L-carnitine. There are also some very helpful Chinese herbal and homeopathic medications that support blood detoxification..
Disclaimer: We are NOT licensed vets. DO NOT try to diagnose or treat animals based off this or any other information you find on the internet. If you pet is having any kind of medical issues, please seek professional treatment from a licensed vet who is trained and set up to handle such matters.