Newly diagnosed liver shunt

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Leila Marie

Leila girl
Barked: Fri Jan 19, '07 11:23am PST 
My 6 month old puppy has recently been diagnosed with a liver shunt. Her diet was changed to a low protein diet and since then she has gained a few pounds and is doing seemingly well. You would never know she had a liver shunt. I was hoping to know if anyone out there has had a dog with a liver shunt and did they elect to have the surgery to correct it. If so, how was the recovery period and is your dog expected to have a normal life know? Also, are there any dogs out there that have not had the surgery and how are they doing? This is new to me and I am probably going to go through with surgery but am scared by all the risks. I've heard of Dr. Karen Tobias at the University of Tennessee Veterinary School. I'm wondering if it is worth it to travel so far since it's my understanding that she is an expert in liver shunts.

cutiepie china- babe
Barked: Fri Jan 19, '07 3:45pm PST 

I'm the BIG- brother; don't- you forget it
Barked: Fri Jan 19, '07 6:25pm PST 

I got Leila Marie's letter to my little Yorkie boy Jerry and thought I'd answer here. I'm very sorry to hear this news; it is a pretty scary thing.

Jerry was only about 6 months old when he was diagnosed. He was on the brink of death when finally diagnosed and had to be rushed to surgery. Thank GOD for our wonderful vet who took the time on a weekend day to make calls to various specialists and find out that nobody near us would take him in soon enough to save him--we had to drive him immediately up to the University of Montreal's vet school (we live in Vermont--it was about a 2-hour drive). They were absolutely wonderful with him.

Jerry was operated on the next morning. He was very, very weak already--hadn't eaten or drank anything in a couple of days. Due to that, he had a very hard time with the anesthesia. Luckily his doc monitored him closely. She had to wake him up at one point because his blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. Eventually they were able to complete the surgery. They placed a steel ring around the shunted blood vessel (if I still remember correctly) in order to force the blood to go back through the liver as it was supposed to.

Jerry was in Montreal for nearly 2 weeks, but that's probably because he had come so close to death before they realized what the problem was. If your little girl is strong already, it shouldn't be as bad. Jerry recovered nicely at that hospital; we were so glad to have him back home!

He was placed on a low-protein food and will be on it for the rest of his life. Since the initial operation, he's had to go back into surgery to remove crystals that were blocking him from urinating properly--I forget if that was a side effect of the liver shunt or of the diet. But you will want to monitor her peeing closely for several months after the shunt is fixed--make sure she's still able to go.

Jerry is kind of a special case--he was a puppy mill rescue, so who knows what his parents were like or what kind of treatment he received there. He's had a Rottweiler bite on the nose (through our fence, when he was in his own yard minding his business) and had a stomach surgery that required us to feed him through a tube hanging out of his side for a couple of weeks, too.

If you saw him today, though, you would never know he's had a bit of trouble--he's big, strong, and feisty as all get-out. smile He beats up his little brother Benny on a regular basis.

If it were me, with what we went through, and knowing what a difficult surgery it is, I would definitely give serious consideration to having it done by the expert if that's at all possible. It's just too risky; my own vet, who knew Jerry well, didn't even want to try; that's why she sent him to Montreal. I believe the mortality rate is something like 85%.

I hope this has helped, and I hope I didn't scare you. I just want you to know how it went for our little one. It's a serious operation, that's for sure.

I wish you and Leila Marie all the best. We will say a prayer for you. Please let us know what you decide and how the surgery goes.

Hugs, and God Bless,
Laurie & Jerry
(you can see me and all 4 of my "boyz" on the About Us page of my website at www.barkandsparkle.com).

Leila Marie

Leila girl
Barked: Sat Jan 20, '07 6:13pm PST 
Dear China Girl and Jerry,

Thank you so much for taking the time out to post a response to our questions. I will probably take Leila for another opinion because a second opinion can't hurt but I think the scintigraphy (liver scan) can be considered fairly accurate. Jerry looks like you've been through so much. I am so glad that you are doing well now and your family is still blessed with your presence. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Although they say liver shunts can be common in certain breeds, when it is your dog it can be pretty frightening and it is nice to have a little support from someone who has been through the same.
We'll keep you updated. The surgery will probably be in April or at the latest beginning of May. Thanks for the prayers...We will certainly need them. Love, Leila and mom

You can get- anything if you- sit pretty!
Barked: Sun Jan 21, '07 6:48am PST 
I have not had a dog with Liver Shunt but do rescue and we get alot of Yorkies in (which are prone to liver shunt)
You are right, Dr. Tobias is the best around. Lucky for us she is right here in TN about 45mins away if we ever do need her services.
On the Yorkie National Rescue site they have a ton of info on Liver Shunt and I think Dr. Tobias has a few paragraphs on there too.
Check it out at www.yorkierescue.com

I'm a- Vegitarian!
Barked: Mon Apr 16, '07 7:00am PST 
Vinnie was diagnosed with a Liver Shunt last year. After many tests we were told that he had a huge shunt which was inoperable as it was intra-hepatic.

The good news is that we have been able to medically manage his condition, and he is in great health. We were lucky to have an Animal Hospital nearby, who have been really helpful and say the prognosis is good, as he is responding well.

I thought I would share some of my tips, I would like to think some other dog may benefit. Here are my top 10 tips:

1. Find a good low protein dog food. Hills is ok, but Royal Cannin hepatic food seems to be much more tasty, and comes in wet and dry forms.

2. Add Cottage Cheese, as the primary source of protein. In conjunction with your vet you need to establish how much to add. What you have to do is feed your dog and arrange to have a blood test an hour afterwards. You can then adjust the quantity of cottage cheese so that there are normal levels of protein in the blood. It took three tests to get this right for us, and was quite obvious in the behaviour of Vinnie...to much and he became lethargic. When you have the right ratio you can split food into several small meals to spread out intake and allow the dog to process toxins etc. We do 4-5 per day.

3. In conjunction with your vet get an antibiotic to add to the food. Start with the mildest one you can and a low dose. This can be increased over the dogs life if required. Vinnie is 19kg, and he has 1x 250 mg capsule of Ampicillin per day (half am, half pm)

4. Add Lactulose to food so that stools are soft, but not too soft! (About a tea spoon for Vinnie)

5. Never let your dog run out of water. We have a 2litre despenser and have to fill it two or three times a day.

6. Fit a dog flap if possible! To encourage the dog to drink lots and be able to go to the loo outside 24 hours a day. A great way of flushing toxins.

7. Be strict with yourself. That bone or meat is poison to your dog. Think of the toxins that go directly to the heart and brain. You are killing with kindness. It need not be boring for your dog, a treat is a treat and they love you for it. As a rule we don't give anything to vinnie that has over 10%-15% Protein. You can give the dog carbohydrates, so vegatables pasta, rice, bread etc can be given at will. Vinnie has either pasta, rice and potato with every meal and loves it. Pesto or tomato sauce with pasta drives him wild. Be strong but make sure you and your dog have fun with food. Accept you have a special dog and find flavours your dog loves. chocolate is toxic so don't do it. Some shunt info sites say its ok to give some chicken, egg, mince beef etc. I am sceptical, providing you are on a pescription diet that has ballance and nutrients there is no need for meat.

8. Some of the best treats: Toast; dried apricots/fruit; apple; Cheerios are perfect to use for dog training (avoid cheese); Bread roll; leftover potato and veg with gravy; many of the off the shelf treats such as Bonio (10% protein) denta sticks etc....the key is moderation and keep protein as low as you can

9. Don't worry if your dog steals a saussage, finds a bone or has a titbit of meat. Dogs will be dogs, there is no need to take the treat away or fret. Just add a little more lactulose to the next feed. For your sanity and the dogs, expect this to happen from time to time.

Edited by author Mon Apr 16, '07 7:18am PST


I'm a- Vegitarian!
Barked: Mon Apr 16, '07 7:37am PST 
Bottom of post missing!

10. Owners of dogs with shunts often become paranoid and hypercondriacs! If your dog shows symptoms again, reduce protein, adjust lactulose and antibiotic as required and monitor. If the dog doesn't perk up after a couple of days then see your vet. Vinnie gets hangovers if he eats someting he shouldnt or over does it. He is always better the next day.

There you go, thats my story.... There is however some sad and serious truth. Two thirds of dogs on medical management alone, die within 10 months of diagnosis. The younger the dog is when diagnosed than the worse the prognosis. Vinnie was 2 months old when diagnosed, and I feared the worst as he was seriously ill. If we could have operated we would have

The good news is that dogs that respond to medical management can live normal, happy lives and have a lifespan similar to other dogs. Vinnie is healthy, happy and the most outgoing dog I have ever had. You would never know from looking at him, and I hope that you can be as lucky as us. snoopy

AKA Goonie- GooGoo
Barked: Fri Jan 11, '13 9:14pm PST 
Hi everyone I am new to dogster and of course new to liver shunts.. I have an 8 month old baby I rescued and at 3 months he had an "episode" where he appeared drunk. It lasted about 6 hours, scared me to death, he puked, his head wabbled around and he lost his balance. In the morning he was completely fine. This happened two more times after almost exactly every four weeks. Of course the second time it happened I took him right to the vet, they ran blood and said it was not hypoglycemia and he didn't look distressed so they let me take him home and recommended a bile acid test as soon as possible. I got the bile acid test and his results were very very slightly elevated not enough for the vet to think it was a shunt. A month later an episode happened again and I had him re-tested and now it did appear he has a liver shunt. I got a second opinion since the first vet instantly started talking to me about surgery and I want to try everything I can first before I go for surgery.. I have him on Laculose and antibiotics and I instantly started cooking all of his food. He eats better than me honestly, all organic vegetables, low protein such as eggs, cottage cheese, salmon, and grains like quinoa, brown rice or oatmeal. I also give him milk thistle and coconut oil everyday, well the coconut oil everyday. It's been almost two months and he has been great his breath does not smell at all which is great and his coat is so soft and shiny.
I do worry I am leaving out nutrients or giving him too much protein or too little, I have read he should eat about 18 percent protein but I do not know how to calculate that into grams of protein for his body weight, he weighs 16lbs. If anyone could help I'd greatly appreciate it! It's a part time job caring for my baby and I want to make sure he is as healthy as possible!! dog walk

Clown Dog
Barked: Sat Jan 12, '13 8:21pm PST 
my yorkie, Jem had a liver shunt. he was at the stage where he was starting to bite people for no reason, and you could not move off the couch if he was sitting there or he would jump on you and attack you. At that time there was only one person doing the surgery in all the province and it was $1000. alot 27 years ago.lol. anyway he had the surgery and went on to eat a home made diet guided by a Holistic vet and lived without anymore health issue for 18 years.

I'm triple- superior MAD- now!
Barked: Sun Jan 13, '13 8:05am PST 
Good for you feeding your little guy fresh food to keep him happy!

There is a liver diet present on the web that originated with Dr. Jean Dodds and balanced by Monica Segal. It is NOT suitable for liver shunt dogs as it is high in protein but you might be able to tweak the recipe to lower the protein and keep up the rest of the nutrients properly.

Learn to use nutritiondata.com to make up recipes and you can figure out the protein content by looking at 100 grams of dry weight. ND puts the wet weight near the top of the page and the water content near the bottom of the nutrients, just subtract. Then the protein content is the numbers of grams of protein in the recipe.

So get a scale you trust and weigh everything you feed, figure out ND and you will have it.
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