Liver Shunt

Image of dog laying down.

A liver shunt is also named a PSS, portosystemic shunt, portacaval shunt or portosystemic vascular anomaly. This abnormality occurs when a pet's venous blood from the intestine bypasses the liver. In the normal pet, blood vessels pick up nutrients from ingested material in the intestine and carry it to the liver to be processed. In the case of a shunt, an abnormal blood vessel carries this blood around the liver and dumps the nutrients directly into the general circulation. Toxins build up in the bloodstream as a result. The pet can be born with the shunt (congenital) or can develop it later (acquired).

Breeds at increased risk for congenital shunts include Cairn Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Irish Wolfhounds, Himalayans and Persians. An acquired shunt can develop in any breed and is usually caused by liver problems due to toxins, hepatitis, infections, inflammation, etc.

Symptoms of a liver shunt include stunted growth, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, unresponsiveness, seizures, disorientation, poor skin and coat, excessive drinking and urination. Some pets will have a single sign and some with have several.

The diagnosis is made with blood tests, urinalysis and imaging tests (radiographs and/or ultrasounds). A liver function test called bile acids is usually very suggestive for a liver shunt when the values are very high. Another diagnostic test that can be performed is nuclear scintigraphy, which must be done at a referral specialty facility. Yet another possible diagnostic test that can be performed is a CT scan.

The treatment and how well the pet responds are dependent on many things including the location and severity of the shunt. Some pets will do well for long periods of time with medical management only. Medical management includes a low protein diet, antibiotics and lactulose. Surgical repair is commonly done for congenital shunts and again the success is dependent on the location and severity of the shunt.

Call to schedule your pet's wellness or urgent care exam now: (952) 758-6722

Testimonials

  • We have been clients of New Prague Animal Care for over 13 years. They have provided exceptional and compassionate care for our “pack” (6 dogs and 3 cats). As a professional dog trainer, breeder of Best in Show and Master Hunter Retrievers as well an owner of multiple kennel/ doggy daycare facilities (30+ years), I have worked with numerous veterinary clinics both in the Twin Cities and nationwide. Dr. Steve and his crew rate among the finest I have worked with. The clinic has all of the fea

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    Show More - Kathryn N
  • My dad has taken all of his dogs there for years, and I take mine there as well. Dr. Lavalle's bedside manner is amazing, and his staff are so genuine and caring. I always have, and will continue referring people to take their pets here. They are hands down the best veterinary care in the area!

    - Amber C
  • Have taken our dogs to Dr. Lavallee for over 10 years and he is great with each of them. He and his staff are very caring and helpful.

    - Barb S
  • Middle of a snow storm a few days ago. My little puppy was injured. I live in Faribult. Vet offices were closed in town. They actually called me while in route to see if I was ok. They were so good with the puppy. The cost was very reasonable. Called today to see how everything was going. I really was very impressed with this office. I recommend this place.

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    Show More - Wendy E
  • Awesome experience! My pets love the care they get from Dr. Lavallee and his staff! They are not just a number; they care for them like my babies are family! Would highly recommend them!

    - SGGM
  • Found a 6-wk old kitten on the side of the highway and brought it in at 7pm on emergency basis. I was blown away by the compassion of Dr. Johnson's team. What a great experience. True animal people!

    - Anna H
  • Moved to New Prague and found this place for our dog.. Such great service, friendly staff, amazing Dr. and very accommodating to all of our needs!! Highly recommended by my pet family!!!

    - Kerri N
  • We love New Prague Animal Care, they are always so kind and caring, from the phone calls to when you walk in. We take our Siberian Husky Bandit in and he gets so much attention, well loved. We've had to take him in twice for emergencies, the in house testing was great, Dr. Johnson was able to resolve the issue almost immediately. I wouldn't take him anywhere else.

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    Show More - Myra C

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