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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.

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Office Hours

If you have an after hours emergency, please contact Purdue Small Animal Emergency Services at 765-496-7911.

Creekside Animal Wellness Center

Monday:

9:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

9:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

9:00 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

9:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

9:00 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

8:00 am-12:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Creekside Animal Hospital

Monday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

7:30 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

8:00 am-12:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Two convenient locations. The Vets are kind and caring. I have used them for more than 20 years. I trust them to care for my pet. We had our dog spayed and all the normal care. They are great about sending reminders for shots and other things care updates."
    Helen W.
  • "The vets and vet techs at Creekside Animal Hospital are very nice. They do what they can to make your animal feel special given the circumstances. They are transparent with their prices and make things easy by setting up appointments over the phone or in person. I will definitely be back to Creekside Animal Hospital as they truly want to see the best recovery for each animal."
    Patrick R.
  • "The staff at Creekside are AMAZING and honest and full of love!"
    Natalie F.
  • "This was our first time to visit Creekside. Do to the Corona Virus we needed to pull into the parking lot and call to let them know we were there. To my surprise the Doctor came to the car in person. I must say that I had a very good impression of her. I was very satisfied with the service we received there. After she completed the exam she called us to explain the results of the exam and answer any questions we had. At this time I would recommend them highly."
    Robert J.
  • "We have been coming to Creekside for 4 years now. I could not imagine going anywhere else! They have always been very patient with all of our questions & they were all very supportive when our dogs helped themselves to a bag of chocolate. I always know that when I have to leave our furbabies at Creekside for the day that will be well taken care of."
    Cooper, Cohen & Fatboy