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Liver Shunt

In a healthy pet, the liver functions by removing toxins from the bloodstream, storing sugars, and distributing proteins. Pets with a liver shunt cannot properly filter their blood. Veins bypass the liver when moving blood from the intestines, pancreas, spleen, and stomach, causing nutrients and toxins to reach the heart. Liver shunts can be intra-heptic (inside the liver) or extra-heptic (outside the liver) and are typically present at birth but can also be acquired with liver disease. Intra-heptic shunts are more common among large dog breeds, whereas extra-heptic shunts are more common among small dog breeds and cats - namely Persians, Himalayans, and mixed-breeds.

There is no way to prevent a liver shunt from developing. The condition occurs towards the end of gestation within the mother’s uterus, and most animals start showing signs of the disease within their first 6 months of living. On occasion, shunts aren’t prevalent until much later, when an elderly pet begins to develop bladder problems or kidney stones.

Symptoms of a liver shunt:

  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Growing slower than peers (underdevelopment)
  • Inability to gain weight
  • Lethargy
  • Odd behaviors (disorientation, pacing, staring off)
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

How is a liver shunt treated?

A liver shunt is first diagnosed through blood tests. From conducting specific tests, the veterinarian can observe liver function and draw a positive conclusion. The veterinarian will then discuss the various methods of surgical and non-surgical treatment that are available.

Non-surgical therapy typically includes a precise eating regimen that is comprised of a low-protein diet alongside prescribed medications which help stop the production and absorption of toxins. Several herbal compounds can also be added to the pet’s diet to support blood flow to the liver, such as milk thistle and dandelion. After an extended period of time, some pets will still experience liver failure with this method of treatment, eventually requiring surgery.

Surgical treatment involves closing the shunt as best as possible. For both intra- and extra-heptic shunts, constrictors (metal loops) are placed around the vessels causing the shunt; these constrictors gradually close around the shunt. In some cases, the shunt cannot be entirely closed, but in most cases, even a partial closure is enough to relieve the symptoms of the disorder. Following surgery, the pet’s low-protein diet will need to continue until bile acid levels return to normal.

If your pet exhibits any of the described symptoms, we strongly recommend you contact our office and schedule an exam with the veterinarian, as it may be an indication of a liver shunt.

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Here's a vet that still cares.
Just wanted to say I love Dr. Petcu's staff and his compassionate , caring way of taking care of my dogs.The staff is not only friendly and professional ,they know who you are when you arrive ,and they actually love animals. Is the first Animal Hospital that my dogs are at ease and feel comfortable.The place is very clean and the reception area very elegant and inviting. Exquisite services and Dr. Petcu always take his time to explain the disease and options and still finds time to play with my dogs. He's always treated both his animal and human patients with compassion and dignity,and would never recommend procedures unless he truly feels your pet will benefit from it. One of the vets that cares for your pet. The prices are reasonable and the services exceed all expectations. I Highly recommend Dr.Petcu and his hospital.

Reba S

hands down -THE BEST ANIMAL HOSPITAL.
Western Animal Hospital AMAZING! Western Animal Hospital is the best place in the valley .The staff is professional, friendly, caring and accommodating. The hospital is very clean and upscale. The customer service and the provided services are outstanding.Dr. Petcu is one of the most professional veterinarians that i have ever met in my 25 years of pet parenting. I drive across the valley just to see him( i live in Anthem) .He really cares about his animal patients and it shows in every visits . He is very knowledgeable , compassionate, friendly and always takes the time to answer any question i have and explaining in detail any situation we are dealing with. I had my share of visits to many animal hospitals in the valley but none of them had the last technology as Western - digital X-ray ( they send you home with a cd for you x-ray records ) every room has a computer monitor where the x-ray shows and Dr. Petcu can review with me every detail of it. Also they have the laser surgery and digital dental x-ray. Dr. petcu is one of the most
courteous and pleasant Vets I have ever met. The prices are more than reasonable and also they try to accommodate everybody. I cannot recommend them enough. You can rest easy knowing your pets are in their care.I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS HOSPITAL - THEY HAVE A CUSTOMER FOR LIFE IN ME! very good !

Betty K

Western Animal Hospital this doctor is making a lot of sense and will explain everything in details..
prices are great ....

.the best vet I met !! Pam M. 5 Western Animal Hospital - we are bringing our pets to Dr Petcu for 8 years. He was always helpful, many times we did not have the funds to treat our pets but he was fine with us paying when we had the money. He saved our cats in many instances and all I have to say is that I greatly reccomend Western Animal Hospital for any responsable pet owner .

Yolanda M

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