|Meet Dink, a five-month-old Chorkie who was referred to Soft Tissue Specialist Jan Beranek shortly after he joined our expanding Orthopaedics, Spinal and Soft Tissue team in October this year.
Dink had been feeling unwell for some time and quickly became much worse several days before her referral. Her owners had found her to be subdued, her appetite had become very limited, and she was experiencing diarrhoea. Before being hospitalised at her local veterinary practice, Dink was found in her bed almost unconscious, pale, cold and wet. Her local vet did an amazing job stabilising her before referring her to Kentdale for further investigation and treatment for a suspected portosystemic liver shunt.
What is a liver shunt?
A liver shunt is an inborn condition affecting vascular supply to the liver. A network of veins (known as the portal system) drains blood away from the digestive tract. This blood carries nutrients, hormones, and waste material and is supposed to enter the liver before it travels to the rest of the body. The liver takes what it needs to function properly and also detoxifies the blood before sending it onward. A portosystemic liver shunt is an abnormal blood vessel that connects the “portal” system draining the digestive tract to the “systemic” circulatory system (large vessels heading to the heart) feeding the rest of the body, thereby bypassing the liver.
What are the symptoms of a liver shunt?
Dogs with liver shunts can present with a number of clinical symptoms including poor growth, poor appetite, weight loss, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and diarrhoea. In addition to these symptoms, there are a number of behavioural changes which are often demonstrated including mental dullness, staring vacantly, poor vision, unsteadiness, circling, and head pressing. Without proper treatment which includes surgery, a pet’s quality of life can be severely affected, and life expectancy can be limited to only a couple of years.
After an initial consultation between Jan and Dink’s mum, she underwent a CT scan/angiography – an investigation which is considered the gold standard of diagnostic imaging in dogs with a suspected liver shunt. The CT scan confirmed Jan’s suspicions and Dink was diagnosed with a portosystemic liver shunt.
Following diagnosis, Dink underwent surgery to gradually block the flow of blood through the abnormal vessels so that more of it travels through the liver over a period of two to three weeks.
The surgery was a success and Dink was discharged from hospital to continue her recovery with supportive medical treatment and a special low protein diet. Dink’s recovery went smoothly, and her supportive medication was withdrawn after one month and she was able to go back to a diet of regular dog food. We are thrilled to share that Dink will go on to live a full and happy life without any restrictions or limitations.
Well done Dink!
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