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Liver Shunts
Article copyright to: Karen Clark, Versailles Kennels, UK

Liver shunts

In Some Havanese Liver Shunts are becoming rather more common.

Firstly I have to state THIS IS SEEN IN SOME UK LINES FAR MORE THAN OTHERS, yet these breeders don’t inform you… why you may well ask, well it’s called being irresponsible, disease happens , that is of no doubt BUT, by informing and recognising disease and by DECLARING disease we:


Breeders should NOT be ashamed of telling owners that a disease has been found in fact they should be congratulated. Disease as I have said happens we cannot make perfect dogs but we can make them become more perfect examples of a breed by correct management of disease , breeding with pedigrees that help promote improvements. What we don’t want is to be simply putting A to B and hoping we get C, it really isn’t that simple. I like to read web ads for their kennels in any breed to see how they manage to deceive new potential owners into the misleading information stating they are so good. My own kennels contain facts and all test results can be viewed at either KC or the BVA or on my sites, either way you are told if I find any issues. It may not be what you want to hear but it will continued to be done and then advice for successful management follows, disease generally don’t place a noose around your pets neck. 

This year alone some dogs born in the UK have been sold with this issue, known from those lines in particular. If they had told owners initially then just maybe those owners would have been able to manage finding its presence with some equity. How to tell if your doggy has Portosystemic liver shunt. 

Affected dogs appear stunted, fail to grow, and have clinical signs consistent with hepatoencephalopathy, e.g., anorexia, depression, and lethargy. Clinical signs of hepatoencephalopathy (HE) tend to wax and wane and are often interspersed with normal periods. Signs of HE may be exacerbated by a protein-rich meal, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, or by supplementation with methionine-containing urinary acidifiers. Gastrointestinal signs of intermittent anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea are common nonspecific features of hepatic dysfunction. PU/PD is another common clinical sign in dogs with portasystemic shunting. Onset of clinical signs with feeding and delayed recovery from anesthetic events are reported more frequently with canine portosystemic shunts. Affected dogs and cats may have only subtle laboratory abnormalities (mild increases in ALT & AST; mild hypoalbuminemia, hypoglycemia, and hypocholesterolemia; low blood urea nitrogen; and microcytosis). Diagnosis is best achieved by coupling a liver function test (bile salts and/or NH3 quantitations) to a liver imaging technique, e.g., ultrasonography, scintigraphy, or contrast portal venography. Liver biopsy typically reveals hypoplasia of the portal tracts.

By recognising these signs the dog can be treated, hence why it is important for breeders to declare they have it within their lines. 

I was wiser as I chose my dogs for their pedigrees rather than the breeder. I did plenty of research after buying a Frise that was purchased through the Frise Breed Club and found to be rather poor. 

I get quite angry when people advise using breed clubs to buy pups, in the main breed clubs are nothing more than a bunch of people wanting to promote themselves moreso In Havanese in the past 5 years. It is like a little clique for the poorer breeders that will sell you anything , give no aftercare advice or will lie and cheat you out of your money. Being as vocal as I am on the international stage should tell you that I am as honest and blunt as they come. If I make a balls of things YOU ALL KNOW because I ensure you know.

Managing Liver Shunt in your dog. 

The diet must be highly palatable and high in energy, and provide adequate protein, fat, and all essential micronutrients. Feeding small amounts frequently and slightly warming canned food can increase palatability. Protein quantity is gradually increased at weekly or biweekly intervals when the dog becomes neurologically asymptomatic. Serum proteins should be monitored to prevent hypoalbuminemia, in which case dietary protein content should be increased in association with more aggressive adjunct treatment. When HE persists despite a protein-restricted diet and adjunct medication, it may be helpful to replace meat proteins with highly digestible vegetable and/or milk proteins. Addition of soluble fiber (psyllium 1 - 3 tsp mixed with food daily) can also help by acidifying colonic contents and minimizing ammonia absorption.

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