What Is Liver Shunt in Dogs?

By Tess Thompson

The liver is the largest organ in the body and has deeply indented margins, with multiple lobes that are not entirely separate from each other. Its size authenticates its importance in the body. The liver is involved in practically all biochemical pathways in the body that allow growth and help in fighting disease. It is responsible for metabolizing whatever is consumed, breaking it up and supplying nutrition, providing store energy and helping in the elimination of waste.

A liver shunt is one among the numerous dog liver diseases. Liver Disease In cats the condition is far less common than in dogs.

A liver shunt is a condition where a blood vessel, carries the blood around the liver instead of taking it through the liver. A liver shunt is mostly congenital but in some animals it may be acquired as multiple small shunts due to serious conditions like cirrhosis.

Blood enters the liver to be cleansed and sent back to the body. Bacteria, chemicals, drugs, and nutritional byproducts are filtered by the liver and put to respective use or sent for elimination. In a dog with a liver shunt, blood does not enter the liver for filtration and bypasses it. Unfiltered blood moves on to the blood stream or kidneys. In addition, it denies the body the materials necessary for energy and the wherewithal to grow.

The fetal liver does not function till after birth as the mother's liver does all the necessary functions for filtration and storage of energy on behalf of the baby. The fetus of mammals has a large shunt that carries blood quickly from the fetal liver to the heart. This shunt usually closes down after birth when the baby's liver starts working on its own. A congenital liver shunt is a condition where this large shunt does not close down. As this is within the liver it is known as intra-hepatic shunt. In certain cases there is an abnormal development of a blood vessel outside the liver. A condition where this blood vessel remains open even after the liver shunt closes down is known as extra-hepatic liver shunt.

A liver shunt can cause behavioral abnormalities like circling and disorientation as well as nearly all other symptoms of liver problems in dogs and cats. A liver shunt is a specific liver disease but the liver's interaction with other organs and the dual supply of blood necessary for efficient functioning makes it more susceptible to disease. In certain cases diseases in a neighboring organ can have a negative fall out on the liver. One such common secondary causes of liver diseases is pancreas diseases in dogs and cats.

A properly functioning liver is one of the most fundamental components of good health. Even though an unhealthy liver will make every effort to maintain life, it is of vital importance that the liver remains healthy and performs to its optimal level.



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