Cat Liver Shunts

When new acquaintances ask about Newt, I try to give them my “elevator speech” (the quick, 30-second overview), and not overwhelm them with too many of the details which are routine to us, but might be mind-boggling for others.

So, here’s my personal version of the quick and dirty on liver shunts in cats:

A liver shunt is a condition where the blood is not properly purified, because it bypasses the liver. As a result, toxins can accumulate and cause “Very Bad Things” to happen. Liver shunts are even more rare in cats than in dogs, affecting approximately 1 in every 10,000 cats. However, there is Hope – many cats with liver shunts are able to live normal, happy lives!

Okay, that was one floor; if they haven’t gotten out of the elevator yet, and want more info, the next part goes like this:

A liver shunt may also be known as a portosystemic shunt (PSS), and be intra-hepatic, extra-hepatic, or some combination of both. Treatment options include surgery and/or medical management, using a combination of diet and medicine. More studies and statistics are available on surgical options, but we are now seeing more anecdotal evidence regarding successful medical management, both pre-operative, and in lieu of, surgical correction, as with our Newt.

Is the listener still on the elevator with me, or are they planning to jump out whether or not the next floor is theirs?

The “Very Bad Things” that can happen are a result of Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE), where the toxins have accumulated and start causing problems. Depending on the severity of the HE episode, signs can include, but are not limited to, lethargy, circling, head-pressing, drooling, blindness, seizures, and neurological impairments. However, many owners are able to control/minimize these episodes in their liver shunt cats through a combination of diet, medication, and/or surgery.

Which takes us back to the first (and most important) part of the whole elevator speech, which is simply …

“Cats with liver shunts – there is Hope.”

2 thoughts on “Cat Liver Shunts”

  1. Hi there,
    rescued kitty from mechanic shop. she was covered in oily dirt. had episodes 3 days apart that match liver shunt episodes. these are now almost 2 weeks apart. Only had her 4 weeks. took her to vet for shots – diagnosis (without tests) liver shunt & hart murmur. taking her to a really good and committed vet on tuesday morning. she is a little angel. loved reading your post. read about low protein diet & meds. noted that she seems to be better off when stealing my dog’s puppy food. he is on ultra large breed puppy. that food has a 26 grams protein content vs. royal cannin’s ‘baby’ w/32 grams. wanted to ask whether you could email me some more insights / advice / food comments, etc. would very much love to give that little one a chance at a long, and happy close to normal life. she is precious and special. much appreciated! angelique

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