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Liver shunt or MVD

Species: Dog
Breed: Dachshund
Age: 6-12 months
Hello Dr. Maria.

I have a 6 month old male Dachshund. He went in to get a neuter and his pre anesthetic blood work came back with high liver enzymes. So my vet called off the neuter and did further blood tests to see how the liver was functioning, this test did not come back with great results. We are trying to rule out Liver Shunt for my little guy. I live in Calgary, AB and this surgery I was told starts at $5,000 so I am looking for some information to avoid surgery. One due to the money, but mainly I don't want to put a dog through an invasive surgery on his liver.

First off Chandler's results showed low urea in his first blood test with high liver enzymes. Then the vet did a bile acid concentration test where she took a fasting blood work sample and then one 2 hours after a feeding. The vet said Chandlers results were at 58.

I am wanting to know is a result at 58 really bad? Would that indicate to you a Liver Shunt or just microvascular dysplasia?

My little guy shows no signs of a liver shunt or liver problems. He is happy, healthy and growing on par. The vet says he is not stunted in growth at all. He is 10 pounds at 6 months (his mom was a mini and his dad a standard). He is happy and playful with my other dachshunds. He does not stare off into space, he has not had seizures, he always wants to eat and play, he does not vomit or act drunk. He has no yellowing of the eyes, or any symptoms what so ever. The ONLY thing he does is drink a lot of water and go pee a lot which I know is a less common sign. The vet took a urine sample and all results were normal.

My vet has provided me with lots of information, I would just like a second opinion. Chandler is scheduled to go for an Ultrasound as I was told that was the only way to determine if Liver Shunt or microvascular dysplasia. I am looking for your medical opinion and what you would do if this was your patient. Also your treatment if results of ultrasound show microvascular dysplasia. I am also wanting to know what will happen to Chandler if he does have a liver shunt and we choose not to do surgery. I do not want to put down a 6 month old dog, but I do not want this animal suffering with the surgery if it goes bad or without. I am also scared if he will make the surgery.

I appreciate all information you have.

Yours truly,


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I am sorry to hear that you and your little guy are going through this. I have had a couple of similar cases where a potential liver problem was found on preanesthetic blood work and it can be quite traumatic to get that news.

The ultrasound is definitely the next step. Hopefully you will get some conclusive results. Occasionally it can still be hard to tell what is going on even with a good ultrasound and biopsy. But once you get your answer it should be easier to decide what needs to be done.

If this is a liver shunt, then yes, in many cases, surgery is an excellent option, but it is expensive. Some dogs can live with a liver shunt and not have surgery. If you choose this option then your vet will likely prescribe medication to help ease the load on the liver and special prescription food that is formulated to be easier on the liver as well. I have some liver shunt patients that live good long happy lives and all we do is monitor their blood tests every few months and we're careful not to prescribe medications that are processed through the liver.

Regarding the potential for microvascular dysplasia, I think you may find these previously answered questions helpful:

My dog has high ALKP and bile acids

Question about a Yorkie with possible MVD

Question about food and liver problems

Hopefully this helps answer your questions. The best advice I can give you is to trust the advice of your vet. It sounds like they are doing all of the same things I would.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.