Maltese Dogs
Liver Shunts
Frequently Asked Questions
maltese dog
by Jay Bianco
1998© All Rights Reserved

What are the signs?

There can be a lot of variation of clinical signs depending of the severity of the condition, which could depend on how much blood flow is diverted past the liver. Some of the clinical signs of portosystemic shunts that might be recognized in a puppy or young adult Maltese that have been reported could include:

Problems increasing dramatically after eating has also been strongly supported as an indication of a portosystemic shunt. Not all Maltese with the shunt will show this meal associated behavioral change, but in 25% of those affected that do, the diagnosis could become clearer. A high percent of affected Maltese show an intolerance to anesthetics or tranquilizers, & will show increased recovery times following their use. Approximately 75% of those affected will show digestive system symptoms including poor appetite, ascites, vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, or occasionally deranged appetite (eating paper, etc.). Urinary system symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, & in a majority of porto-systemic shunt cases, there will be crystals or stones formed in the urinary tract. These crystals will be either uric acid or ammonium urate (ammonium biurate or thorn-apple crystals.). Most Maltese will be diagnosed with port-systemic shunts under one year of age, but some several years older have been diagnosed with the condition.

How is Liver Shunt diagnosed?

There are a number of possible abnormalities that might point towards a portosystemic shunt on:

How is it treated?

Surgery appears to be the only cure for portosystemic shunts at this time.

Is there a genetic predisposition toward Porto-Systemic shunts?

At the present time, according to the experts, yes, most definitely Hepatic Porto-Systemic shunts are a genetic disorder.

For more information on recognition and management of portosystemic shunts

If you have any information on liver shunts in Maltese dogs, please feel free to send it to us. We are very much interested in hearing of any new developments and research on this subject.

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