Tess and Her Homemade Liver Shunt Diet
Diagnosed with a liver shunt
When Contessa Della Notte, aka Tess, was 10 months old, she ran around the room, wobbled, then lay down and began to shiver. Tess could not stand nor could she focus on anything but my voice. I rushed her to a 24 hour vet hospital 45 minutes away and hoped that she would make it. After many tests and pacing up and down a sterile hall, the vet told me that she had a liver shunt.
She began to explain that toxins had built up in Tess, ammonia in particular, and was causing all the trouble. She explained my option was 2 surgeries. The first would be an exploratory to make sure that the shunt could be repaired then the second would be to go in and try to reopen the shunt. The surgeries would cost between 7-9 thousand dollars. I had no way to pay for this treatment, but could not bear the thought of losing this little girl when she had just become one of the family.
I began to explore any other options that have worked for others. With the help of the local vet, Doc Tom, we really couldn't find any other procedure that did not give her a 75 % chance of dying within 3-6 weeks after the procedures were done. Doc Tom put her on Hills L/D kibble (promotes liver health) and she was to take 75 ml of Lactulose to at least help control the symptoms for the mean time. I went online, researched what exactly a liver shunt was, what caused the attacks and tried to figure out what I could do financially without further hurting Tess.
What A Liver Shunt Is
A portosystemic shunt (PSS) (more information on this link) or liver shunt is a disorder where the normal flow of blood, to and through the liver, is markedly reduced or even absent. Normally, blood returning from the puppy's digestive tract is routed to the liver through the portal vein. The blood flows through the liver and then exits the liver joining the venous blood flowing back to the heart. A liver shunt is a blood vessel that connects the portal vein with the main systemic blood stream. This causes the blood to bypass the liver.
When the puppy is just a fetus, the fetus's blood is carried from its body to the mother's and back again through the umbilical cord. The placenta is where the fetal blood and the mother's blood interact; although they never actually comingle. Nutrients from the mother's system are passed to the fetus and waste products from the fetus are taken up by the mother and processed through her kidneys and liver. The mother's liver, then, serves as the fetus's liver since the fetal liver is not yet capable of performing many important functions.
When the puppy is born, the umbilical cord is severed. Shortly after birth, the ductus venosus contracts, constricts and closes. Once this vessel is closed off, the newborn pup's blood is forced to pass through the now developed liver. If the ductus venosus fails to close, then a portion of blood will continue to be shunted around the liver through the still patent ductus venosus.
Do you cook or prepare any special food for your animals?
The Diet of Tess
I have been able to find my way around a kitchen very easily from a young age. I love food, but love great tasting food even more. I began to contemplate if I could take my knowledge of cooking and apply it to the needs of Tess. I took the list of facts I had found on the internet relating to liver shunts, tracked down a website that had nutritional values for every type of food and began to prepare recipes for Tess. I contacted Doc Tom to discuss if what I was about to cook for Tess was good or bad for her health. After listening to my recipe ideas, he advised me to try it out due to none of the food items would be harmful to dogs.
I present to you The Diet of Tess.
- Chicken Breast boneless & skinless boiled
- Ground Turkey pan fried and completely drained of any fat ( on occasion)
- Green beans
- Summer squash
- Melons (no rind or seeds)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Italian Dressing
- Parsnips mashed
- Sweet Potato
- Frozen Blueberries
- Apple slices
These foods have little to no protein in them but have all of the vitamins, minerals, grains she needs to live. For Tess, the amount of protein needed to be healthy is contained within chicken and ground turkey. This diet has none of the additives, chemicals, artificial coloring or preservatives that are found in most commercial dog food.
Tess has been able to get special treats as time went on. Tess loves a small, about ¼ of a slice, piece of homemade bread with just a splash of butter. She finds that 1 piece of thin, deli sliced turkey compliments going out on a cold snowy day. If grated cheese (1 tsp.) happens to make it on to her chicken, she is in heaven.
How Much to Feed
The amount and how many times a day of food to feed daily depends on the breed od dog.
For pugs: 1 to 8 years old is 1/2 to 3/4 cup of food twice daily.
There are many charts and feeding guidelines on the internet for each individual breed.
I serve Tess 1/4 cup of meat and top off the 1/2 cup measurement with a vegetable or veggie/ pasta mix that has been cooked. Some are mashed, some are boiled and only a few are baked and considered a treat due to most vegetables will have a higher sugar content when baked.
Due to all of the inquiries of how to create a meal, I have made a separate hub that follows up on this. The link is towards the bottom if this hub.
Tess' Activity & Family
Tess has survived the liver shunt for 4 years now. Every 6 months she goes to see Doc Tom for her checkup and has passed every time. She shows no signs of slowing down or stopping. Tess loves to go swimming in any pond she can find, hiking many local trails, gardening, bounding through snow banks and trips in the truck.
Tess lives with her birth sister, Gracie, has 2 cats, Finn & Poe, which she naps in the sun with and has fallen in love with Gilbert, who happens to be a mix of Black Lab and St. Bernard, and lives by the mailboxes she walks to daily.
Tess is now 5 years old and has passed her physical with flying colors. She is still very playful, curious about nature and now goes to work out in the gardens that we tend in the area. Tess and Gracie lounge on their blankets during cookouts and are starting to become farm pugs in their new home. Their favorite thing to do is to herd the chickens every night.
The only downside to Tessa's health is that every once in a while we still have to take an emergency run to the Veterinarian Hospital. She gets a small dose of Karo syrup for the ride, as recommended by the vet, is treated and released to come back home. It is scary for us every time an attack occurs, but she is one tough pug.
Heading to 10 Years Old
Tessa is doing very well for her age. She goes to the vet about every 2 months to have her nails done and gets a quick Q&A to see how she is doing. Her regular check ups are about twice a year. They coincide with flea/ tick treatment (collar) and any of the shots she may need.
Her love of green beans has faded abit and it seems the new fav is to have zucchini or summer squash with dinner. Carrots are the treat of the day, but frozen blueberries are preferred after afternoon walks.
Tessa is getting a bit lazy with her age so her walks are spread out across the day. She may not hike all the trails she once did with her sister Gracie, but she gets in at least a mile a day if it is not raining or snowing. There are some weather conditions she just will not tolerate.
Tess had a hard strech when her sister Gracie passed away from a very aggressive breast cancer last fall. It took a bit before she was comfortable leaving the house without her trusty buddy. We gave her the time and comfort Tess needed to get acclimated to the new situation and now she has found walks, play time, and gardening are still as much fun as before.
As you can see in the photo below, Tessa loves nap time after helping out on our small farm. (Yes, she tucks herself under covers with her own pillow.)
Location of Tess' Favorite Hiking Trails
Questions & Answers
My seven-month-old Maltese has just been diagnosed with a liver shunt. I started her on a liver diet of Royal Canine. I was wondering if your dog sometimes gets wobbly after eating, or as a result of highly stressed situations like grooming for the first time? Also, Do you have your Tess on Lactulose?
Yes, Tess is on Lactulose. Her vet has prescribed the once a day dosage. She is also on Royal Canine kibble. The only time Tess gets wobbly is when she gets worked up over a situation. She will get shakey as well. I think it is an individual dog thing.
Is Tess still with you?
Yes! She is going on ten years old. She is doing very well but getting a bit lazy with age. Walks are broken up throughout the day instead of hikes in the afternoon.
© 2013 Susan McLeish