Homemade Diet for Dogs With Liver Shunt
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 two 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 seven to nine 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 three to six 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) 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' 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' 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, and 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 one piece of thin, deli-sliced turkey compliments going out on a cold snowy day. If grated cheese (one 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 of dog.
For pugs: one to eight 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 having a higher sugar content when baked.
Tess' Activity & Family
Tess has survived the liver shunt for four years now. Every six 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 two 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 five 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, and 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 two 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.)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
My dog Romeo is five years old and 3.8 pounds. His vet just told me two of his blood test results pointed to a liver shunt and to change his food. What type of Royal Canine kibble do you feed your dog?
I feed my dog Tess Royal Canine's hepatic diet formula. We get it at her vet's office, and I believe Chewy.com also has it.Helpful 21
I have a seven-year-old Yorkie who has a liver shunt. She had the surgery which was a success and her numbers have gone way down but are still above normal. She too was eating Royal Canine kibble but doesn't really like it. Would the homemade diet you have Tess on be good for her?
The diet I set up for Tess is good for any dog in good health or with shunt difficulties. That is why I wirked with my vet directly. Gracie, Tessa’s sister, did not have the liver shunt but needed to eat ehat Tessa had. As I have aleays stated, this works for us and Inhave always talked with the vet to ensure it is nourishing for TessaHelpful 21
Is red meat allowed in a liver shunt diet, or is that too much protein?
Red meat is, for the most part, not allowed. The protein in red meat is high even in small amounts. With that being said, my dog Tess does enjoy a quarter size bit of hamburger on rare occasions. It does not make her very ill or prompt an emergency visit, but I personally will not risk giving her too much red meat.Helpful 20
Both of my dogs love to play with puzzle balls, but one of my them has a liver shunt. Before one of my dogs was diagnosed, I put kibble in each of the puzzle balls, but now my sick dog can’t eat the same things my other dog eats. Inevitably they swap balls during play time, and my sick dog will get some of my other dog's kibble, which she can’t have. Do you know of any foods that both of my dogs can eat when they play?
What came to mind was frozen blueberries. Remember that fruit is good for dogs as well as humans. My dog Tessa loves watermelon.
Also, Greenie treats have a pill pocket that you cut into quarters and give just a piece a day. The protein content is just under the maximum amount of protein needed by dogs. I also feed my dog chicken flavor capsules.Helpful 5
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.Helpful 9
© 2013 Susan McLeish