Susan is an ethusiastic photographer, nature lover, and pug parent.
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.
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.)
Questions & Answers
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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 Tessa
Question: Is red meat allowed in a liver shunt diet, or is that too much protein?
Answer: 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.
Question: Where is the link to the dog food recipes?
Answer: Here is the link: https://discover.hubpages.com/animals/Tessa-Diet-P
Question: Is Tess still with you?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: I was hoping you can tell me if Tess' liver enzymes still show up as high when she goes in for her checkups?
Answer: She is not tested all of the time due to the cost of having blood drawn from her neck and tested within 5 minutes.
She only gets tested when she has an episode. ( gets wobbly, legs curl under her breath dy and she has the most horrendous gas)
Question: Do you have the link to Tess's recipes?
© 2013 Susan McLeish
Connie keatts on August 17, 2020:
15 1/2 year old Maltese. Has liver shunt. On royal canin. Low protein canned. He is now skin and bones. Sleeps a lot but still loves to run. No muscle mass. I don't know what to do! He doesn't care for the food. Which is worse, no protein or give protein? He will waste away with no protein or die from protien. I know he has lived longer than he should have but i want what is best for him.
Kaitlynn on July 31, 2020:
Hello, my 16 week old Pomeranian was just diagnosed with a liver shunt. Although he is very active, no signs of sickness other than a few focal seizures. I am unable to pay for the surgery. I am planning to switch his diet to homemade meals with very little protein. My vet as of right now is not giving me any advise on this matter, and he’s trying to push me to do the surgery. However, you’re article said dogs of adult age, will this diet allow my puppy to grow into a healthy adult?
Elena on July 15, 2020:
I was wondering do you have any tips for teeth health? How does the vet do dental cleaning? Can Tess tolerate general anastesia? Thank you
Caile` on June 06, 2020:
Thank you for sharing! I have just found out that my 11 week old golden retriever german shepherd mix has a liver shunt, I've been surfing the web for ideas for days now! The vets have been super busy with everything going on and have not been helpful. The prescription food is unbelievably expensive! Super excited to get some approved foods on my list for homecooked meals.
Lindsey Scott on May 15, 2020:
I rescued a 1 yr old chihuahua that was abused and very very ill. She has a shunt and I have tried everything to get her to eat good food but its so hard to see her snapping in the air and doing odd behaviour. We love her to bits. We have another Chihuahua as well who is fine.
He also is from a disgusting puppy mill. Would your diet hurt him as he is very over weight and it would be easy to feed them both the same foods. Thank you.
Barb Demeck on March 25, 2020:
My 17 week old 4 lb puppy was just diagnosed with a liver shunt It’s just the beginning of my horrible journey Would love any helpful feedback
Aine on March 04, 2020:
hi my dog angus is a 12 week old collie which has just been diagnosed would the diet plan work for him
Candace Kirby on July 20, 2019:
My little girl Maisie has just been diagnosed with a liver shunt. She is a 10 month old chihuahua/terrier cross. The vet is suggesting a prescription diet for her and a tiny amount of laxative. I would rather try something natural. The warning on the laxative said that if used for more than two weeks could cause dependency. That basically means that the normal function of her bowels will change. This is all freaking me out. Maisie is healthy and showing no signs of being sick except for the blood test and she is quite tiny.
Nancy Butson on July 07, 2019:
she has been sick on all prescrition dry and wet dog food. Need exact measurements of oil,dressing and garlic. She is 15 months old yellow lab weighs 40 pds. Please help.
Shadows on June 15, 2019:
Aloha!! Thankyou so much for sharing! Is her shunt internal or exturnax?
David Phelan on March 23, 2019:
Hi I have a 18 month old long hair chihuahua and he has just been diagnosed with a liver shunt which at the moment the op is not possible financial at the minute . I was wondering if tess diet would suit my dog arnie and if you had any tips. I hope this finds you and tess well
Krystal on February 25, 2019:
Did Tess ever have surgery? How old was she when you found out she had the liver shunt. Also what was her symptoms before you we’re diagnosed. My Little Shih-Tzu (15 months old) may have one but he hasn’t been able to have an ultrasound yet.
Christianne Nabil on December 02, 2018:
Hello, I have a 1 year old beagle and he diagnosed with liver shunt and his case is so similar to Tess’. I wanted to know if you recognized any symptoms like internal bleeding because we recognized internal bleeding while we were taking a sample from his abdomen. So i wanted to know what should i do?
After i knew about the liver shunt, I am feeding him the homemade recepies. I hope you see this message and tell me is this normal or what should i be doing. Thanks in advance
Lisa on November 29, 2018:
I have a 5 mo old Yorkie that has been diagnosed with a liver shunt. They say surgery is the only option. Did you have surgery on your baby Tess? The surgery is over $2500 and we just can’t swing that right now. If we have to we will figure it out if it’s life or death but is there any chance to save her without surgery ? Are there any other cheaper options for puppy food with liver shunts besides RC Dog food. She wasn’t acting right and was bumping into things and looked like she was gazing to the ceiling. Vets ran tests and say she needs the surgery in 2 weeks and have her meds and prescription food. What can I do? Please help !
sharonreynolds092 on September 20, 2018:
I have a 7 month old maltese just diagnosed with a liver shunt. I've changed her diet and use many of the foods that I found on your list. My question is when you've had to take tess in to to hospital what do they do for her?
Kim on September 18, 2018:
Thank you for sharing this anwzing article! My pug, Oreo who is 16 months old was diagnosed with a liver shunt 3 months ago. He would drool and walk laps around tge house in a daze, collapse, have seizures...he was lifeless. He was only 10 tiny lbs. It took a long time to get him on a diet that he would thrive from. It has made a 100 percent difference. He is now like a normal dog and up to 13 lbs! I love the food choices you have listed. I will add some of these to Oreo's diet for we are still learning about this condition!
debbie on July 26, 2018:
my little jug had stonres in bladder a year ago had operation to remove stones and put on royal canine urinary track food 3 weeks ago she had a second operation same thing triple the stones from 1st one Now they did blood work and others tests so now the vet tells me its a shunt around liver Has to change diet to a very low protein royal canine Im so afraid Just wondering if this is going to work so upset
Claudia Kroll on July 02, 2018:
Bailey is a 13 month old 8 pound male mini schnauzer. Do you alternate your veggies and fruits ? Tess's food list is quite long. How much of each do you give? Or do you cook it all and mix it together? Do you add enzymes or probiotics or anything else?
Mrs karen sammon on June 26, 2018:
Please I need your help.
I have a little cross pug named Alvon he's 17 month old and weighs just over 2 kg he's very small. He was urinating blood in Jan and vet removed a very large urate stone, it was sent to lab for testing and I was told he is to have no meat protein at all, so since Jan I've been feeding him on potatoes, mixed veg, white fish, boiled eggs, cottage cheese, and goats yoghurt, as I've not been sure what to feed him. 6 days ago he was bad again, he couldn't urinate at all, I rushed him to the vets who placed a cathater and emptied his bladder, they did bloods and his liver was showing within par, so they did bloods again to test for liver shunt and this came back showing liver high, vet has said it's likely to be a shunt and the cost will be around £5000 and like you I simply don't have this kind of amount. I just can't accept that Alvin has a shunt, as I had a pug 7 years ago and she was showing all signs of a shunt as Tess was, Alvins showing no signs what so ever. I don't want to loose him as I lost Lily, so I want to get him on a shunt diet asap just to be on the safe side. I need to know please I know you have listed the food above, but I need to know how you mix it, what you give her on typical days, or do you mix everything together as 1 meal, I'm also confused about the chicken and turkey if meat protein is not allowed, please can you help Alvin and myself Thankyou. An email address would be good if that's possible.
Debbie Lynn Heath on June 20, 2018:
Hello, My dog has had a liver shunt. Expensive hospital vet clinics etc. Then found a guy Rick Shares on 15 yr. Experience wit dogs n liver shunts. I started buying the new earth supplements with the new diet of purred vegs. The ones in your catagory.
The supplements are pretty expensive and wondering if you just feed your dog her veggies n turkey n chicken? No supplements and how is your dog doing at present ?I'm wanting to dive in and just do the food I prepare for her instead of all the expensive supplements.
When you have time I would appreciate some feed back.
PAT NELSON on May 22, 2018:
We just found out our little guy has liver shunt and I am start out to make his food.
Ric Burke on March 25, 2018:
We have a yorkie westie mix she has a couple of shunts . We toke her to have operation on Sat and her ammonia levels were extremely high. We were feeding her a lot of protein before her surgery and I guess it was to much trying to get her back in order been feeding her a vegtable diet mixed with pasta , and L/d can science diet seems she is doing good so far until retest next week . She is on Lactulose and nemycin what is the Karo for
Jim Williams on March 21, 2018:
does it matter if it is lite or dark Karo?
Patricia A. Boyd on March 04, 2018:
Your story has given me hope for my beloved Havanese girl named Nomie. Your story has also helped me from going from a state of being paralyzed with fear and sadness to actually feeling hopeful. Thank you for sharing.
Becky on January 02, 2018:
This is comforting to know I am not the only one dealing with this. I wasn’t expecting this to be common in a puppy! I have a 9 month old Yorkie, Ruby. She is so sweet and so much fun. She has the liver shunt as well as bladder stones. I’m trying to find a better vet in my area, the ones who diagnosed her gave us no hope. She’s to fragile for surgery, she won’t ever get fixed. They put her on Royal Science Hepatic canned dog food, but I want to be able to give her more. She loves to eat, I don’t feel like she’s getting enough nutrients.. I have been giving her carrots for treats, but will be adding rice and other veggies to her diet. Thank you for hope that Ruby can live a good life!
Diana Garrett on November 16, 2017:
My Yorkie mix has micro liver shunt as well. He started sowing signs at 5 years old. Been a long diagnosis. Our vets recipe is: white rice, ground chicken breast, mixed vegetables, pumpkin, sweet potatoes in the slow cooker. I just took rice, veggies, chicken & pumpkin mixed it together and added pumpkin. If really fussy my vet said top with a spoon low fat cottage cheese.
Lisa on November 10, 2017:
I am so glad to hear Tess is doing great. We have a Shorkie (shih you, yorkie mix)and she was diagnosed with a liver shunt this week. She is only three months old and I know the surgery is expensive so I am looking for another option. I would really like to try the food you have listed for her and see if that helps her. Can you email me I would like to ask you some more questions. Thank you email: [email protected] com
Sandra on October 26, 2017:
I noticed you have included Garlic in your list of foods for a dog with a liver condition, I have read many times that garlic is poison for dogs?
Zhorae on October 18, 2017:
Hi! My 4 month old yorkie has Lover shunt. I would love to email or chat with you to get some advice and some encouragement. It would be appreciated. I am excited to see is some hope without spending the money for the surgery.
Louise on October 03, 2017:
I five year old yorkie was diagnosed with a liver shunt could you please email me recipes for food for her cheese on Hill's prescription diet and she seems to be doing fine every other day every couple days but I'd like to add something else to her diet. [email protected] cglobal .net
Caz on July 01, 2017:
Hi, Thanks for this thread...
Congratulations on the success you've had with Tess.
My ACD has had liver shunt surgery over 12 months ago...He has definitely improved..He has gained weight and his demeanor is much friendlier.
I have a question which is not food related but (I feel) requires attention too.
What do you suggest for parasite worming prevention? I am so concerned about the many different types available on the market and the strong chemicals contained within these tablets. I am worried about the cumative effect to the livers and brains of the liver shunt sufferers. What are your thughts?
Lisa Broe on June 30, 2017:
Do you have a recipe for an egg and cottage cheese diet? I had been given this recipe but cannot locate it.
I have a 1-1/2 yo medium labradoodle who has a shunt and is on a raw meat, veggie, oatmeal and rice diet. She is doing well with milk thistle and lactulose.
Dianne Poirier on June 23, 2017:
I am so glad to hear that Tess is doing so good. I have a little Yorkie that I did have surgery on and seems ok. I have had her on a food called Natural Balance but she does not want to eat it I don't know if they changed it but she wants nothing too do with it. I am going to try your diet so glad you put it all down. When you say she has to go to the vet what is wrong with her, my little one is 2 years old and I would like her to be around for a long time. Thank you so much for all the information on Tess diet.
Martha on June 15, 2017:
Thank you for your wonderful article about Tess. My 9 month old Morkie puppie was diagnosed with Liver shunt. I would appreciate if you can guide me with the diet that you prepared or Tess.
my email: [email protected] thank you in advance
Diana V Harris on June 12, 2017:
Our dog Cocobean was considered in horrible condition. She is a Schnoodle. at one year she was diagnosed with liver shunts. Surgery did not work as she had several shunts so Dr Mison closed her up. He put her on Neomyecin and lactlose. Long story short she did ok but did not like to eat. I made rice with deli meats and topped with butter about a thimble full. She is now 8...she takes no meds is totally well and playful. The Doc thinks it is a miracle. I am here to say..She is full of love, energy and although she drinks allot of water she has normal blood work of all enzymes etc..Nobody knows wht....We just do what we do..she also eats bread with cream cheese, (which she loves) and grated cheese as well as Chicken broth . She has had no issues when she took meds she did. She had 2 mini seizures. so, that is our story. Cocobean is fine..Nobody understands it..must be the love she gives and gets. OH, BTW she is also deaf! Its amazing how she reads people and knows what is going on..somewhat psychic. So, God loves her and we get the gift o her every day!!
Christine Yi on June 06, 2017:
I just commented about my dog and if you could PLEASE email me about the recipes you used: [email protected]
Thank you so much for your time!
Diane Squires from Plymouth Meeting, PA on June 03, 2017:
Hi Susan, I see this post is a few years old, but I came across it during my sleepless night last night after my 4 year old dog Pippen was diagnosed with a liver shunt. I adopted her as a rescue a year ago and the vet has no idea how she has survived this long without her condition being managed. But here we are - she fell suddenly and frightening ill yesterday afternoon after acting perfectly normal the first half of the day. By the time I got her to the emergency vet hospital at 8pm she was almost non-responsive, it was devastating to watch her just sink further and further into this almost comatose state. They thought initially that she had ingested something toxic but on ultrasound they found the shunt and attributed her condition to ammonia. Today she is slowly but surely coming around. I visited her earlier and brought her favorite foods, broccoli and apple, because she wasn't eating the food they were trying to give her in the hospital. She was a ball of energy and kisses when she saw me, but quickly exhausted herself and fell asleep. I brought her my pillowcase to keep in her crate and now I'm waiting to hear how she is doing. The doctor is not recommending we jump to surgery right away so I did some research on diet last night, and that is how I came to your post. Your list of food is very encouraging to me because she already eats a great deal of it and loves it, so I am hoping that adjusting her diet should not be too difficult. If you have any additional advice I would greatly appreciate your input as I start on this very scary unanticipated journey with Pippen. Thank you so much.
Cassandra Cain-Hunter on May 08, 2017:
Thank You for you story. My poodle has been diagnosed with liver shunt disease. She does not like the can food. I want to cook for her. I am interested in what you are doing especially with the vegetables. You mean to tell me your dog likes veggies?
Tell me how to fix them.
Cookie on May 06, 2017:
My dog has liver shunt as well (diagnosed PSS Shunt at age 3). We put her on Royal canine Hepatic food for one year and started to make fresh food for her. we are doing similar thing as yours but do not use chicken or turkey. We use tofu, goat cheese or cottage cheese as protein source, add a tea spoon of poultry oil and some calcium powder. Our dog NEVER need to rush to hospital afterward. We do a yearly blood test. Now 4 years passed already. She is almost 7 and her blood test result is getting better.
bozette on April 25, 2017:
We just discovered that our Boston Terrier (Moira) has this. and I'm still over whelmed by it. I want us to do her food not buy it. The cost is over the top and I want to make sure she gets what she needs. Thank you for your site and what to put in her food. Now I did see that one lady with her dog that had this problem used eggs and their shells. I want to know how much can we keep it in the refrigerator or freeze it? also how much of each food item I'm used to 1cup or a 1/2 cup that kind of thing. how long to cook I haven't found that sort of thing yet.
Leslie on March 25, 2017:
My pug (mix), Twix, was diagnosed with a liver shunt when she was 5 (2 years ago). We discovered her body developed the shunt because she had a abnormally small liver and was in liver failure. She also has undersized kidneys and adrenal gland. She, too, had encephalopathy when she was diagnosed and was in very bad shape. The vet said they've never seen a shunt develop so late in life and the specialists were not optimistic. We got her on lavtulose, amoxicillin and prescription liver diet and were very careful about what she at. 2 years later she's medication free and still on the liver diet (which she loves). She's a ball of energy and loves the park and wading into streams. Recently move to Phoenix and have done some hiking with her, but she doesn't have the stamina or tolerance for the heat. Still, she's doing great. I shared this because even tho it can be scary, I want doggie parents to know that it's a manageable condition and I find diet makes all the difference in the world.
Denise Elliott on March 23, 2017:
One of my fb friends just sent me this article. I have a Yorkie that has a liver shunt and other issues like collapsing trachea. She is a very picky eater!! I have tried so many different types of dog food. For yrs I had her on the veterinarian prescription food. So I mixed peas and carrots and a tablespoon of chicken in it. I would also have to heat it for her. She is very spoiled! But i only about 2 months ago.
Kirsty McClymont on March 06, 2017:
Dear Susan, thank you so much for sharing this information. My 7 month old cocker spaniel has just had blood tests done and the vet thinks she has a liver shunt. She is a very small for her age and she has head tremors. Apart from her growth and tremors she is a really happy, lovely, bright dog who we love very much. She hasn't suffered any other symptoms yet but I want to do everything I possibly can to help her, we are going to have further tests done but in the meantime I want to change her diet. Reading Tess' story has really given me a lot of hope. Could you please tell me the amounts you feed Tess (of the ingredients you listed) and how often does she eat? Thank you so much again for sharing the information. My email is [email protected] : )
Brenda Padgett on February 25, 2017:
Thank you so much for your article. We're dealing with liver shunts in our year old shih su and trying to come up with a suitable diet. Having mixed results about chicken as a protein
some say cooked, raw, light, dark. Plus how much of each ingredient to mix. Thanks again for hope.
Linda Gorman on February 22, 2017:
My neighbors golden retriever just had a liter of pups and one of them is showing signs of a liver shunt. The breeder is willing to give me the beautiful pup. I can not afford surgery for him. I would like to try to save this pups life by taking him and put him on a home aid diet. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
Laura on February 18, 2017:
Sorry about Tess, my little Toy Poodle has the same issue. Thank god my Vet knew exactly what it was and has even adopted a dog with the same issue.
I have never had another episode as she is on a very strict diet with the liver food and only apples, carrots and banana's for now. My Vet said she'll never eat chicken or turkey again it's too much protein for her liver. I'm afraid your liver diet is causing more episodes. It's treated best when they eat small amounts throughout the day and not a lot at once.
Kristy Clark on February 16, 2017:
Where can I find out about the meals you fix for Tess?
Jennifer on January 19, 2017:
My 3 year old pug was just diagnosed with a liver shunt. He doesn't have any symptoms, and we are going to treat it with food. What are the measurements and such for the food?
Sandy denesha on January 06, 2017:
My little one and a half pound poodle was just diagnosed with liver problems. I would love to start her on your diet. I was wondering are the vegetables and fruits and olive oil and the other ingredients all mixed together.
Tobee's mom on January 02, 2017:
Garlic is extremely toxic to dogs!!
Andree on November 15, 2016:
So cool to read about you an Tess glad she is doing just fine.
Frimousse my tiny 8 year old 3kg Yorkie is also a liver shunt pup.
He had surgery but turned out he has multiple shunts so did not help.
With proper low protein food our tiny doggie is doing really good considering.
He loves pastas as treats. I give him his medicines in a spoon of fresh probiotic natural "lassi" 4xday.... So far so good.
Frimousse and Tess are fighters
Paws up !!!
lorraine on November 11, 2016:
how do I get your recipies?
Bonnie on October 20, 2016:
Just wondering if you use any daily supplements/vitamins with the meat and veggies?
Erik Isenhour on September 28, 2016:
We were just told our little ten month old Walter has a liver shunt. He is a Pomeranian and papillon mix. I actually run a few restaurants in the area and also have been fortunate enough to know my way around the kitchen. I had a few questions about diet plans. If you would be willing to email me we would really appreciate it. My email is [email protected]
Thanks so much for your time!
Danielle on September 18, 2016:
We have just been told our 3 month old Maltese x shitzu pup possibly has a liver shunt. Sadly our pet insurance won't cover the bills as we are 7 days out from our 30 day waiting period to claim and they now deem her condition as pre existing. I feel like we have hit a dead end street and would love to get your recipes if I could? My email is [email protected]
Thank you for sharing you story and bringing some light to ours!
Dori Hewett on September 15, 2016:
My doxie Princess is 4 years old. She has been treated for epilepsy since she was 4 months old. She has been on very low phenobarbital doses since then. We tried to take her off her phenobarbital. After two weeks she had a seizure. We took her to the vet and they gave her an injection of valium. She has since shown signs of a liver shunt. She goes tomorrow for an ultra-sound of her liver. She has been on a home made diet for 3 years of boiled rabbit, green beans, dog vitamins and probiotics. I would love to know exactly how to make this food that you make for Tess. I feel like this would be the perfect help for Princess. I need to do whatever I can to help my baby. Thank you
Mandy on September 14, 2016:
About a month and half ago, someone dumped a min pin down our private road. It was clear she was used for breeding. We took her to the vet for check up and a few days later she had a series of seizures. Upon having more tests she was found to have heartworm and a liver shunt. I am holistically treating her heartworm. Results are yet to be seen. But the vet wanted her to b fed science diet (This has been said to be one of the worst brands) and we said we would make her food as we do with our other 6 dogs. The vet told us that it is protein that causes the build up of ammonia. So this little girl get rice, a few lentils, squash or sweet potato, green beans all mashed up for breakfast. In the evening she has the same except she gets a bit of the other dogs dinner mixed in which is mixed veggies and chicken livers (she dosent get any huge chunks of liver tho, more for the taste). Also mixed in is some tumeric and flaxseed. She loves her sweet potato. She will even eat it as a treat and comes back for more. Other treats are pure ingredients shop bought snacks that don't contain meat. Usually banana and peanut butter. She also gets Liver defense drops from Only Natural Pet. It contains milk thistle which is the active ingredient in the prescribed vet drugs that cost a fortune. (i.e Denamarin). As I am treating her for heartworm she also gets heart and kidney support products also from Only Natural pet. She has improved immensely. The way I see it, is that as the liver is an organ that filters and cleans the blood, then it makes sense, not to give the dog anything unnatural, processed or synthetic. Keep the diet pure as possible and protein to a absolute minimum. Tofu can also be used as a protein substitute. Hope this helps as we have come along way in the month we have had this little girl. Oh and by the way, she is estimated to be about 10 years old and probably has had it all her life. So dont fret! I doubt the people who had her ever bothered to see what was wrong with her. The condition is manageable.
Donna Hoggard on September 13, 2016:
My dog had a liver shunt surgery 5 months ago. I would like to know if I can feed him regular food now. He will not eat the food the vet wants him to. Hills, or Royal Canin. Thank you. [email protected]
Sonja on August 27, 2016:
You have given me hope. My 1 year old Doxie has been diagnosed with a liver shunt. I would also appreciate your food ratios. [email protected]
Clare on August 24, 2016:
just a query having just fostered a pug at 1 year old who potentially may have a shunt.... high quality protein is key, I myself feed raw as it increases gut acidity plus an interesting ditto is that cooking any meat increases its protein content
Jennifer on August 13, 2016:
My beautiful little Japanese chin at 2 1/2 years old was diagonised with micro vascular disease. Low protein diet is recommended and lactalose 2mi twice daily . I liked your story and it makes me hopefully.does your dog only eat your food and does she take lactalose too. Should I try these foods as treats first before switching?? She's on hills kd food . She really likes the canned one . Thanks Jennifer l
AshleyR on August 03, 2016:
Hi! Did you keep Tess on medication throughout her life as well?
[email protected] on June 24, 2016:
This is fabulous news about your diet ,My Bichon has just been found to have a liver shunt , The vet has told me to feed her H A Purina dry food ,an Tablets Denamarin for liver support plus lactulose as this will help to get rid of toxins .Her food looks very bland and she is not interested ,so finding your Hub Page , has given me a great buzz to fed her something new . I would be very grateful for your recipe if you could email me .at [email protected] My dogs name is Bonnie her Brother is Buddy he has no problems both are 1yr 9 months .I am so pleased to hear Tess is doing so well . As my vet said Bonnie might only live about a year .She was my husband s dog an he passed away last may , i am hoping to have her as long as possible .Hope this wont be to much trouble to email me . Thank You So Much Marie McClure
wendyjo98 on June 18, 2016:
Thank you for posting your meal plan for Tess. Our 8 year old chihuahua had been suffering from mild seizures for some time. It wasn't until he started not being able to walk steady that the vet decided to run an acid bile test on him which showed abnormal liver function. His walking problem started out with not being able to navigate small steps to not being able to walk at all. He would also sway while laying down like he was seasick. The vet is assuming it is because of a liver shunt. Strangely, this presented later in his life rather than when he was a puppy. The vet said we should try lactulose and Science Diet L/D food to see if the symptoms would subside. (diagnosis has only been one week) He went from bad to worse in the 2 days we were waiting for the test to come back. He couldn't walk at all. He started getting much better after being on lactulose and the L/D food after just a couple of days. Unfortunately, we had to force feed him the food with a syringe. He won't eat it. I figured he didn't like the soft canned food, so I paid 75.00 for that huge bag of dry food in which the kibble is way too big. So I had to cut it smaller. The first day he chowed down on that food, but ever since, he won't eat it. I figured he wouldn't let himself starve, but he just won't eat. While he bounced back to being a happy dog, today he didn't seem himself. I was assuming it was becaue he isn't eating. So I found your site, and boiled him some chicken and he gobbled it up! I didn't know they could even have the chicken in their diet since there wasn't any in the L/D food. Since my vet is closed this weekend, I came to the internet to search for other food alternatives. I will trust your Vet's agreement that the diet you provided for your dog is just fine. He picked around the green beans though LOL I will try other vegetables :) But thank you again!
Tammi on June 14, 2016:
Im so glad to hear your tess is doing so well. I have a 5 month old Malshi she has MVD it is another form of liver shunt. It is on the inside of the liver. My Puppy Amber is on 2 different meds and L/D food. I wasnt to switch her to a homemade diet. I would love to chat with you if you have the time. My email address is [email protected] It would be great of you could help me get started on this diet and also chat with someone who is going throgh the same thing.
Hope to hear from you
yvonne mazzilli on May 23, 2016:
I can't tell you enough how enlightening reading this was. I have an almost 4 month old frenchie who is exhibiting signs of this. Loss of appetite...good days and bad days...frequent urination...etc. She is being tested on Friday and the vet said it is either liver shunt or she has to go to a neurologist. I have been to the ER once and vet often (during the off days) and nobody believes what I try to explain. Thank you for at least giving me hope and Olive, my baby girl is getting steamed chicken and rice as as well as some of the foods you mention in Tess' diet. You have given me a glimmer of hope in a day full of worry. Thank you.
sue newman on May 20, 2016:
Bob and I would be very grateful if you could please E.mail us the recipes you used for Tess. I am so concerned that anything I give him now will make his condition worse. Please could you give me some advise as to what to feed him and recipe ideas. Many Thanks to anyone that can help.
suenewman on May 19, 2016:
Our Beautiful Boy ...Bob...a German Shorthaired Pointer 10 yrs old was also diagnosed with Liver Stunt this week. Am desperate to get information on natural and healthy food for him. I have read the recipe that Tess had..... please can anyone help me ... and Bob ...more on how to start the indroduction to his change in diet?? have also read that a Raw meat diet is also best.... and Milk Thistle?
Like Maxbren comment....surgery is the only alternative... but his blood may now not clot....which would cause even more complications that we dont want to put him through! am at a loss of how to start to help him... can anyone please advise. thank you
maxbren on May 16, 2016:
I have read all the above messages and would really like to know what quantities go into your recipe. I have a mini Schnauzer that has just been diagnosed with liver shunt portosystemic. Have her on Hills L/D food right now but would like to go with natural and healthy foods. I would also feed this to my other animal that does not have any problems. PLEASE PLEASE help me as the only other alternative will be surgery.
Asya M on May 01, 2016:
Hi, your liver shunt diet and Tess'so story have really been a source of inspiration this part week. Thank you so very very much for sharing. My 3yr old yorkie, that I rescued last June, was just diagnosised and I just want to be able to help her and give her the best life I can. I know this article is 2 years old, but in this time have you learned anything additional to this diet that has helped? As I research I keep seeing people mentioning milk thistle. Have you tried it or anything else that has helped? I meet with a doctor soon about her new diet and how she is doing, but I want to get as much information as I can so I know what to ask. Thank you again!
Sabrina C on April 14, 2016:
I am very happy I found your site. My dog seems to be doing much better. I am worried that she isnt getting enough salt and fat. Right now Im feeding her ground turkey or chicken with rice green beans and carrots. Is there any vitamins I should be supplementing too??? [email protected]
Trish Streatfeild on April 13, 2016:
I have looked long and hard on the net for help, as my Australian Silky too have a gross P S shunt, your 1st article was fantastic, would love more info if available [email protected] Australia, Orange NSW
Lynn on April 06, 2016:
I have a 7 month old yorkie who was about to be put down because of her issues due to a liver shunt, she is eating the liver care food and is down to 1/2 ML of lactulose. I am so very happy to find this as I hate not being able to give her awesome food and treats. I have a couple questions for you, Does she still eat the liver care as well as the good food and do you still have her on the lactulose or is she thriving without it? Thanks so much for this!
Michelle on April 04, 2016:
Hi, your article was very informative. I have a tiny 2 lb 3 yrs old chihuahua that has been diagnosed with a hidden liver shunt. Science diet ld is the only thing that keeps her from star gazing. I have been wanting to get her off that crap food and this is what I have been looking for. I would love to speak with you directly about your ups and downs and maybe get a little more detail about how you cook what. Thanks so much
Antonette on March 18, 2016:
We just found out our precious Bella has a liver shunt. Diagnosed at 6months when she would not wake up from anesthesia from having her fixed. Only option for us is to control with diet and supplements. I am very hopeful after reading your article that we can continue to have Bella for years to come. The vet made it sound like we are lucky to have her still around. I will be trying your diet, and hoping that it works. Thanks for your article, It gives me hope that she can still strive on human food.
Pleshette Robinson on March 17, 2016:
This is such a beautiful story..I have a Maltese and she's only 5mo... And she has liver shunt ....I give my baby hepatic by Royal canin...a supplement called liver support by vet classic and milk thistle..... The milk thistle is amazing but I love the diet ..now I can add some amazing flavors to her nasty medicine food....
Johnece foraker on March 10, 2016:
Thank you for your diet for Tess!!! I Hav a 2 1/2 yr. old precious Chihuahua, not 5 lbs.. She has liver shunt. No food appeals to her, after she try's the first feeding. She has 4 lil sisters, an wants their food. I will try this. Again, thank you for posting the diet . I,v been so worried!!
Vivian Shoultz on March 03, 2016:
Hi, could you please share your recipes with me. We just found out that our 4 month old morkie, Gracie, has a liver shunt. We are desperately trying to find an alternative to the expensive surgery. I would greatly appreciate any advice and recipes. Thanks so much for sharing Tess's story with us!
Kay McCheyne on March 02, 2016:
My 6 month old pup has a liver shunt. Can you please give me details of your diet. He weighs 10 kilos and is very skinny. He has lots of energy but is always hungry and poos about 6 times a day with most of his food undigested.
I would like to know ratios of raw food and veggies.
Iggy on February 11, 2016:
Ok so I write this in the hopes of helping other liver shunt furbabys. Our Iggy Popsicle was diagnosed with a liver shunt at three months old we did opt to have an ameroid constrictor placed because the shunt was so large it was not ever going to allow her liver to grow - when we saw the size of the shunted vein in comparison to her other veins and the size of her liver we knew she had to have it closed off. So about three months post op we began to have problems with her one after another she was lethargic wouldn't drink water had pneumonia over and over several bouts of sever GI distress the last episode costing us $1200 and a diagnosis of a possible collateral shunt. We also had a problem getting her to eat her rx diet I mean we struggled everyday adding chicken broth, knox blox, homemade diets that only ended with acid reflux and regurgitating no matter how bland we thought it was no matter how much we blended them we were loosing her fast. She is now 1.5 years old and we weren't willing to give up on her so easily. The last specialist she saw told us to boil sweet potatoes and add a little chicken to the mash the result was severe GI distress again and aspirate pneumonia from regurging again. The rx diets were killing her!!!! The homemade diets were not for her either. So with our fingers crossed and a hope and lots of prayers we picked up a chub of Petfresh Chicken Veggie and Brown Rice and fasted her for a day (this was not a problem since she was refusing all food) Next day we put 1/2 a cup of the petfresh in her bowl and fed it to her by hand she was very interested in it and showed great enthusiasm for it but we expected the worse you know hepatic encephalopathy the whole nine yards ... we waited and nothing - no regurg no HE no stomach bloat - nothing so we gave her a second serving and nothing she is totally fine. Five days after starting her on this new food no problems her tummy and skin had turned black and this morning I notice it is almost creamy pinkish again. Petfresh saved our puppy!!! I couldn't believe it because we were always adamant on homecooking for our dogs. today she has had a half cup of petfresh for breakfast and since it's nice outside she is in the backyard playing and sunbathing like a normal dog!!!! She is also drinking water and not regurging it back out...I hope this helps someone out there struggling with this. Her urine is normal looking and smelling and so are her stools. Hopefully we continue on the path of recovery and we still plan on taking her in for bile acid testing and bun testing, this will be done next month because right now I do believe her body is healing! Hooray finally a huge glimmer of hope!
Iggy on December 29, 2015:
What about pumpkin, apples, or eggs? I was recently told by a vet to give our liver shunt baby cottage cheese because it's most like meat without being meat but I gave her just 1 tbsp of cottage cheese and she loved it but seemed off the rest of the day and it seems she had a hard time passing it and when she did the smell was indescribeable. I have however found goats milk and she loves it and does good with it. Is Tess on lactulose? Our pug takes it 2x's per day and we were given an at home Lactulose enema kit for when she seems a little hepatic because our last vet emergency cost us a small fortune and she was away from us for 3 days. Her last diagnosis was a colaterall shunt even though we opted to have the surgery done she still developed another shunt... Just curious if anyone else has experienced all this...
Carla on November 12, 2015:
I should've given you my email address [email protected] I used this address for all my doggie inquires. I get a lot of emails and I don't want important information to get lost in the yahoo.com acct. If you have any recipes that work that I could use for you so she won't get bored. I am so happy and glad to have case across this site because I am at my "wits end " because she is the 3rd dog that I have had issues with not getting and it is very stressful but I cant stand it when she IS hungry yet won't eat the L/D which is what they told me she could only eat. I have always been a firm believer that natural/home cooked food would be best but I never found anything that was as easy and simple though I will go to any length of time and work for her to get her to eat. I don't want to think that the vet's office promotes the "Hill's Prepscrition to make money off of it I'm sure they want you to try it first but my diabetic dog I had refused eating W/D and R/D Hill's Prescription food after awhile as well. I've put your site under "favorites" on my computer because I know I will be looking at it often and may be making future inquires to you. God Bless!
Carla on November 12, 2015:
I have a 2 year old pug that had liver shunt 1/15 and she was eating Hill's L/D prescription dog food. She has over the past week went from nibbling at it to not eating it at all. She is acting normal or playful self and wants to eat but she just walks away from it and I know she is hungry. Yester I gave her some low sodium slice chicken breast with a little cheese crumbled on it and she ate it and wanted more. I think she's tired of the L/D it must not have a bland flavor because that is no appealing order I think to entice her to eat it. I read your diet that you gave to Tess and I am definitely interested in trying this because I know she wants to eat. I tried raw green beans and carrots and she just chews them a little and spits them out. She currently weighsd 18lbs so I was wondering how much of this I should try to feed her and do you mix /mash it up together. I just chopped the chicken breast and crumbled the cheese on it and as I said she did finally eat it. I am in need of desperate help she is a rescue pug that we adopted in April and at first she ate the L/D but recently she hasn't had much of a taste for it. Thanks for anything you can tell me to help my precious little angel.
teachercarolf on November 04, 2015:
Our Molly is a springer spaniel. We opted out of the surgery that was suggested when she was 6 months old. The statistics for her surviving were very low. We chose to treat her by diet. She has been on hepatic diet and two different brands. It works most of the time but she gets very picky at times. I juice it up with cottage cheese or yogurt. We have an incident a year that brings her to the vet. Antibiotics and allergy meds bring her back. She is sensitive to a lot. Allergy to what ever but have found meds for the scratching and hives. She still head butts and paces. But, a good walk with her brother helps with that. She drinks gallons of water. I have been looking for a homemade diet as she seems to like human food better than the dog food.
Allen Family on September 21, 2015:
Our yellow lab puppy Jessica was diagnosed with a liver shunt about 10 days ago and everything I had read on-line was grim until I found this site. Jessica had been having major symptoms due to this liver disorder, throwing up, walking around in circles, head pressing on the wall and overall confusion. In changing from the commercial puppy food to the healthy diet ideas listed on this site she has made a complete turn around, she's back to being a happy go lucky puppy. We still have some additional tests to confirm the location of the shunt but it is nice to know we have options when we felt like we had none. I am happy to hear of all the success stories and so happy that Tess is doing well and you are able to help all of these other families impacted by the same diagnosis. Thanks a MILLION!!!
delrashell on September 11, 2015:
Thank you for publishing your liver shunt diet! We send you all a million hugs and kisses. We have a 1 yr old pug named Iggy Popsicle she had an ameroid constrictor placed at 3 months old and at 1 yrs old diagnosed with liver failure. We have been following Tess's diet and her hepatic encephalopathy symptoms have slowed down and hopefully we can continue to get things back to normal. We were feeding her the rx diet from the vet but things just kept getting worse. Thank you so much for sharing we were always scared to feed her our food but no longer do we have this fear. We regret having the constrictor placed as her blood work has been terrible since we did so but we keep our fingers crossed that things continue to go smoothly and that we get better results next month. A million hugs and kisses for Tess and her owners from Iggy Popsicle and her owners. THANK YOU.
Gina Folkedahl on September 09, 2015:
could I get please have some recipes for a 2 lb yorkies diet with a liver shunt... not sure how much of what to feed her please help she has just been diagnosed ... Sad day. [email protected]
Jenna Byington on July 13, 2015:
I am so glad I found your page and that Tess is doing well on this diet. My 2yr. old yorkie was having problems urinating and so I took him to the vet thinking he had a UTI. Turns out he had a massive bladder stone and his bladder was fused to his belly making it 3x bigger. We scheduled a surgery to remove the stone and fix his bladder. Right before his surgery they did a blood test and found out he also has a liver shunt (the high toxins in his body actually caused the bladder stone). So now we are trying to get it under control through his diet. Poor guy can't get the stone removed until he is cleared for surgery, he will get checked in 3 weeks again. He is on the Hills dry food (expensive, yet boring for him). He also takes lactulose and amoxicillin twice daily. I would love if you could send me your recipes as well. Thank you so much.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on March 15, 2015:
I am so happy that Tess has done well with her special diet! Bless you for being a responsible pet owner and taking her health seriously. Her diet sounds mighty tasty to me, and I'm sure my Daisy (yellow Lab) would love everything on the list except for the Italian dressing (she prefers creamy Caesar). Long live Tess!
Lindsey Major from TBay ON on September 21, 2014:
So Glad I found Tess's story. Excellent to hear she's managing well. My 2 year old pomeranian, Lady, was told she could have a possible shunt at 6 months old when blood work was done prior to her spay. We have used hills prescription diet ever since. Now we are facing problems associated with the shunt: bladder stone and high bile acids in her blood. We were suggested the shunt surgery. Its been many days of researching and questions. I feel 5 lb little Lady would be high risk for this surgery. Can you please give your opinion and what made Tess high risk? as well lactulose? It would be awesome to hear from you.
Kort on September 08, 2014:
When you prepare the veggies how do you cook them?
Jo Nottingham on September 01, 2014:
Hi I would like the recipe too please
Maribel on August 16, 2014:
Thank you very much for this post. My 3 month toy Yorkie named Kirby, has just been diagnosed with a liver shunt as well and right now I don't have the money for his surgery. I was wondering if you could also share your recipes with me. My email is [email protected] really hope to hear from you please. I'm so desperate and don't want to lose my puppy.
Susan McLeish (author) from Rindge, NH on June 24, 2014:
I have had many requests for amounts based on dog breeds. Please click the link below the end of this hub to continue to Tessa's Diet part 2. Thanks for all the comments.
Nanette on June 17, 2014:
Thank you for sharing all this information. We almost lost our 7 yr old jack Russell this past March. He was in the ICU for 2 days with uncontrolled seizures. Finally the meds kicked in and he was able to go home but we didn't have a diagnosis even though we spent thousands of dollars at this emergency hospital. We found a new vet who looked at our dog's bloodwork including liver enzymes and guessed he had a shunt. We decided to try a new diet and supplements first before getting an expensive ultrasound to confirm what we probably know already. Well 2 months later after being on the diet on this site (and some others) and using supplements such as bone meal, magnesium, milk thistle, potassium (salt substitute) nutritional yeast and super green algea, our dog's liver enzymes came back perfectly normal -actually better than normal. And he hasn't had a seizure since. Thanks again for the knowledge!
Lue on April 26, 2014:
Hello thanks for your post it really was useful, I also passed on the surgery and now find myself trying out different diets, my dogs 11 pounds he's a small terrier/chihuahua mix. I'm curious about how you mix her food and are you giving her a certin vitamin, I currently have my dog taking milk thisle and it seems to work, but here and there I'll have an episode when he feels off, and then I'm back to the drawing board with his diet, and info would help. Thank you!
stannington on April 23, 2014:
Hi, we have a 9 month old lab called Harvey who is in the process of being diagnosed with a liver shunt. He is having a bile acid blood test tomorrow to try and confirm the diagnosis more. We are feeding him on vegetables, pasta, rice, eggs and a little fish. We would be grateful for any advice you could give us and any recipes we could do for a large dog like Harvey.
Many thanks in anticipation
Keeley and Simon Shirtcliffe, Stannington, Sheffield, UK
Susan McLeish (author) from Rindge, NH on April 07, 2014:
Sonya Longbotham on April 05, 2014:
Hi, I also have a sweet toy yorkie, Mini Cooper, (approx 2-3 lbs) who has been living with a liver shunt for two years. Surgeries were out of the question bc of likelihood of survival (Coop dropped from 2 to 1lb at the onset). We've been giving him lactulose and neomycin along with low protein presc dog food. He hates the dog food, so we have added various things to it to entice him to eat. I would love to get your recipes - showing the proportions of chicken to veggies. The constant dilemma is, will he eat, if not then he can progress quickly to shakes and if not stopped soon enough will go into seizures. We have nausea meds to help Coop eat, but they make him miserable for at least 6 hours. Mashed potatoes were working great, but now that doesn't work. Today I fixed rice cooked in chicken broth, Chinese peas, water and chicken breast and blended together - he ate it up quickly. I'm sure a little variety will continue to help. Thanks for sharing about your loved pets. Again, I'd love to hear about recipes all of you have tried with success.
Susan McLeish (author) from Rindge, NH on April 01, 2014:
Tess is not a fan of tofu LeeLee. But a small spoon of yogurt every once in a while is acceptable to her. I wish I had the answer for you but by the sounds of it, you have quite a finicky eater. The only other veggie Tess enjoys at times is organic pumpkin. You will find it near all the pie fillings. My vet ok'd that as an alternative veggie.
The surgery, for me, is just too risky in pugs. The survival rate is very, very low. The more research I looked into, the worse it was for them and my wallet.
The situation is hard but just remember love will prevail!
All the best to you.
Liver Diets for Dogs with Chronic Liver Disease
I get many emails from people who have been instructed to feed a low protein diet to dogs with liver problems. However, protein is not harmful to the liver. Protein is essential for proper liver function. It is the ammonia proteins produce that cause issues with dogs in chronic end-stage liver disease or dogs with liver shunt issues. When a liver is severely damaged, or there is a shunt issue, ammonia gets into the body and can cause problems. Therefore, for these specific liver problems, it is important to know which proteins produce the least amount of ammonia.
Dogs with minor liver problems can eat a regular home-cooked or raw diet however, the amount of fat should be reduced. One of the main functions of the liver is to breakdown fats and a compromised liver can struggle with this task, so diets lower in fat are recommended.
High quality protein is important for the health of the liver. Using poor quality proteins or too little protein can result in liver damage. Animal proteins contain the right complementary amounts of amino acids needed for good health. Plant proteins, such as grains and plant sources lack some of the amino acids that are essential for organ health and repair. Animal-based proteins help keep the liver healthy and give it the ability to regenerate.
Proteins that produce the least amount of ammonia include eggs and dairy products (yogurt, and cottage cheese). Fish and chicken also produce lower amounts of ammonia. Red meats appear to produce the most ammonia. However, as stated above, the amount of ammonia in proteins is only a concern when the dog has chronic liver disease or liver shunt issues.
Complex carbohydrates contribute soluble fiber, which helps absorb ammonia and reduce nitrogenous wastes. Some carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, contain more soluble fiber than other carbohydrates. Therefore, carbohydrates higher in soluble fiber are recommended in diets for liver disease.
Fat is also important for energy and calories. However, fat is processed through the liver, so for dogs with liver disease, this can cause distress. Therefore, it is important to feed only easily digestible fats and in reduced amounts.
To summarize, dogs suffering from chronic liver issues or liver shunt issues should be fed high quality, low ammonia producing animal proteins, complex carbohydrates that are high in soluble fiber and low amounts of quality fats.
Dogs dealing with moderate liver issues can be fed a normal home-cooked or raw diet, with care taken to reduce the fat content. You can easily reduce the amount of fat in the diet by offering low or non-fat yogurt and cottage cheese, removing the yolk from eggs, feeding low-fat meat and trimming any extra fat and skin from poultry.
Good foods to feed a dog with liver disease include:
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Low fat yogurt
- Chicken with skin and visible fat removed
- Whole wheat bread
- Pulped vegetable skins
- Canned pumpkin
- Meat fat
- Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA Fish Oil or Salmon Oil (Not cod liver oil)
A sample diet might look like this:
– 50% cottage cheese, egg and chicken, cooked, with the fat drained.
– 20% canned plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
While some may interpret this diet as being 50% protein, please remember that the protein sources listed are high in moisture, fat and connective tissue. Therefore, the actual amount of protein is less than 20%.
An average dog should consume about 2% to 3% of their body weight daily. Therefore, a 100-pound dog would get two to three pounds of food daily and a 25-pound dog would get eight to 12 ounces daily. A cup is about 8 ounces, however, I recommend weighing the food initially when you first start the diet to insure you are feeding the proper amounts.
Here is a sample diet for a 50-pound dog:
– 6 ounces of low-fat cottage cheese
– 4 ounces of cooked chicken with the fat drained
– 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of cooked oatmeal
Variety is important to ensure the most nutrients are being offered and to keep the dog interested in their food. Using the ingredients listed above, this diet can be varied.
Below are some additional recipe samples for a 50-pound dog:
– 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of cooked oatmeal
– 4 ounces steamed or cooked broccoli, cauliflower or sweet potatoes
– 4 ounces drained and rinsed canned or cooked Salmon
– 5 ounces low-fat cottage cheese
– 2 slices of whole wheat bread
IMPORTANT NOTES TO REMEMBER:
Each dog’s metabolism is different. Once you begin the new diet, watch your dog’s weight carefully. If your dog starts to look thin, serve more food. Conversely, if your dog begins to gain weight, reduce the quantity of food fed. You should be able to easily feel the ribs but not see them when you observe your dog.
It is also helpful to serve small, frequent meals each day, as opposed to serving one or two larger meals, to allow the liver to adequately process fats.
Additionally, home-cooked diets are naturally low in salt. This helps prevent ascites (fluid retention), which arises in some forms of liver disease. Do NOT add extra salt to the diet and be sure to drain and rinse canned fish thoroughly.
For dogs with liver issues that DO NOT have ammonia leakage, a normal diet, with reduced fat content, is fine.
Useful Supplements for Dogs with Liver Disease:
Several supplements are beneficial for dogs suffering from liver disease.
The recommended diets above that are suggested for liver compromised dogs do not include the amount of calcium needed. Therefore, calcium supplementation is necessary. Save the eggshells from the eggs, and dry them overnight. Grind them in a coffee bean grinder and add them back into the diet at 1/2 teaspoon per pound of food served. Another option is to give calcium carbonate or calcium citrate at 900 mg per pound of food fed.
Food options can be limited when your dog is dealing with chronic liver disease or shunt issues. Therefore, I suggest adding Berte’s Green Blend to your dog’s diet to help ensure they are getting all the needed trace minerals.
The Berte’s Digestion Blend contains betaine for liver support and the enzymes pancreatin and pancrealipase, which helps break down fats in the stomach before they reach the liver. Additionally, dogs with liver disease need help producing vitamin K. Beneficial bacteria helps produce vitamin K. Berte’s Digestion Blend contains the beneficial bacteria needed to help produce vitamin K.
Berte’s Immune Blend is a multi-vitamin blend that contains water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin C production is lost with liver issues and the liver has problems storing fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and E. Additionally, B vitamins help support the liver. Berte’s Immune Blend vitamins contain all these needed vitamins without adding additional minerals. I suggest giving this supplement at one-half the recommended dose.
Fats are essential for energy and Omega 3 fatty acids are renal protective. The best sources of Omega 3’s are EPA Fish Oil or Salmon Oil (NOT cod liver oil). These should be given at 1,000 mg per 20 – 30 pounds of body weight daily.
Other Supportive Liver Supplements Include:
This herb has been found to help regenerate the liver and remove toxins. Milk Thistle comes in both capsules and liquid tincture, so you can decide which is best for you to use depending on the proper dosage for the dog.
SAM-e, also known as denosyl, helps to improve hepatic function. Several research studies have been done on SAM-e showing excellent results. SAM-e should be given in between meals and not with meals. The dosage is approximately 200 mg per 50 pounds of body weight.
This amino acid has been found deficient in human patients with advanced cirrhosis of the liver, and is being advised for dogs with liver disease as a supportive measure. L-Carnitine deficiency can cause protein starvation. Give approximately 500 mg per 50 pounds of body weight.
L-Arginine is another amino acid that has shown effectiveness in helping with hepatic circulation and increased oxidation. The dosage runs approximately 250 mg per 50 pounds of body weight daily, if needed.
- These diets do NOT‘cleanse’ the liver, nor is that possible.
- For dogs with ammonia leakage issues, a diet using reduced ammonia producing foods helps remove discomfort and nausea.
- Keeping the protein levels high enough is important, as proteins are the building blocks for the maintenance, health and support of the liver.
- I suggest feeding all dogs with a compromised liver, chronic end-stage liver disease and dogs with liver shunt issues small, frequent meals daily. This gives the liver a chance to adequately process fats.
- Be sure to have your veterinarian monitor your dog’s blood work regularly so proper liver function can be continually assessed. This helps with further diagnosis, treatment AND diet decisions!
April Showers bring May Flowers . . .Happy Spring!
Rain brings dampness and humidity, so as the temperatures warm up be sure to
check your dog’s ears for yeast. It can multiply with higher humidity and temperatures!
Springtime also means it is Heartworm season, so be sure your dog gets proper Heartworm prevention!
Fleas and flies also love springtime, so keep your dogs safe from those critters too!
On a final note, Get up, Get moving and Get Walking! Your puppies love long walks in the fresh air!
Get moving! We can all use some exercise after this long, long winter!
Vet Directory: Find a local vet near you
What is the best diet for a dog who recently got diagnosed with a liver shunt?
My 2 year old yorkie just got diagnosed with a liver shunt. The vet put her on Hill's Prescription Diet l/d but every time I feed her, she just doesn't seem satisfied. What foods can I feed her for a natural diet that is low in protein but will satisfy a picky eater.
By: Kara McCarty El Segundo, CA
Unfortunately low protein diets sometimes don't taste very good. Carbohydrates added to the food, like cooked rice or potatoes, in small amounts may improve the flavor and probably won't hurt your dog. You can also try adding either the liquid portion or a small amount of cooked noodles in a cup to the food to improve palatability. Royal Canin LS is another restricted protein diet that some dogs find more palatable. You can have your veterinary clinic special order it for you if they don't keep it in stock. If all else fails here is a link with a recipe for homemade food: http://www.vet.utk.edu/clinical/sacs/shunt/Liver_diet.pdf
Although homemade diets are more labor intensive and difficult to keep balanced it's important for your dog to eat so if all else fails give it a try.
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My dog has liver problem with phenobarbital
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Can Adequan cause bleeding tendencies, could it be harmful to her spleen mass and/or kidneys? My dog has had three Adequan injections now, over the course of 1 1/2 weeks. She is old and also just started taking a course of Acetaminophen for gum disease. About a year ago, we tried Metacam for her arthritis but it caused problems with her kidney. We also know she has a mass on her spleen about the size of a small grapefruit. As I said, she's had three injections and seems "out of it" sleepy. One of her rear legs also seems to be "giving out" on her at random moments. Thank you, Cath
Possible dog liver shunt with these results?
I had an enzyme test on my yorkie and the Alt was 131 and the Glu was 161 after eating. Could this be a concern for possible liver shunt? Here are the results. Male Yorkie approx 3lbs, 6 months old.ALB - 3.2ALP - 68ALT - 131AMY - 686TBIL - .2BUN - 18CA - 10.3PHOS - 4.9CRE - .4GLU - 161NA+ - 144K+ - 5.8TP - 5.5GLOB - 2.2-
Dog has high ALT values for 2 months without clinical signs
My mutt Sharik, 3 years old, 2 mths ago had a pustular rash on hairless areas, there was a rise of ALT (176 u/l), ALKP - 80 U/l, GGT 7 U/l. We did ultrasound-ok. Viral tests-negative for the most common viruses. Here (in Ukraine) we don't have bile acids test. We treated pyoderma and liver condition with Ceftriaxon 10 days, Ciprofloxacin 10 days, Heptral+ Ursofalk.After antibiotics ALT-94 U/l, Creatincinase-99. We stayed on heptoprotectos, after 2 weeks ALT - 157 again.What can it be? Thank you.
Dog liver enlarged with lesions and fluid retention
we noticed her abd.right away took her in lab work and pills for 2 weeks..lab work only got elevated after the 2 wks.we got xray and u/s showed a lot of fluid and u/s showed enlarged liver with destructive lesions.the vet says draining the fluid would be worthless it would return within 24hrs? She is on lasix 50mg 2xday and keflex 50mg 2day will this work? or is it impossible to remove that amount of fluid with pills. she is eating and drinking well.
Can a reaction to the dog Lyme vaccine mimic liver shunt's disease?
14 week maltese had a reaction to Lyme vaccine, shaking and tremors. 6 days later developed seizure like activity, unable to walk, did not recognize name. Went to Tufts Univ. Hospital, appeared to be fine. 2 days later had the Bile Acid test done. Bile Acids (fasting) results were 21.9 and Bile Acids Post Prandial 52.9. How often would symptons occur in Porto-systemic shunt? Would eating (Eukanuba, Bil-Jac, Royal Canin all small breed puppy) cause hepatic enzymes levels to be elevated?
Recipes for Dogs with Liver Disease
#1 – Fish & Ground Beef Recipe for Dog with Liver Disease
If your dog has elevated liver enzymes which could be due to ammonia in the blood (Hepatic Encephalopathy) or he or she is vomiting bile, this recipe is not ideal. Detoxing your dog first is the best thing to do for a dog with any type of liver issues PERIOD! This recipe can possibly be slowly incorporated later. See the link at the beginning of the page for immediate guidance.
Again, do NOT feed this recipe if your dog has copper storage disease or hepatic encephalopathy. If you’re not sure, ask your dog’s vet if your has excessive amounts of copper in the liver. If you still don’t know, treat your dog like he is storing copper and use the above link for immediate help.
Most often traditional veterinarians will want to place a dog with liver disease on a prescription diet such as Hills LD. We do not recommend these types of diets at all. Homemade recipes for dogs are good for the health of dogs.
**NOTE:Since brown rice contains 50% more arsenic than white rice, there is a method that you can use to significantly reduce arsenic levels in any rice if you choose to:See Dr. Lee’s article here.
- 8 Cups of well-cooked brown rice (1560 grams)
- 7 Cups peeled, cooked and mashed sweet potato (1000 grams)
- 3 Cups cooked and chopped chicken livers (420 grams)
- 7 large hard-boiled eggs chopped
- 2 Cups poached, flaked, boneless haddock, cod or other whitefish (not tuna, shark or mackerel)
- 18 ounces regular ground beef, cooked in a little water but not overly browned
- Mix together and allow to cool completely. Stir in 1 tablespoon of fish oil.
- Next, YOU MUST and I repeat MUST add the following supplements in order to balance the diet:
- Calcium: Include 8-1/2 level teaspoons of pure calcium carbonate powder to the recipe.
- Iodine: Add 6 kelp tablets (take apart and sprinkle over the mixture).
- Zinc 50mg: Finely crushed and sprinkle THREE (3) through-out the food.
- Manganese 10mg Caps: Add TWO (2) finely crushed caps.
- Copper 2mg: Sprinkle SEVEN (7) of the capsule throughout the food.
- Coconut Oil: THIS SHOULD BE ADDED DAILY and NOT ALL ONCE -Add 1/2 teaspoon daily to your dog’s food.
Using your hands, mix the food really good so that the supplements are mixed evenly through the food. Divide the food into 7 even batches and place in a freezer bag and freeze. Pull a bag out of the freezer the day before. Divide the bag into two meals for your dog that day.
#2 – Chicken and Salmon Recipe for Dogs with Liver Disease
Again, if your dog has elevated liver enzymes which may be due to excess ammonia levels in the blood (Hepatic Encephalopathy) or he or she is vomiting bile, then detoxing your dog first is the best thing to do for any form of liver issues PERIOD! The recipe may be used later once your dog is stabilized. Use our link above for immediate help in stabilizing your dog’s condition.
- 7 Cups well-cooked brown rice cooked very well (1365 grams)
- 2 Cups (measure out 2 cups of raw Quinoa) then cook (340 grams)
- 3 Cups peeled, cooked and mashed sweet potato (600 grams)
- 9 Cups lightly cooked ground chicken with fat (990 grams)
- 3 Ounces poached liver finely chopped
- 2 – 6 oz cans low sodium sockeye salmon (170grams per can)
- Allow this mixture to cool and stir in one tablespoon of fish oil. Add all of the following supplements.
- Calcium: Eight and one half (8.5) LEVEL teaspoons and sprinkle evenly over food. *Again, it should be noted that Lulu was given 1 cup of cottage cheese daily effecting the amount needed in the recipe.
- Iodine: Sprinkle SIX (6) capsules evenly over the food.
- Zinc 50mg: Finely crush and sprinkle FOUR (4) evenly over food.
- Manganese 10mg: Finely crush and add ONE (1) evenly to food.
- NO COPPER NEEDED
- Coconut Oil: THIS SHOULD BE ADDED DAILY and NOT ALL AT ONCE -Add 1 teaspoon daily to your dog’s food.
Using your hands, mix the food really good so that the supplements are mixed evenly through the food. Divide the food into 7 even daily portions and place them in individual freezer bags. Freeze and pull out what you need the day before. The bag is for two daily meals.
**Please be sure to read both of our articles on Dandelion Root and Burdock Root which are very powerful tools for your dog’s liver problems.
Copyright June. 2012, Janie Knetzer, YourOldDog.com
Editor’s Note: The blog post was originally published in September 2011 and completely revamped and updated for accuracy in November 2019.
Vanilla Yogurt Cookies
3 Cups of White rice flour
4 Beaten egg whites
1 Cup of Plain whole fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the beaten eggs, vanilla, honey and yogurt. Stir in the flour until a nice dough consistency is formed. Roll out to 1/4″ thickness on a floured surface and cut out into the shape of your choice. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake the treats for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
*Recipe includes 360 mgs of phosphorus and 166 mgs sodium You can cut this recipe in half if you prefer.