Liver Shunt – Bailey’s Story


First of all, thank you so much for sharing your time and efforts! We were blind-sided when our almost nine-year old Cairn Terrier, Bailey, was diagnosed with liver disease. Your website was one of the first I read looking for hope and guidance. But her outcome seems to be unique, so I would like to share it with anyone that may be facing the same challenges.

Last year we were in the process of trying to find a new home and we were under a great deal of stress, so when Bailey, our 8-year-old Cairn Terrier, started moping around I thought she was just keying onto our stress. When the groomer said Bailey had lost weight, we took her to the vet who tested her for Thyroid which turned out to be okay. We increased her food and that seemed to help with her weight. We moved in December, and it looked like Bailey was missing her friends and having trouble transitioning to living on a concrete slab and her joints seemed painful. Then, in January of this year, Bailey threw up on me, so I took her to our new vet. They took X-rays and did blood work, but we had to go to another vet for the ultrasound, so we took her back to our previous vet – a one-hour car ride away.

Both vets assured us that since Bailey was almost nine, there was no way she had a shunt, as that is a birth defect and would have been detected early in her life. The vet prescribed Denamarin. Then, through my online research, I found that there is special food for liver disease. At that time it seemed any day could be her last.

In desperation, I sent her X-rays to our other dogs’ allergist, Dr. Patricia White, who noticed fluid in Bailey’s abdomen. She also asked if we were working with an Internal Medicine specialist. From there we took Bailey to Blue Pearl Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Sandy Springs, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta). Dr. Lisa Langs performed the examination and consulted with us at some length. The next step was exploratory surgery to gather liver samples and “look around.” This was a very difficult decision – this is a very expensive procedure and, according to the vets, it may not give us any helpful information. But, we had spent thousands on our other dogs for their allergies, so I could not say no to my Bailey. On my 50th birthday, we drove our girl to the vet and dropped her off before the sun came up so she could have the surgery. Two days later we picked her up and the surgeon, Dr. Julie Duval, told us that Bailey had a shunt! Her blood work and bile acid test did not indicate a shunt, so the surgeon was surprised, but she said that Bailey will probably live her normal life span! We stopped the Denamarin, started her on Lactulose and we continued the special food. It is one month later and Bailey’s body condition is back to normal and she has so much more energy! She had her ninth birthday this past Thursday!

My husband and I have been gobsmacked that she has lived so long with a liver shunt and have been trying to understand how she could have lived so long without a diagnosis until now. The only explanation we can come up with is that we have taken great care to feed her and her brother the best food possible, as Bruce has extreme allergies. We learned with allergies, and it holds for liver disease, that the right food makes all the difference. She has done well with both Hill’s l/d and Royal Canin Hepatic formulas.

So thank you again for your help! We were blessed with great vets from the beginning to the conclusion of this process. To anyone visiting your website, I would like to tell them to not give up hope, and if they can afford it seek other opinions and don’t give up!


April 21, 2014 by Lisa  
Filed under Blog