By SANDY BARNOSKY
Shadow was the product of a backyard breeder who sold him with American Kennel Club papers for $150 to an unsuspecting buyer.
At 8 months old, he weighed only 19 pounds, but the buyer was told it was because he was the runt of the litter. After having him only a week, she realized he wasnâ€™t acting like a normal, boisterous puppy and suspected something was wrong. She turned him over to a local rescue organization, but even after three months in their care, he weighed only 31 pounds and could not be housebroken.
Due to his size and quiet behavior, their veterinarian ran blood tests and determined he might have a liver condition and needed further testing. Being unable to afford the needed tests, the group contacted Golden Retrievers In Need and released him into their care.
More blood work was done at Animal Medical Centre, and when his white blood cell count and liver acid bile test both came back extremely high, an ultrasound was performed to determine the cause. It was confirmed Shadow had a portosystemic shunt, a condition where an abnormal blood vessel allowed blood to bypass the liver. In addition, he had kidney stones.
He was put on liver support medication and antibiotics and Dr. James Vogt, a specialist in portosystemic shunt surgery at Akron Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center, was contacted to do the necessary surgery.
Congenital liver shunts are believed to be hereditary, and dog breeders should be aware of signs of liver disease so potential carriers of the problem can be identified and eliminated from the breeding program. Warning signs are disorientation, vomiting, blindness, compulsive pacing or circling or small, thin dogs.
The liver is responsible for detoxifying the body and metabolizing nutrients, but when the blood flow bypasses the liver, toxins are allowed to enter the bloodstream.
Dogs with liver shunts are not able to assimilate the protein from their food and sometimes suffer from seizures due to a build-up of toxins.
Shunts can be multiple or single. Congenital shunts tend to be found in younger dogs and cats, while acquired shunts tend to occur in older animals because of severe liver disease such as cirrhosis.
The two types of liver shunts are intra-hepatic, which occur within the liver, and extra-hepatic, located outside of the liver. Surgery can correct the shunt, although the intra-hepatic type is more difficult to find and close off. The abnormal vessel shunting blood around the liver is identified and closed off to force blood to flow back through the liver.
The good news for Shadow was that his shunt was extra-hepatic, which made it a less invasive surgery. While in surgery, his kidney stones were removed, and he was neutered. He made it through the surgery wonderfully and was ready for recovery in a foster home.
Kim Funai, a G.R.I.N. volunteer for 15 years, asked that he be placed in her care, since she works at Animal Medical Centre and would have quick access to medical personnel if he required help. With plenty of TLC, heâ€™s recovering while on liver support medication and a low-protein diet. At first he was quiet and scared, but heâ€™s warmed up a lot, made great strides with housebreaking, and is finally gaining some weight, she said.
â€œWe can tell heâ€™s feeling better, because heâ€™s starting to act like a young golden, and trying to keep him quiet has been quite a task,â€ she said.
At his three-week follow up appointment with Vogt, he was doing great but was restricted to two more weeks of limited activity. An acid bile test will be given in five more weeks to confirm his liver is functioning, re-developing and operating normally. If the results are good, heâ€™ll be taken off his prescription food and medication and will develop like any other normal dog. As his liver grows to a normal size, this little 1-year-old boy finally will start growing and may be able to reach three-quarters the size of a normal male golden retriever.
The surgery was expensive, but without it, even on liver support medication, Shadow would have had a limited life span and the possibility of seizures or other complications for the remainder of his life. Because of help from G.R.I.N., he will be a happy and normal golden retriever.
For more information on G.R.I.N., go to: www.grinres
Barnosky can be reached at 330-725-4160, ext. 4075, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256.