What is a liver shunt?

Liver shunts cause serious and sometimes fatal outcomes in dogs. A liver shunt, or a portosystemic shunt, is a normal fetal blood vessel that in the womb bypasses liver tissue, allowing the mother’s system to filter out toxins for the developing puppy. In some animals, however, the shunt remains open after the animal is born, compromising its liver function, slowing growth, and eventually resulting in the death of many affected animals.

What are bile acids?

Bile acids are produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder between meals. They are released into the intestines to help break down and absorb fats and are reabsorbed and stored again until they are needed. Dogs with liver shunts have increased blood bile acid concentrations because the liver does not get a chance to remove and store these chemicals after they are reabsorbed.

So please when buying your puppy ask to see his or her liver shunt certificate, and enquire if that certificate is included in your puppy pack because it should be. At no extra cost to the breeder either. Check the microchip number against your puppy’s number.  This can be found in the centre column underneath the Idexx name.  See Test Report for one of my puppies.  It still happens that breeders don’t test, or say they have tested, and haven’t, for whatever reason.  If breeding it is also inadvisable to use any dog which has had the liver shunt, so check that both parents tested clear too. 

More very useful information can be found here: