Portosystemic shunt in cats: what it is, what the symptoms are and how to treat it

Have you ever heard of portosystemic shunt in cats? Let’s find out the effects of this rare pathology together.

Of some diseases we do not even know the existence; and with the mere pronunciation of the name, we can hardly imagine what effects they entail. This is the case of the portosystemic shunt, which can also affect the cat : a rare disease that is not always curable. Let’s find out together what it is.

What is that

The term portosystemic shunt refers to an abnormal condition of a single or multiple blood vessel in the cat’s body, which introduces blood from the abdominal area directly into the systemic circulation, bypassing the purifying action of the liver.

Portosystemic shunt can be congenital or acquired. In the first case, therefore, it is present from the birth of the kitten, which will show the first symptoms within the first year of life. There are two forms of congenital portosystemic shunt:

  • Intrahepatic , i.e. inside the liver. This shape is not operable, both because of its position and because it involves a plurality of blood vessels. The good news is that it rarely affects cats;
  • Extrahepatic , i.e. present outside the organ. This is the most frequent form in the feline; in this case the genetic anomaly, which involves a single blood vessel, is operable.

The portosystemic shunt can also be acquired, that is, it arises as a consequence of cat liver diseases; also in this case it is not possible to intervene surgically.

Symptoms of portosystemic shunt in cats

How to realize that the feline is afflicted by this pathology?

It is not easy to reconnect the animal’s discomfort to the portosystemic shunt, given the rarity and consequent lack of knowledge of the disorder. Even the rather extensive symptoms do not help in identifying the disease.

Clinical signs such as diarrhea and vomiting in cats (especially after meals), lethargy and excessive salivation are usually observed . If the disorder is congenital in nature, the kitten will have problems with body development.

How to cure

Portosystemic shunt requires prompt treatment.

The therapeutic approach will vary according to the type of portosystemic shunt afflicting the cat. The only remedy is surgery which, as seen, is possible only for the extrahepatic congenital form.

However, this is not a risk-free operation. The veterinary surgeon will ligate the abnormal blood vessel, a procedure that should lead to its gradual closure over a variable period of time (up to three months).

The hours immediately following the surgery are particularly delicate; the feline must remain under observation at the operating clinic.

Where the cat is not operable, it will be necessary to opt for a palliative approach, based on the predisposition of a diet low in protein, assisted by the administration of antibiotics.

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