Percutaneous Transvenous Coil Embolization Treatment for Liver Shunts

Update: This procedure is now available at several locations around the country.

Last year, we published a post on a promising new procedure, Percutaneous Transvenous Coil Embolization (PTCE) for the repair of liver shunts. The first scientific paper has come out on this procedure, but Dr. Cassie Lux, Assistant Professor of Surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, very generously wrote up for us how the procedure works: Read more

Photo of Deerhounds by Andrea Moulas

by John Dillberger, DVM

The liver produces bile acids and secretes them into bile, which is stored in the gallbladder.  When the dog eats a meal and the food begins to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine, the gallbladder expels some bile into the upper small intestine, where it mixes with the food.  The bile acids help dissolve fats and fat soluble vitamins so they can be absorbed.  The bile acids are absorbed, too.  Read more

Promising New Procedure for Liver (Portosystemic) Shunts

Update: This procedure is now available at several locations around the country, and we have published additional information on it here and here.

Some promising news regarding correcting portosystemic shunts in dogs comes from U.C. Davis, where Dr. Bill Culp has developed a new, non-invasive way to close intrahepatic shunts, which historically have been difficult to correct surgically.

Read more

Although seizures are not common in Deerhounds, they do occur. According to the most recent health survey, Deerhounds have an incidence of seizures (4%) that is similar to the incidence in the dog population as a whole (1-5%). There are many causes of seizures, not all of which are genetic. Although there are families of Deerhounds that appear to have more dogs with seizures than others, we don’t know whether that is because of genetics or all of the dogs are exposed to the same environmental cause.

If your Deerhound has a seizure, you should contact your veterinarian. Deerhounds are not more or less likely than other breeds to be affected by many of the conditions that can cause seizures, such as cancer (insulinomas and brain tumors in middle-aged and older dogs), trauma, allergies, infections, toxins, etc., at least as far as we know. However, there are some illnesses that should be ruled out when any Deerhound has seizures:

LIVER SHUNT is definitely a problem in Deerhounds, and it can cause seizures at any point in an affected dog’s life. Even if your dog has tested normal on a routine blood test for liver function, liver shunts don’t always show up on those: you need to do a bile-acid test, which is a special blood test, which includes two blood draws and a specific feeding protocol, to rule it out. Many breeders routinely test their puppies for this before they go to their homes, but not every breeder does, and some people use an in-house test that isn’t always reliable. This DEFINITELY needs to be on the rule-out list for any Deerhound with seizures, and the bile-acid test needs to be sent out to a lab.

TICK-BORNE DISEASES, including Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, list seizures as a symptom. One breeder has reported seizures in three dogs, all of which tested positive for Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease that is common in many parts of the U.S. One dog would seize (and he eventually developed other neurological symptoms) every time his owner tried to take him off doxycycline, even years after his initial diagnosis and without his titer going up, so Anaplasmosis was implicated at least in this dog. These dogs might have had a genetically lower seizure threshold that was triggered by the Anaplasmosis, which has seizures as a listed symptom. Another Deerhound, from an unrelated line, had other neurological problems after developing Anaplasmosis. There are other tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, where seizures are a listed symptom, so all should be ruled out.

HYPOTHYROIDISM & ADDISON’S DISEASE: Although Deerhounds do not commonly get hypothyroidism, it does sometimes occur so is worth ruling out. Ditto for Addison’s Disease, which is sometimes seen in Deerhounds.

It is important to contact your dog’s breeder, not only because your breeder needs to know they bred a dog that has seizures, but also because if there are seizures already in the line the breeder might be able to give you some helpful information.

For some cases, consultation with a veterinary neurologist can be helpful.

For more information on seizures in Deerhounds, see John Dillberger’s article reprinted from the Claymore.


Reprinted from the January/February 2014 Claymore.

While there haven’t been any earth-shattering discoveries this year, research into the health problems that affect Deerhounds has made some slow and steady progress on several fronts. There are also a couple of new projects. Read more

Photo Of Seci the Deerhound playing with snake by Cornelia Mosobauer

The SDCA Health and Genetics Committee recommends that the following health tests be done on Deerhounds:

Breeding Stock:

Echocardiogram: Inherited heart defects are rare in Deerhounds, but they do occur. It is recommended that every Deerhound used for breeding should have a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) to make sure the dog is free from subaortic stenosis, septal defects, and other heart defects. Dogs with heart defects should not be bred, and the breeding that produced a heart defect should not be repeated. A cardiac ultrasound will also determine whether dilated cardiomyopathy or other heart disease is present at the time of the test.

Factor VII: The Factor VII status of all breeding stock should be known. Clear Deerhounds can be bred to any Deerhound. Carrier or affected dogs should only be bred to clear dogs. Owners of affected bitches should discuss with their veterinarian possible complications that could arise from breeding an affected bitch.

Portosystemic (liver) shunt: All breeding stock should be checked for a liver shunt with a bile acid test. If the dog wasn’t tested as a puppy, then a test should be run before breeding. Click here for more information on liver shunt testing.


Factor VII: Breeders should be able to give puppy buyers information on whether or not their puppy has the potential to be affected with this condition.

Portosystemic shunt: Breeders should screen all of their puppies for liver shunt using a bile acid test before they go to their new homes. Click here for more information on liver shunt testing.

Cardiac auscultation: All puppies’ hearts should be listened to by a veterinarian, using a stethoscope, to check for heart defects before they go to their new homes.

More information on all of these health problems may be found on the “Health Issues” pages of this web site.

February 2014

Testing Information

Factor VII:

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) maintains a list of labs that run DNA test for Factor VII in Deerhounds. Just select our breed and “Factor VII Deficiency” in the drop-down menus.

Bile-acid Testing:

Many labs do bile acid testing, so you can use any lab that runs the test unless you want to get CHIC certification (not to be confused with our CHIC DNA bank—they are two completely separate things) on your dogs. If you want to get CHIC numbers, bile-acid test results from IDEXX, Antech, and veterinary college laboratories will be accepted.  Please note that only tests done by one of these laboratories will be accepted.  Results from in-house testing done at private veterinary clinics, even if run using equipment and/or kits from IDEXX, will not be accepted.

More information on the Deerhound CHIC program can be found here.

Don’t forget: there is a promising new, non-surgical procedure to close shunts.

by John Dillberger, DVM

Reprinted from the November/December 2004 Claymore

Please note: Since this article was published in 2004, it is now recommended that every Deerhound be screened for a liver shunt with a bile acid test. This test should ideally be conducted by breeders before puppies go to their new homes. Many labs do bile-acid testing; for more information on liver shunts and testing, go here.

Some time ago, a Deerhound owner and breeder sent me a letter asking that I devote a column to liver shunts. One of her pups had a liver shunt, and she hoped I could discuss not only the nature of disorder but also its symptoms, how to test for it, and what treatment was available. As it happens, her problem is not an isolated one in our breed.

In 1994, I reprinted a paper on liver shunts in Deerhounds by Dutch veterinarian Dr. H.P. Meyer. He reported that of 125 Dutch Deerhounds screened for liver shunt, 6 (approximately 5%) were found to have the problem. Dr. Meyer also wrote that liver shunts were most probably an inherited disorder.

This month I’ll revisit the subject of liver shunts to include what has been learned in the last decade. Read more