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Talis came home to us in May 2007 at 5 months old after choosing me to be his companion. I had waited 5 years to get another Tibetan Spaniel after the loss of my previous two. Being a former vet technician, I had chosen this breed specifically because of their lack of many genetic diseases. I had done my research and found good breeder with puppies available from good stock. Both parents had even been Bile Acids tested with negative results.
For the first couple weeks after Talis came to stay with us, everything seemed fine. He weighed 4 lbs at 6 months old. He seemed healthy, but after vaccines, he became unwell. He refused to eat or drink and just slept for the next 48 hours. His stool turned to mush and it remained on and off like this from that point.
He became lethargic a lot; very laid back and seemed to have less energy for walks or play compared to other pups. He became extremely picky about his food and would often go a day or two without eating. On walks and hiking outings, he would lag behind and I would have to carry him in a poochie pouch. Vaccines of any kind made his symptoms worse. The vets reassured me that he seemed ok and was likely just a picky eater & manipulating me to get a variety of choices.
I couldn’t shake the feeling something was not right with him.
I decided to do blood work prior to his neutering. Good thing I trusted my instincts. His BUN & other liver values came back way off and the vets then suspected he had a liver shunt. We had bile acids done and the pre was 385 and the post 425. Way off the charts when normal is under 20. My heart was broken. The breeder then tested all Talis’ siblings; only to discover his twin sister had MVD. How had this happened when both parents’ bile acids had been normal?
We went to Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, NJ for an ultrasound & diagnosis on March 28th, 2008. Extrahepatic shunt was easily seen on the ultrasound; as well as many small stones in his bladder from a diet too high in protein for his compromised liver to handle. I felt as if I had been hit by a house falling on me. My heart felt squashed. The vet suggested I try medical management since he had seemed to be much healthier than other shunt dogs he saw. I could not afford the four thousand dollar Ameriod ring surgery to fix his shunt and remove his bladder stones. So I took my beloved Talis home with a heavy heart and tried to follow the recommended homemade diet. When he stopped eating that, I switched to baby food with the ok from my vet.
For a while on the baby food, he seemed to improve; for a little while.
Talis stopped eating any food the end of Aug 08 and just laid around looking sick. After 3 days, my worries escalated despite the vets resolve he would eat soon. After 4 days I was frantic; he was losing precious weight rapidly and barely moved. His eyes told me he had lost the will to fight anymore. He was too drained. I knew I would lose him if I didn’t do something. What was left of my heart was crumbling inside me.
My parents, seeing how distraught I was, offered to loan me the funds for Talis’ ameriod ring surgery. It was his only chance. Back to Garden State we went; me crying softly the whole ride as I held my fading beloved companion in my arms. I sobbed my heart out when the technicians took him from me; there was a chance he would not make it through the surgery and that this could be goodbye.
But he did. Talis made it through the surgery ok despite the tricky placement of his shunt. He also had a liver biopsy which revealed MVD as well. His bladder stones were removed and he was neutered at the same time. He spent 4 hours under special anesthesia. His recovery was slow. He refused to eat the first 2 days post surgery. But finally, he showed signs of fighting again and was allowed to come home.
His incision was huge. He took about 1 week to recover during which we spent every moment we could cuddling and cherishing the miracle of his second chance at life. They say that a dog is the only love money can buy; but my parents’ gift of money made Talis’ love and our bond a twice-fold gift. Talis will never be 100% normal; he will always have to eat low protein foods & no red meat. But he is 90% better than he was prior to the surgery. His life span will be shorter than that of a healthy dog’s in the long run; but we will never love him less for his issues.
I share my story; as do the others here in hope that others will see the symptoms and not wait to act. Ameriod ring surgery is the BEST option for a shunt puppy once diagnosed. There are a lot of miracle stories out there. They bring us hope. Be responsible. RESEARCH dog breeds & breeders before you buy a puppy. Make sure the parents are bile acid checked if the breed you choose has a genetic predisposition to liver shunts. Make sure the pup you bring home has been tested at the appropriate age and its’ numbers are normal…so you and your family will never have to know the heartbreak of loving a shunt dog.