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Liver Shunt in Cats by Newt the Cat – Information and Inspiration

Even a diagnosis of liver shunt might cause you as a cat owner to panic because you don’t know what it is. If a veterinarian explains it to you the chances are you might still walk of the surgery worried and confused and full of questions. How do you and your cat cope with Liver Shunt? Is there treatment for cat liver shunt? What is the liver shunt in cats life expectancy? What is life like for cats with copper eyes?

In this article I include Newt’s lighthearted and positive interview as well as useful resources for you to explore further. Portosystemic Shunt is NOT a death sentence. There are treatment options and cats can live long and happy lives. Let me start with a basic definition of what liver shunt is, then introduce my friend Newt who embodies hope and optimism.

What Is Liver Shunt In Cats?

Although unusual,liver shunt in cats is treatable with surgery and the correct diet.

A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal communication between blood vessels, which causes blood to bypass the liver. Surgical ligation (closure) of the shunt is the treatment of choice. However, animals must be medically stabilized prior to surgery.

Pet Place

This discussion with Newt and his human may appear light of heart but it is extremely serious and educational in its scope, so I encourage you to read on. Let me introduce a cat whose humour hides a serious condition he can tell you a lot about.

Newt and his Mum have been advocates for Liver Shunt Cats for many years. The text will address many of your questions and worries and shares links to further helpful information. You will walk away from Newt’s interview with a smile (which Newt would want you to do), lots of knowledge, and plenty of hope so, let me introduce Newt and his Mum.

cat image

Well hello there! I’m Newt!

So nice to meet you. I am honoured to have been invited to write a guest post on Dash Kitten’s blog. (And, maybe a little nervous, actually!). Where should I begin?

My purrents say I am a copper-eyed wondercat; my vets say I am a miracle cat, and my furends say I am obsessed with chicken. But really, I’m just Newt – a kitty who happens to be thriving, in spite of a pretty rare condition known as a liver shunt. My vets call it a portosystemic shunt, and say it means my blood isn’t properly purified because it bypasses my liver.

Symptoms of Liver Shunt in Cats

Every now and then, I have episodes where the toxins build up in my system and cause Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE) symptoms. Those can range from annoying to dangerous, depending on the severity of the episode, and how soon it is brought under control. The symptoms can include but are not limited to, lethargy, drooling, pacing, neurological and behavioral changes, apparent blindness or ‘increased cat liver shunt eye’, seizures, and more.

Sounds kinda yucky, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the bad news; the GOOD news is, there is Hope!

Newt the Cat

Never Underestimate the Power of Hope!

Once diagnosed, so many of us liver shunt cats are able to live normal, happy lives, either with surgery or with medical management. Surgical correction repairs the blood vessel, and medical management combines diet and medication.

I’ve been medically managed for almost five years now. I have no issues with taking my meds and I love my purrsonal, home-cooked diet. (Yum, chicken!!!!)

The overwhelming majority of the time, I’m totally normal; and you wouldn’t know I’m not quite healthy. Every now and then, I get an HE episode. Mine are usually not too bad, with some drooling, loss of appetite, and behavioral changes.

When that happens, my purrents know to give me some extra medicine, and then, am fine again. Not bad for a kitten that was expected to die any day, back when I was diagnosed at 11 weeks old!

  • If you’d like to read more about liver shunts in cats, my main website, with links to articles. Mum also writes a blog with stories about me, check out my bio!

There is hope and there are things you can do when you get a shunt diagnosis.

Copper Eyed Cats and Liver Shunt

Oh, yeah! *bats glorious copper eyes* Almost forgot to mention my trademark, these eerie eyes! Aren’t they cool? Many vets say that copper eyes can sometimes be one of the signs of a liver shunt, in cats of breeds not normally possessing that colour.

Other signs can include failure to thrive, lethargy, drooling, mealtime aggression, head-pressing, and/or other symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy.

Liver Shunt in Cats

Early diagnosis of portosystemic shunt is crucially important in determining the outcome of the condition….. The diagnostic measures will rely essentially on blood chemistry analysis, but are quite likely also to include abdominal ultrasound and x-rays. In addition, exploratory abdominal surgery may be required.

Cornell Feline Health Center

#TiaraTuesday for Liver Shunt in Cats

I  have been sharing Hope for other kitties with liver shunts for several years now. I love music and dancing, and when possible, work as a DJ at fundraising pawties. To thank my furends on Twitter, I have been experimenting with #TiaraTuesday to help spread awareness of liver shunts in cats The more people who know about it, the more likely their cats are to get diagnosis, treatment, and stabilization for Liver Shunt in Cats.

So, I am having an occasional ‘dress up in your crowns and jewels” dance pawty on the 3rd Tuesday in each Month. Just another way to share Hope and say thank you to my furends. We’ll see how it goes.

Many, many thanks to darling Dash for inviting me to write a guest blog, and thank each of you so much for helping to share Hope for cats with liver shunts. Mwah mwah hugs!

Newt’s Top Links for Liver Shunt Research


The Newt the Cat Memorial Notice (Published 9 May 2021)

Today I write about a cat who has been a long time Twitter colleague, Newt the Cat. Newt has been a long time survivor of portosystemic shunt thanks to the knowledge of his mum. Newt passed away this past week. But I need to tell you something. There is much more to this than the sad passing of a great and wonderful colleague and friend. Newt ran #TiaraTuesday on Twitter and when I remembered I tried to attend. Newt shared his site, his interview with Dash Kitten and a host of lovely songs at the weekly party. These links provided hope

Meezers and Terriers mom Ingrid sent this.

Photograph and graphic for Newt the Liver Shunt memorial cat

How do I know Newt made a difference?

Because people continue to leave comments under his interview. People have taken time to express their gratitude to Newt for his hopeful words and his knowledge. He made very sure and will continue to make sure that a diagnosis of a liver shunt or portosystemic shunt is not the end for cat (or dog).

Memorial image for Liver shunt cat Newt

What do I say to finish when I lost a friend and a legend? 

Only one thing.

Thank you Newt

19 thoughts on “Liver Shunt in Cats by Newt the Cat – Information and Inspiration”

  1. This was really interesting. I’ll be honest, I knew very little about the diagnosis of liver shunt and I really didn’t know anything about how a cat could continue to not only survive but thrive after that diagnosis before reading this. Thank you for sharing! Before reading this, it isn’t a condition that would cross my mind but it’s good to know.

    Reply
    • It is thanks to Newt and his mom Lisa that many ordinary people know so much more about Liver Shunt.

      Reply
  2. I’d heard of liver shunts, but had no idea what is was. Thank you for sharing this story. Very interesting about the copper eyes.

    Reply
  3. How wonderful to meet you Newt! Thank you for raising awareness about your disability. It sounds like your pawrents are taking great care of you!

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  4. Liver shunts are a nasty problem. Fortunately, not an automatic death sentence. I was aware of surgical treatments. I’m happy to learn about medical treatment options too.

    Reply
  5. Newt, you are a very brave kitty! It is not easy to live with a disability. Liver Shunt is new to me, so thank you for sharing. It has to be really scary for your pawrents when you go through episodes of HE. I love that you have a great attitude and are willing to help kitties going through Liver Shunt too.

    Reply
  6. Newt, you are absolutely darling! What a great ambassador for liver shunt in cats. I loved reading about you and your story. Your beautiful eyes are a badge of honor to let the world know you are special and tell your story. Thanks to Dash for letting you sharing your story!

    Reply
  7. Hi Newt, you are an amazing miracle kitty and Layla woofs thank you for sharing your story to help others, you are a fantastic spokesman, Layla heard the word chicken and she agree with you yummm, it is her favorite.

    Reply
  8. Newt is so cute! I’m happy to read he’s living his best life despite his condition. I don’t have cats myself, but shared this post. I’m sure it brings hope to lots of cat owners out there.

    Reply
  9. Hi there! I’m waiting for testing to come back at the veterinary specialist to see how bad my sweet Goldfish’s liver shunt is. This made me feel a lot better. Thank you so much.

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  10. Hello Newt, my name is Sherlock ( short for Sherlockia) as My purrents thought I was a male when they first got me ) I have been inspired by your story. I am a six month old kitten, And I was diagnosed with a liver shunt about a month ago. We are trying to manage it with diet and medication. Now that we have heard about your condition and encouragement, we are more hopeful that I can live a longer life!

    Reply
    • My tabby orange cat, Rusty, was diagnosed with liver shunt when he was about 9-10 weeks old. Doc put him on Metronidozal (antibody) and lactulous (sp) every 12 hours. I religously followed his instructions and Rusty lived a very good life for 9 1/2 years.

      Rusty wouldn’t eat the expensive prescription diet, however, I sought out quality caned food that had the lowest protein content, usually about 8%. Best of luck to you.

      Reply
  11. Hello my name is Milo. 😽i also finally after many test and lots of tears from my humans found out I have a shunt. I will be having surgery next month. Please pray for me.thanks.

    Reply
    • Milo, please let us know how you get on. The cats and I send our best wishes for a recovery. I hope Newt is an inspiration to you * gentle hugs *

      Reply

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