Liver Fistula in Dogs | petMD
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Liver Fistula in Dogs

Arteriovenous Malformation of the Liver in Dogs


Intrahepatic arteriovenous (AV) fistula is a congenital based condition that is uncommon in most cats and dogs, but it can also develop through surgical injury, trauma, and abnormal tissue or bone growth (neoplasia). When it occurs abnormal passages develop between the proper liver (hepatic) arteries and the inner liver (intrahepatic) portal veins.


This acute illness can be addressed with fair results when a proper diagnosis has been settled on. Most treatment will be on an outpatient basis and will include a planned diet, dietary restrictions, and long term observation.


The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.


Symptoms and Types


Dogs that suffer from AV fistula may show lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, excessive thirst (polydipsia), dementia, and abdominal swelling. There are several other signs of AV fistula, such as: 


  • Ascites, congenital heart malformations, hemorrhages, abnormal portal vein coagulation (thrombosis), protein loss in the kidney (nephropathy), intestinal abnormality (enteropathy) hypertension, liver disease, and cirrhosis of liver
  • Or those affecting the central nervous system: distemper and other infectious disorders, lead poisoning, water on the brain (hydrocephalus), idiopathic epilepsy, metabolic disorders, brain degeneration associated with liver failure (hepatic encephalopathy)




There is not a breed that shows a higher predisposition than another. Hepatic AV is a vascular (vessel) malformation that is genetically determined during the embryonic stage of development, also referred to as embryologic anlage. Most conditions present in young dogs, but in some cases, surgical injury, traumas, or tumor growth (neoplasia) can lead to the problem.




The disorder can be tested by using complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry, and urinalysis techniques; coagulation tests, abdominal (peritoneal) fluid analysis, evaluation of bile acids (digestive secretion from the liver), X-rays, ultrasounds, liver biopsies, and exploratory laparotomies (incision into the abdominal wall) are other exams that may help diagnose the liver malformation.





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