Feline Portosystemic Shunt

Feline portosystemic shunt (FPS) is a condition that affects cats and is caused by an abnormal connection between the portal vein and the systemic circulation. This abnormal connection causes incomplete or absent filtering of toxins from the cat’s blood, resulting in elevated levels of these toxins in the cat’s system. The condition was first recognized in the 1970s and it’s estimated that between 1-4% of cats are affected.

The exact cause of FPS is not known but it could be inherited, caused by trauma or tumors or the result of infection. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe depending on the severity of the shunt and include poor appetite, vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, jaundice and seizures. Diagnosis is made through a combination of physical exam, blood work, radiographs and ultrasounds.

Symptoms of Feline Portosystemic Shunt

The symptoms of Feline Portosystemic Shunt vary depending on the severity of the shunt. The most common symptoms are:

  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Jaundice and seizures

Some cats will also have signs of neurological deficits such as confusion, disorientation or circling behavior. In some cases there might not be any symptoms at all.

Diagnosing Feline Portosystemic Shunt

Feline Portosystemic Shunt is diagnosed through a combination of physical exam, blood work, radiographs and ultrasounds. Blood tests can be used to measure the levels of toxins in the cat’s system as well as looking for any underlying causes such as infection or liver damage. Radiographs and ultrasounds can then be used to look for any abnormalities in the blood vessels and liver.

Stage of Feline Portosystemic Shunt

Feline Portosystemic Shunt can be split into three stages depending on the severity of the shunt.

Stage 1

This stage is considered mild and might not have any symptoms or only have minimal signs. In stage 1, there could be an increase in blood urea nitrogen levels but no other changes in the cat’s blood chemistry.

Stage 2

This stage is considered moderate and will usually have more noticeable symptoms such as poor appetite, vomiting, weight loss and jaundice. Blood tests might show elevated levels of toxins in the system.

Stage 3

This is the most severe and can be life threatening. Symptoms are often severe and include seizures, disorientation or circling behavior, increased thirst and urination, and extreme weight loss. Blood tests will show very high levels of toxins in the system.

Treating Feline Portosystemic Shunt

Treating Feline Portosystemic Shunt (FPS) depends on the severity of the shunt. Mild cases might not need any treatments but more severe cases will require medications, dietary changes or surgery. Medications such as antibiotics and anti-seizure drugs can help reduce symptoms, while dietary changes can include a low-protein diet or supplementation with specific vitamins and minerals. Surgery can be used to correct the shunt and is usually done as a last resort.

Feline Portosystemic Shunt is a serious condition that needs proper diagnosis and treatment. While there is no cure for FPS, with proper care and management cats can lead happy and healthy lives.

Preventing Feline Portosystemic Shunt

There is no way to prevent Feline Portosystemic Shunt (FPS) but responsible cat ownership can help reduce the risks. Ensuring that cats are vaccinated and regularly taken to the vet for check-ups can help catch any early signs of the condition. Avoiding contact with wild animals helps reduce the risk of infection which can cause FPS.