Animal & Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor
Medical Database

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Hepatic Encephalopathy

General Information
Hepatic (liver) encephalopathy is a brain disorder caused by liver disease, including abnormal circulation. The liver plays a major role in food, vitamin, and hormone metabolism, which means it changes these substances into forms the body can use or into forms that allow easy removal to sustain normal body harmony. The word metabolism literally means change. The liver is like a chemical plant that continually changes numerous substances from one form into another that affects the body. The liver also contributes to various immune and blood-clotting activities, stores ingredients for future use, and plays a major role in digestion. Without the liver, the body would be fatally poisoned; the liver has the capacity to reduce many poisonous substances to harmless forms.

Normal circulation transports blood from the intestinal tract, through the liver, and into the large major vein, the caudal vena cava, which then carries blood toward the heart. Abnormal circulation transports blood from the intestinal tract (bypassing the liver) and carries unchanged poisonous substances directly into the caudal vena cava, through the heart, and distributes them to all parts of the body, including the brain. These bypasses are called shunts, and the portocaval shunt is one common type.

Some signs of hepatic encephalopathy include digestive and brain disorders, ranging from vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, seizures, hypersensitivity, and excessive salivation (especially in cats).

Important Points in Treatment
1. Blood tests, radiographs (x-rays), blood contrast studies, such as angiography, and exploratory surgery are some of the procedures used to help diagnose hepatic encephalopathy.
2. Surgical treatment is more commonly used and has a higher success rate than non-surgical treatment. Surgical success varies, depending on the location of the shunt. There are intrahepatic (inside the liver) shunts and extrahepatic (outside the liver) shunts. The latter have a better prognosis (medical forecast) than intrahepatic shunts. Medical (non-surgical) management does have its purpose, especially in higher risk surgical patients.

An Important Update From Animal & Bird Medical Center On COVID-19

We are committed to offering a safe and healthy environment for our clients, pets and hospital team here at Animal and Bird Medical Center. The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

In being cautious and mindful of everyone’s safety, we are actively working to minimize your exposure to crowded exam rooms and long waits in the lobby.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made some changes to our protocols in-hospital for the time-being…

In order to limit exposure while still providing quality care for your pet, we will be implementing special protocols to keep you safe.

We will have our veterinary technicians get a history of the patient’s symptoms and owner’s concerns via phone prior to coming into the clinic.

Our goal is for you to be able to bring your pet in for medical care but have no risk for you or our dedicated staff of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

The Doctors and staff are dedicated to making sure your pet’s medical needs are taken care of during this national crisis.

We can still fill prescriptions for pick up, however, for those who prefer, non-narcotic and non-urgent prescriptions can be mailed to your home.

As always, careful hand-washing and other infection control practices can greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease.