Specialized surgery gets Goliath back to the farm

Steve and Leah Jefferson were looking for a way to protect their 38 chickens from roving coyotes on their 10-acre farm in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Goliath was their answer. The Great Pyrenees joined the family in the spring of 2017, when he was just eight weeks old. 

From the beginning, however, Leah Jefferson noticed that Goliath wasn’t putting on as much weight as he should. She tried different foods but the problem persisted. One day while out in the fields, he had a seizure and collapsed.

Goliath the dog on a farm with his canine buddy behind a fence with two farmhouses in the background
Goliath, at left, with Hershey on the Jefferson farm. (Photo courtesy: Penn Vet)

After repeated trips to veterinary emergency rooms, Goliath was eventually diagnosed with an intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, an abnormal blood vessel in the liver.

Normally, a single vein carries the body’s blood to the liver, which acts as a detoxifying filter. But Goliath was born with an extra vessel that allowed some of his blood to skirt around this filter. His dazed look, stunted growth, and odd behavior arose due to a combination of decreased blood flow to the liver and unfiltered blood reaching the brain and other organs.

Robert Justin, a doctor at The Life Centre, a veterinary practice in Leesburg, knew of a specialized procedure that could correct the shunt, called percutaneous transvenous coil embolization. Only a few veterinarians around the country perform it. One of them is Andreanne Cleroux, an interventional radiologist at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital.

“The goal of the procedure is to progressively block the blood flow through that abnormal vessel and restore more normal blood flow through the liver,” says Cleroux. “What’s nice about the procedure is that everything is done through a five-millimeter incision along the neck to allow access to the jugular vein, which is how we access the vascular system during the surgery, so recovery is typically really fast.”

Read more at the Penn Vet Press Room.