CALIFORNIA COUPLE SEEKS UT VETERINARIAN'S EXPERTISE
January 24, 2002
A retired California couple went the extra mile, literally, to get treatment for their one-year-old Yorkshire Terrier Wednesday-they flew to Knoxville with their dog for surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. John and Terri Shumsky of Paso Robles, CA, contacted UT veterinarian Dr. Karen Tobias and made arrangements to bring Honey, their young Yorkie, to UT for surgical repair of a liver shunt. Following surgery Wednesday, Honey's prognosis is excellent.
Tobias, associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, has trained veterinary surgeons throughout the country on a technique of repairing shunts. A liver shunt or portosystemic shunt, is a blood vessel that in the womb bypasses liver tissue, allowing the mother's system to filter liver toxins. In some cases, however, the shunt remains in the animal after it is born, compromising its liver function, slowing growth and often resulting in death.
Shunts may be repaired with traditional surgical approaches, but Tobias utilizes a technique developed at UT several years ago which implants an ameroid constrictor, a tiny C-shaped piece of metal ring. The constrictor fits around the shunt, causing it to slowly shut down over several weeks. Dogs receiving this method of surgical repair generally have fewer postoperative complications, said Tobias.
The Shumskys learned about Tobias indirectly through a Yorkshire Terrier association. Mrs. Shumsky has been a Yorkshire breeder and dog show judge for many years. When she adopted Honey, who had an existing shunt, she contacted Tobias and made arrangements to fly to Knoxville. Both the Shumskys have serious health issues, but decided to make the trip together with their dog. "If I just sat and watched her get worse, to me that's more stressful than making the trip," said Mrs. Shumsky. The trip involved three airplane connections and a great deal of effort, but the Shumskys say it was worth it. "If you can go to the best place to have the surgery, you do what you have to do," said John Shumsky while visiting Honey following surgery. The difference between the dog's pre-surgery and post-surgery health is already visible to them, they said.
The Shumskys established a fund several years ago to help offset treatment of this condition in Yorkshire Terriers and other small breeds. The Fanny Mae fund was named after one of their previous Yorkies who died of shunt-related illness. -end- Honey and her owners will be in Knoxville until Saturday morning.
Media note to television: edited digital B-roll footage of Honey's surgical procedure, including images of the metal constrictor, is available through the College of Veterinary Medicine instructional video office.
UT College of Veterinary Medicine