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AVM and AV Fistula: Causes Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment

Arteriovenous Malformation of the Liver in Cats

Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in cats refers to a congenital disorder that affects the liver’s blood vessels. In normal liver anatomy, the portal vein brings blood from the intestines to the liver, where it is filtered and processed before moving into the hepatic vein, which carries it to the heart.

However, in AVM, the blood bypasses the liver’s filtering system, flowing directly from the artery to the vein, leading to several issues.


Unfortunately, AVM may go unnoticed in cats until it has progressed.

Symptoms include lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, excessive thirst, dementia, abdominal swelling, and ascites caused by fluid buildup.

AVM can also lead to heart malformations, hemorrhages, abnormal portal vein coagulation, protein loss, enteropathy, hypertension, liver disease, and cirrhosis.


Several factors can cause AVM, including genetic and embryonic factors. Trauma or surgical injury can also cause the condition.


Several tests are needed to diagnose AVM. Initially, your veterinarian will typically perform blood work, including a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry, and urinalysis.

Coagulation tests are also essential to detect bleeding or clotting disorders. Abdominal fluid analysis, bile acids, and X-rays are also useful diagnostic strategies.

However, to confirm the diagnosis, a liver biopsy or laparotomy are essential.


Treatment of AVM usually involves surgical intervention to lessen the symptoms and improve the cat’s quality of life by redirecting the blood flow to the liver. In some cases, medication is used to reduce blood pressure or relieve excess fluid buildup.

Similarly, dietary restrictions, hydration, and electrolyte disturbances are common treatments. However, the treatment depends on the severity of the condition.

Living and Management

While AVM has no permanent cure, ongoing treatment is essential to manage related health issues. Your cat will require periodic blood tests and examinations to ensure they are responding well to treatment.

With ongoing treatment, cats with AVM have a fair prognosis.


Prevention of AVM in cats is challenging, as the condition seems to result from a congenital issue or traumatic injury. Therefore, it is vital to keep your cat safe and healthy, prevent traumatic injuries, and ensure they undergo regular veterinary checkups.

Early detection is critical in treating the condition and improving your cat’s quality of life.

Symptoms and Types

In addition to AVM, numerous physical and neurological symptoms may affect cats. Physical symptoms refer to any noticeable changes in the appearance and behavior of your cat.

For instance, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss are physical symptoms caused by various disorders such as infections, trauma, metabolic disorders, hypertension, liver disease, and cirrhosis. Physical symptoms also include excessive thirst, abdominal swelling, ascites, heart malformations, hemorrhages, abnormal portal vein coagulation, and protein loss, which may be caused by liver disease.

Neurological symptoms might also be present in cats. These symptoms involve changes in behavior, coordination, and cognitive function.

For instance, distemper, infectious disorders, lead poisoning, hydrocephalus, epilepsy, and metabolic disorders can cause neurological symptoms such as hepatic encephalopathy.


In summary, while some symptoms may resemble other cat disorders, it’s essential to take note of all visible changes and contact your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual. Early detection can greatly improve your cat’s prognosis, leading to better treatment outcomes.

Regular veterinary checkups and familiarity with your cat’s behavioral patterns are the keys to identifying potential symptoms and receiving timely treatment interventions.

Causes of AV Fistula

AV fistula, or arteriovenous fistula, is a condition where an abnormal connection forms between an artery and vein, causing the blood to bypass the capillaries. AV fistula can develop due to various causes, including congenital factors and acquired factors.

Genetic Factors

AV fistula can result from genetic factors, such as embryonic anlage. During embryonic development, the body forms blood vessels, and any abnormal formation or misconnection can lead to an AV fistula.

Congenital AV fistula can also occur due to abnormal growth and development of the arteriovenous systems at an early age, leading to the formation of an abnormal connecting vessel.

Acquired Factors

AV fistula can also develop due to acquired factors. Trauma, surgical injury, and tumor growth can cause an AV fistula.

Surgical injury might result from a surgery that interferes with the flow of blood between the artery and the vein. Trauma can occur when there is external or internal damage to blood vessels, causing the artery and vein to connect abnormally.

Tumor growth can also lead to the formation of an AV fistula when the growth creates a connection between the artery and vein that bypasses the capillaries.

Diagnosis of AV Fistula

Diagnosis of AV fistula involves taking a medical history and conducting a physical examination. The physician will look for signs and symptoms of the condition.

However, to confirm the diagnosis, additional tests are needed. The following diagnostic tests are conducted to detect the presence of AV fistula:

Blood Tests

Blood tests are essential to diagnose AV fistula. A complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry, urinalysis, and coagulation tests are conducted to detect any abnormalities.

CBC is useful in identifying any anemia, whereas biochemistry is essential in measuring the liver, kidney, and thyroid functions. Urinalysis is also conducted to detect any abnormalities, such as protein in the urine.

Lastly, coagulation tests are performed to detect any bleeding or clotting disorders.

Fluid Analysis

Fluid analysis is also essential in diagnosing AV fistula. Abdominal fluid analysis is conducted to detect any ascites, which can be indicative of the presence of AV fistula.

Bile acids are also useful in diagnosing this condition, especially when determining the severity of hepatic dysfunction.


Imaging tests are essential to determine the location and severity of AV fistula. X-rays are useful in detecting the presence of AV fistula in the chest.

Ultrasound is also an essential imaging tool that allows visualizing body structures, including the blood vessels. A liver biopsy can be performed to obtain a small sample of liver tissue for analysis under a microscope.

Lastly, laparotomy is a surgical procedure conducted to visualize the internal structures of the body.


AV fistula is a serious condition that requires timely diagnosis and treatment. Knowledge of the underlying causes of the condition can help in understanding the nature of the disease and its management.

Therefore, it is essential to seek early diagnosis and treatment if any symptoms of AV fistula arise. Proper medical evaluation and management can help to improve the prognosis and prevent complications associated with the condition.

Treatment of AV Fistula

AV fistula treatment aims at controlling the symptoms and preventing complications resulting from the condition.

Treatment is based on the underlying cause, severity of symptoms, and the patient’s general health.

The following are the common treatment options for AV fistula.

Dietary Modifications

Dietary modifications are essential in managing AV fistula. Patients with AV fistula typically have high nitrogen and sodium levels in their blood.

Reducing the intake of nitrogen and sodium can help reduce symptoms such as high blood pressure and fluid buildup. Your healthcare provider might recommend a low-sodium or low-nitrogen diet to manage the condition better.


Medications may be prescribed depending on the severity of symptoms and medical history. Blood pressure reduction medication can help minimize the risk of complications, and the excess fluid relief medication can help control fluid buildup in the body.

Histamines and diuretics can also be given to reduce blood pressure and control fluid retention in the body. In some cases, medication to improve liver biotransformation could also be recommended.


In some instances, surgery may be needed to treat AV fistula.

Surgery is usually considered when other treatment options are ineffective.

The type of surgery required may depend on the location of the AV fistula. The surgeon may elect to cut or block the abnormal connection between the veins and arteries.

Procedures such as ligation, patch closure, and endovascular embolization are commonly used surgical techniques.

Living and Management with AV Fistula

Living with AV fistula requires ongoing management to control the symptoms, prevent complications, and maintain overall health. The following are critical factors that should be considered when managing AV fistula.


Patients with AV fistula require frequent monitoring by their healthcare provider to assess their health, medication effects, and any adverse effects. Blood tests are done to monitor liver and kidney function and identify any changes in nitrogen or sodium levels.

Other laboratory tests that might be conducted include CBC and coagulation studies. Ongoing


Ongoing treatment is necessary to manage AV fistula.

This includes lifestyle modifications, medication management, and regular medical sessions with healthcare providers. Patients must follow up with their healthcare provider to assess their symptoms and monitor the progress of their treatment.

Ongoing treatment is essential to ensure that the patient achieves optimal health and quality of life.


The prognosis for AV fistula varies depending on the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, and the patient’s overall health. With proper management and treatment, most patients can expect to have a fair prognosis.

With timely and appropriate management, the risk of complications is significantly reduced, and patients can maintain their quality of life.

Related Health Issues

Patients with AV fistula may have other health issues that require continuous management, such as hypertension, liver disease, and kidney disease. Therefore, addressing related health issues is crucial for effective AV fistula management.

Attending regular medical checkups and adapting healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent complications and improve overall health.


AV fistula is a serious condition that requires diligent treatment and management to prevent complications and improve quality of life. A comprehensive treatment plan, which includes dietary modifications, medication management, and in some cases, surgical management, is necessary to control symptoms and enhance prognosis.

It is crucial to work with a healthcare provider by attending regular appointments and addressing other related health issues to promote optimal health.

Prevention of AV Fistula

AV fistula is a congenital or acquired condition that arises from abnormal blood vessel formation. Therefore, prevention of AV fistula is difficult because the cause is usually unknown.

However, it’s possible to minimize the chances of developing AV fistula by making healthy lifestyle choices and engaging in activities that promote a healthy body. The following are essential tips to help prevent the development of AV fistula.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can minimize the chances of developing AV fistula. This includes eating a balanced and healthy diet that is low in sodium and nitrogen.

Avoid consuming food and drinks high in sugar content and limit alcohol consumption. Incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine can also improve overall health and minimize the risk of developing health conditions that might contribute to AV fistula development.

Avoid Trauma

Trauma is a leading cause of AV fistula. Therefore, avoiding conditions that can lead to trauma is vital.

This includes wearing protective gear when engaging in sports activities and avoiding risky behaviors that can cause bodily harm. Patients with pre-existing medical conditions that can lead to trauma, such as aneurysm or blood vessel diseases, should be managed to minimize the risk of trauma.

Address Medical Conditions Promptly

Failure to address medical conditions promptly may lead to complications that can result in AV fistula. Infections, liver and kidney diseases, and metabolic disorders are some medical conditions that can trigger the development of AV fistula.

It’s essential to seek prompt medical attention and manage medical conditions in a timely manner to prevent complications.

Regular Medical Checkups

Regular medical checkups are important to monitor your health and identify potential risk factors for AV fistula. Your healthcare provider may recommend regular physical exams, blood tests, and diagnostic imaging tests to assess your overall health.

Regular checkups can help identify early symptoms or warning signs of medical conditions that can contribute to the development of AV fistula and facilitate timely medical interventions.


AV fistula is a serious medical condition that can result in adverse health outcomes if left untreated. While it’s challenging to prevent the development of AV fistula due to its unknown causes, leading a healthy lifestyle, avoiding trauma, and addressing medical conditions promptly are crucial steps that can help reduce the risk.

Regular medical checkups can also help identify early warning signs of medical conditions that can contribute to the development of AV fistula and facilitate timely medical intervention. AV fistula is a serious medical condition that can lead to significant adverse health outcomes if left untreated.

While the causes of AV fistula are often unknown, living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding trauma, addressing medical conditions promptly, and attending regular medical checkups can help reduce the risk of developing AV fistula. Maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding risky behaviors, and following medical advice can also promote general health and well-being.

It is essential to seek prompt medical intervention if symptoms of AV fistula arise. By doing this, patients can improve their prognosis and maintain their quality of life.

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