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What is Abnormal Passage Between Artery and Vein?

Abnormal passage between artery and vein in dogs, also called arteriovenous fistula or arteriovenous malfunction (AVF or AVM) occurs when the connection between and artery and vein is abnormal or malformed. Depending on the size, the fistula can cause the blood flow to bypass the capillaries and the surrounding tissue will receive very little oxygen. When this happens, the heart must pump at a faster rate to make up for the low or lack of oxygen levels. 

Abnormal passage between artery and vein in dogs is called arteriovenous fistula. This occurs when there is a malformed or atypical connection between an artery and a vein.

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Symptoms of Abnormal Passage Between Artery and Vein in Dogs

Symptoms of an arteriovenous fistula may vary depending on the location of the fistula and its size. A lesion is usually at the location of the fistula, and the fistula can be on a limb, within the vascular system of the heart and circulatory system, or within any of the dog’s organs. Symptoms can include:

  • Swelling
  • A developed ulcer
  • Lameness
  • Gangrene 
  • Coughing
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Heart rate increase
  • Seizures
  • Weakness


Fistulas can occur anywhere that an artery is connected to a vein.  When the blood flow bypasses capillaries and goes directly into the vein, the tissue suffers from a lower blood supply. Usually fistulas occur within the following organs or places within the body: 

  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Liver
  • Abdomen
  • Limbs
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Gastrointestinal Tract

Causes of Abnormal Passage Between Artery and Vein in Dogs

Arteriovenous fistulae in dogs are usually developed over time or due to a specific event. Dogs are typically not born with an abnormal passage between artery and vein. After much research and findings, an abnormal passage between artery and vein in dogs can be caused by:

  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma
  • Surgical procedures

Diagnosis of Abnormal Passage Between Artery and Vein in Dogs

The first step to diagnosing this condition is to be familiar with your dog’s normal, everyday behavior so you can identify when he acts like something is wrong. Once you make an appointment with your veterinarian, you will be asked to provide information pertaining to your dog, such as history, overall health, diet, any unusual behaviors or habits, and the symptoms. 

You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to the veterinarian. He will then conduct a complete physical examination which may include a urinalysis, complete blood count, biochemistry and electrolyte profile to determine organ functionality.

The veterinarian may also perform imaging to check for heart enlargement and the circulation of blood flow to the dog’s lungs. An ultrasound may detect any rapid blood flow within the lesion, to and an echocardiogram may be conducted to locate the arteriovenous fistula. An angiogram may be used for evaluation before any surgery if needed.

Treatment of Abnormal Passage Between Artery and Vein in Dogs

An arteriovenous fistula can occur in different areas of the body for several different reasons and is treatable. Treatment is successful, but also necessary for the health of the dog. There are a few treatment options which can be quite successful. These treatment options include:


Surgery is necessary in some cases to remove the connections that are abnormal between the blood vessels. When surgery is performed, blood transfusions may be required because surgery is a complex task in correcting AVF. 

Transcatheter Embolization

Transcatheter embolization is a newer alternative to treatment. Once the blood vessel or affected organ has been located and identified, a catheter containing a blood clotting substance is injected.  The blood vessels will then be blocked. This non-invasive procedure allows for access to lesions that are not easily seen or accessible, and to close the abnormal flow.  


If the fistula occurs within a limb and any surgery or transcatheter embolization is unsuccessful, then amputation will be an option. With amputation of a limb, the dog can still lead a fairly normal life once recovered.

Recovery of Abnormal Passage Between Artery and Vein in Dogs

If your dog has had a procedure to repair or immobilize the fistula, your veterinarian will want to have regular follow-up appointments. These recurring and consistent appointments will allow your veterinarian to be sure the fistula is not reappearing.  These follow-up visits will also keep you informed of how your canine has reacted to any surgery or procedure.

If your canine must have an amputation of a limb, the recovery time will be longer and he may have to wear a “cone” to keep from aggravating the site. He may also be prescribed medication to alleviate any infection or pain after the surgery.

It is important to watch for any symptoms that come along with abnormal passage between artery and vein to be proactive and to know if your loved one needs another veterinarian visit. With proper monitoring and following any aftercare instructions given by the veterinarian, dogs that have had arteriovenous fistula can lead a normal, healthy life.