Eleven of 89 dogs (12 per cent) developed neurological signs within six days of surgical attenuation of a congenital extrahepatic portosystemic shunt. Neurological signs were not associated with hepatic encephalopathy or hypoglycaemia. Signs varied in severity from non-progressive ataxia (three dogs) to generalised motor seizures (four dogs), progressing to status epilepticus (three dogs). In a further four cases, ataxia and disorientation were treated vigorously with anticonvulsant medication, presumably preventing the development of seizures. Two dogs that developed status epilepticus died or were eventually euthanased. All other animals survived, although some had persistent neurological deficits. Postligation neurological complications were not prevented by gradual shunt attenuation. Prophylactic treatment with phenobarbitone (5 to 10 mg/kg preoperatively, followed by 3 to 5 mg/kg every 12 hours for three weeks) did not significantly reduce the incidence of neurological sequelae (2/31 [6 per cent] dogs with phenobarbitone vs 9/58 [16 per cent] without phenobarbitone; P = 0.2). However, no animal receiving phenobarbitone experienced generalised motor seizures or status epilepticus. In conclusion, these observations suggest that postligation neurological syndrome comprises a spectrum of neurological signs of variable severity. Perioperative treatment with phenobarbitone may not reduce the risk of neurological sequelae, but may reduce their severity.