A Bit about Feline Hepatic Lipidosis
A Bit about Feline Hepatic Lipidosis
Certainly not a diagnosis that you’d want to hear coming from your cat’s veterinarian, Feline Hepatic Lipidosis, more commonly known as Fatty Liver Disease. can be an overwhelming designation for your cat that may set you off into a bit of a tailspin. And one of the first things you can do to slow things down a bit is to educate yourself as much as possible about the disease, its causes, and its treatment.
Fatty Liver Disease is a condition seen in cats when they have become anorexic or have a severe decrease in the amount of food they are eating. It is the most fequently seen form of severe liver disease in cats. The liver has many complex functions, including the production of chemicals necessary for digestion and the detoxification of the body. It also plays an important role in metabolism. Because of its vital importance, the body has no way of compensating when the liver fails.
Cats are unique in that they are not meal eaters and tend to graze on small meals throughout the day which allows them a constant flow of nutrients/energy into their bodies. When cats stop eating or severely decrease the amount of food they are eating their bodies mobilize their fat stores instead, to their liver, for breakdown to be used as energy. Unfortunately the liver can’t handle this large amount of fat being mobilized and results in Fatty Liver Disease.
Hepatic lipidosis is usually a secondary cause of an underlying or already present condition such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, hyperthyroidism, pancreatitis, kidney disease, or another type of liver problem. Cats who are already overweight are more prone to this condition than normal weight cats.
• Anorexia. A previously healthy cats stops eating. Whenever a cat goes for more than 24-48 hours without food, this is cause for concern.
• Vomiting and/or diarrhea
• In the latter stages, yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucuos membranes
Diagnostics will include a complete blood count, blood chemistry and urinalysis.
Fatty Liver Disease can be fatal if not treated properly. The good news is, if the cat is provided with the proper aggressive nutritional support they can achieve a 90% survival rate. Medications are also needed in the treatment of this disease but the most important aspect of treatment is providing the proper amount of nutrional support. Often treatment can last approximately 6 weeks and can be managed by owners at home.
There are some veterinarians who still believe that force feeding food provides enough nutritional support. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. In most cases the cats refuse the force feeding after minimal amounts of food are administered. This not only creates a breakdown in the human animal bond with the owner but also doesn’t provide the adequate amount of nutrition. In some cases cats have developed a food aversion, to the food they are being force fed, which can be detrimental to their treatment as it is often a prescription diet needed for the treatment or recovery afterwards.
The most direct and effective way of providing nutritional support is by using a feeding tube either placed as a nasogastric, esophagostomy/pharyngostomy or stomach tube. These tubes are easily maintained and allow the appropriate amount of nutritional support without stressing out the cat or owners. The food is very easily measured and administered through the tube in several small meals throughout the day mimicking the cats natural eating behaviour.
At the same time, it is also critical that the underlying cause of the hepatic lipidosis is identified, so appropriate treatment can be initiated without delay.
If diagnosed early, and if the cat survives the first few days of aggressive treatment, the prognosis for a full recovery is excellent. If left untreated, the condition is fatal. The good news is that most cats who survive an episode of hepatic lipidosis usually don’t have a relapse.
Please feel free to share this aritcle to make cats lovers know about this Disease and know how to take care.
by U. Schneider, DVM & G.-Rudi Maicher