Cat Liver Fluke Symptoms

A cat liver fluke is a parasitic worm that infects the liver and pancreas of cats. Flukes spread when infected cats pass their eggs in feces. Snails then eat the eggs, and may themselves be eaten by toads or lizards. If your cat eats a toad or lizard infected with fluke eggs, he himself will develop liver flukes.

Risk Factors for Feline Liver Flukes

Cats of all breeds, ages and genders are vulnerable to liver fluke infection. Cats who live in Florida, Hawaii and the Caribbean are most vulnerable, because liver flukes are native to and common in these areas. Letting your cat go outdoors in these areas significantly increases his risk of liver fluke infection. Predatory cats who go outdoors are most at risk. 

Even if you don't live in an area where liver flukes are common, your cat may be at risk if you have traveled with him to such an area.

Symptoms of Liver Fluke Infestation in Cats

Often, cats with liver flukes do not develop recognizable symptoms. If your cat shows symptoms of liver fluke infestation, they may be as follows:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Distended abdomen
  • Weight loss

Diagnosing Liver Flukes in Cats

Your vet will need a complete medical history and a thorough physical exam. If you don't live in an area where liver flukes are common, but have recently traveled to such an area with your cat, make sure you tell your vet. Otherwise, he may automatically rule out liver fluke infestation as a cause of your cat's symptoms.

Your vet will need to perform a range of tests to check for liver flukes. Blood tests can help your vet evaluate liver function. X-rays can help your vet evaluate the health of your cat's liver, by checking for liver enlargement and other symptoms that may indicate liver fluke infestation. Your vet may check a stool sample for liver fluke eggs. Your vet may be able to find adult liver flukes by examining some of your cat's liver cells under a microscope.

Treating Feline Liver Flukes

Your cat's liver fluke treatment will depend on the severity of the infestation. Your vet will probably prescribe anti-worming agents to eliminate the parasites from your cat's body. Bile-thinning drugs can also help treat the infestation. Administer all medications according to your vet's instructions.

If your cat's infestation is severe, he may need supportive care in the form of IV fluids. If liver fluke infestation becomes severe enough to block your cat's bile ducts, he may need surgery.

Preventing Liver Fluke Infestation in Your Cat

You can prevent liver fluke infestation in your cat by keeping him indoors, especially if you live in an area where liver flukes are common, such as Hawaii, Florida, or the Caribbean. Discourage your cat from following his predatory instincts, and especially discourage him from hunting lizards and toads, since these animals typically carry and spread liver flukes. If your cat is at risk for liver flukes, you may want to talk to your vet about regular blood tests, since liver flukes often do not cause symptoms.