Cholangeiohepatitis in Cats

Cholangiohepatitis is a condition causing the liver tissue and bile ducts to become inflamed due to bacteria, viruses or parasites moving from the small intestine to the liver. This can result in liver failure and there is also a high risk of pancreatitis. Middle aged male cats seem more prone to cholangiohepatitis than cats of other ages and females. Cholangiohepatitis appears in one of the following forms (depending on its causes):

  • suppurative cholangiohepatitis
  • nonsuppurative cholangiohepatitis
  • biliary cirrhosis

Suppurative Cholangiohepatitis

Suppurative cholangiohepatitis manifests itself as an acute disease resulting from a bacterial, viral or parasite infection.

The causes of this type of cholangiohepatitis include:

  • Bacteria coming from the intestinal tract that invade the liver. The bacteria might infect the pancreas as well, causing pancreatitis or the inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Bacteria, viruses or parasites can also get into the liver through the blood causing suppurative cholangiohepatitis.

Nonsuppurative Cholangiohepatitis

Nonsuppurative Cholangiohepatitis is a chronic condition which is considered an immune disorder of unknown causes or in association with other conditions such as:

  • The inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation)
  • Gallbladder stones
  • The obstruction of the bile duct

Biliary Cirrhosis

Biliary cirrhosis occurs when the bile duct is blocked or destroyed by an inflammation as a result of bacteria coming from the intestine or the pancreas.

Symptoms of Cholangiohepatitis in Cats

While the symptoms of suppurative cholangiohepatitis are acute and more specific, those of the nonsuppurative cholangiohepatitis are more ambiguous or may not appear at all.

Suppurative cholangiohepatitis is associated with:

  • Painful abdomen
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • High fever
  • Loss of eyesight
  • Seizures
  • Enlarged liver

Lethargy, vomiting and weight loss could indicate nonsuppurative cholangiohepatitis, but may indicate other conditions. Sometimes, due to the inability to properly digest food, the cat's appetite can increase.

Diagnosing Cholangiohepatitis in Cats

Diagnosing cholangiohepatitis is difficult, due to the ambiguity of the symptoms. Usually, extensive tests and examinations need to be performed for a final diagnosis:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Analysis of urine
  • Analysis of ammonia levels
  • Testing blood clotting (coagulogram)
  • Testing of bile acids
  • Abdominal X-rays and ultrasound
  • Surgical examination of the abdomen (laparotomy)
  • Biopsy of the liver

Treatment of Cholangiohepatitis in Cats

The treatment of cholangiohepatitis involves hospitalization as well as home care. Various measures can be taken in order to restore your cat's health:

  • Therapy with fluids to hydrate the pet
  • Antibiotics
  • Immunosuppresants in  nonsuppurative cholangiohepatitis cases
  • Elimination of the abdominal fluid with diuretics
  • Lactulose to slow down the absorption of ammonia to ease liver function with
  • Choleretic medication for the bile

In some cases surgery is needed in order to eliminate the gall bladder stones or other obstructions of the bile.

As far as home care is concerned, you will need to keep your cat's diet under control and give him nutritional supplements. Repeated evaluations will be necessary in order to monitor therapy results.