Diagnosing Feline Liver Disease

Feline liver disease is a difficult illness to diagnose, and can be even harder to treat. By the time cat liver disease is apparent, the organ is already severely damaged.

The Function of the Feline Liver

The liver is one of the largest organs in a cat's body. It helps regulates the levels of chemicals in the blood and makes proteins for plasma. The liver cleans the blood of toxins and medications, produces and secretes bile and aids in blood-clotting. The enzymes in the liver helps a cat digest food and process sugars. This organ also produces some hormones and changes ammonia into urea, which is eliminated in a cat's urine.

There is a direct blood supply from a cat's stomach to the liver. Because of this, the liver is vulnerable to injury since ingested items that are dangerous can reach it quickly. It is hard to catch feline liver disease in the early stages because the liver has a big reserve. Usually two-thirds of the liver is damaged by the time signs of disease begin to present.

Symptoms of Cat Liver Disease

A cat with liver disease may have a loss of appetite, weight loss, and be very lethargic. A cat may also drink more water than usual or begin vomiting.

Jaundice in cats will appear in the later stages of liver damage. Jaundice will cause the whites of cat 's eyes, skin and gums to appear yellow. Cats with fatty liver disease lose weight quickly. This usually happens in cats that are overweight, since there is an excess of fat cells accumulating in the liver. This accumulation will cause the liver to act inefficiently or not at all.

Diagnosing Feline Liver Disease

When liver disease is suspected, a veterinarian will run tests on a cat's blood and urine. Blood tests can determine if a cat is anemic and see if the white blood cell count is elevated. If the flow of bile is hindered, the levels of bilirubin may be elevated. Liver enzymes in the blood can also be measured.

A veterinarian may also wish to have a cat fast to perform a bile stimulation test, which can tell the doctor more about the liver's function. A blood sample will be taken from the cat to be tested after fasting for 12 hours. After a couple of hours, the cat is fed and blood is drawn and tested again.

X-rays will be taken if the blood work suggests liver damage. A veterinarian may also want to acquire images with an ultrasound machine to get a better look at the condition of the liver. The final diagnostic step would be to biopsy the liver to see what type of liver disease the cat has, so appropriate treatment can begin.

The treatment of feline liver disease depends on why the cat's liver is failing, making it necessary for thorough tests to be performed. With the proper diagnosis, timing, and treatment, a diseased liver may regenerate a bit and continue to function.