Diagnosing Liver Disease in Cats with an ALT Test

ALT test is a diagnostic test used to detect liver damage in felines. There are various causes of liver disease in cats and pets of all breeds are susceptible to it. Since the liver performs bodily tasks necessary for survival, it's important to treat liver disease to prevent complications and death. The cat's liver cleans the body of toxins and secretes bile and other enzymes necessary for digestion and fat absorption. The liver is also responsible for the production of hormones essential for normal body functioning.

Causes and Symptoms of Liver Disease in Cats

One of the most common causes of liver disease is hepatic lipidosis in cats, associated with anorexia. Since fat reserves are used to supply nutrients to anorexic pets, the liver becomes overworked and excess fat buildup in the liver occurs. Other known causes of liver disease include toxicity, liver disease associated with viral and bacterial infection and portosystemic shunt. Since the liver continues to function even when partial liver damage exists, the symptoms of liver damage often appear when the disease is in an advanced stage.

Known symptoms of liver disease in cats include:

  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • seizures
  • symptoms of jaundice

Pets may also suffer exhibit excessive thirst and urination. The diagnosis of feline liver disease involves various tests to determine the cause and severity. One of the tests used to determine decrease in liver function is ALT or alanine aminotransferase test.

ALT Test

Alanine aminotransferase is a type of enzyme that's released by the body into the blood when conditions such as liver disease and heart disease are present. ALT is also termed as serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase. During diagnosis of liver disease a blood test will help detect the amount of ALT present in the blood stream. Elevated level of ALT is an indicator of liver disease or heart damage.

Since ALT levels are high in pets prescribed certain medicines, it's necessary to determine if the cause of high ALT is liver disease, accompanying health concerns or other factors. Along with ALT another enzyme known as aspartate aminotransferase determines liver injury. Apart from ALT tests, the vet will perform a series of other diagnostic tests to detect internal abnormalities and accompanying health conditions.

Other Diagnostic Tests

  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • Blood count test
  • Thyroid test
  • Serological tests
  • Liver biopsy

Treatment of Feline Liver Disease

If the liver disease is caused due to another health condition, the vet will use treatment procedures to treat the primary cause. Since liver disease is also caused due to toxic reaction to certain drugs, the symptoms of liver damage reduce if the medication is discontinued. Pets suffering from hepatic lipidosis require diets high in protein. Force feeding techniques may also be used. Other treatment options that address specific liver disorders include surgery, anti-inflammatory medication, IV fluid supplementation and dietary modification. It's important to follow up with vet checks to determine response to treatment.

Pet owners should take preventive measures to avoid overworking the cat's liver. It's best to read package labels and ensure that food products are free from additives, preservatives, dyes and by products.