Fatty Liver Treatement for Cats

Feline liver treatment for fatty liver disease can be complicated, involving fluid therapy, nutritional supplements, feeding tubes and medication. Feline fatty liver disease, also known as feline hepatic lipidosis, is a dangerous condition in which fat deposits build up in the liver, inhibiting its function. Here's what you should know.

Causes of Feline Fatty Liver Disease

Feline fatty liver disease can occur as a result of liver damage, or as a complication of metabolic disorders like diabetes, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. Chronic feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, can lead to fatty liver disease in cats. So can heart disease, pancreatitis, cancer and chronic upper respiratory disease.

As many as 50% of feline fatty liver disease cases occur, however, for unknown reasons. Almost every case of feline hepatic lipidosis occurs in overweight or obese cats who stop eating for whatever reason. Usually, healthy cats stop eating because of stress, due to a change in environment, the introduction of a new pet or family member to the household, dietary changes, or illness.

Symptoms of Feline Fatty Liver Disease

Often, cats who develop feline hepatic lipidosis are obese or overweight. They have recently experienced a stressful event, such as illness or a change in environment, that has caused them to stop eating, or eat very little, often for days or even weeks. Depression may occur. The cat often loses large amounts of weight, including muscle mass as well as fat.

Cats with feline fatty liver disease may develop jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, as a result of reduced liver function. They may vomit from time to time. The disease can affect brain function, leading to a worsening of depression and increasingly lethargic behavior.

Diagnosing Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

If your overweight cat has recently stopped eating and has lost a lot of weight, your vet will automatically suspect feline fatty liver disease. Your vet may use blood samples, ultrasounds, X-rays and even biopsies to confirm the diagnosis.

Treating Feline Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease treatment is often multi-pronged. Your cat will be placed on a nutrient-dense, high-calorie diet for up to six weeks. He may need to have a feeding tube placed. The tube can be placed in your cat's torso, throat, or nose, depending upon his size, the severity of his illness, and yours and your veterinarian's preferences. 

If your cat has experienced vomiting, he may need fluid therapy to help rehydrate his body. Vitamin supplements can help support your cat's liver function and prevent serious nutritional deficiencies as he recovers.

Your vet may prescribe medications to treat vomiting, and protect your cat from stomach and intestinal ulcers. If your cat has developed hepatic encephalopathy, a brain disorder related to decreased liver function, then medications such as metronidazole can help. Your vet may also recommend antibiotics, if your cat is suffering from infection as a result of lowered immune function.

Feline fatty liver disease is fatal in about 35% of cases, even with treatment. Most cats, however, recover in three to six weeks. Liver damage is usually reversible. You can prevent fatty liver disease by helping your cat maintain a healthy weight.