Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, is a common medical condition affecting older cats. Overweight cats are also more susceptible to the disease. Hepatic lipidosis is a reversible disease, but it is important to detect it as early as possible and administer proper treatment. If not detected in a timely manner, fatty liver disease can be fatal.

Causes of Hepatic Lipidosis

Even though there is no known cause for hepatic lipidosis, the disease has been linked to old age and obesity. The disease occurs in cats that are not able to properly metabolize proteins and fats. Hepatic lipidosis may be a secondary disease in cats with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (feline leukemia virus).

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Syndrome

Hepatic lipidosis is a disease that starts with the loss of appetite. The cat will refuse to eat, so the body will start to burn the fat deposits for fuel. The fat deposits will be processed by the liver, but the feline liver is not very efficient when processing fat cells, so the fat may get deposited in the liver. A cat with FLS will display symptoms such as:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration, due to vomiting and salivation
  • Jaundice, the skin and the whites of the eyes will have a yellowish hue
  • Seizures, in advanced cases

Early detection can help reverse a disease that may be fatal in felines.

Diagnosing FLS

Due to the fact that weight loss and lack of appetite may be symptoms of numerous other diseases, a vet must properly diagnose the cat. Blood tests as well as a liver biopsy will be performed. The blood tests will show an increased number of liver enzymes.

Treating Hepatic Lipidosis

Fatty liver disease can be treated through diet; no medication is needed.

The cat should be fed a diet that contains plenty of nutrients which will change his metabolism and help assimilate the fat cells. Most of the time, the cat must be force fed, as he will refuse to eat. The feeding will be done through a tube that is inserted in the esophagus when the cat needs to eat. After a few weeks of force feeding, the cat is likely to eat by himself. However, you still need to monitor the appetite of your cat. Some cats may require force feeding for up to 8 weeks.

Your vet will indicate what type of food your cat needs to eat. Prescription food for felines with FLS is also available.

If the cat has seizures or jaundice, he must be kept under veterinarian supervision and he needs to get fluid therapy for hydration. If the liver is failing, the toxins must be removed immediately. If left untreated, a cat will hepatic lipidosis will experience liver failure, which can be fatal.