Symptoms of Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats

Hepatic lipidosis is a fatal disease if not caught and treated. The symptoms are typically easy to see, especially if you know what to look for.

Defining Hepatic Lipidosis

Hepatic lipidosis, also known as Fatty Liver Disease, is the shutting down of a cat's liver. This happens when a cat, for whatever reason, ceases eating for an extended period of time. In an attempt to keep the body nourished, it tries to digest its own body fat. The liver is not designed to process this fat, and it gets clogged up. As a result, the liver begins to shut down.

Hepatic lipidosis occurs most frequently in obese cats. Otherwise, it can be a result of another underlying cause. Stress, depression and anxiety can cause a cat to stop eating and can therefore be factors in contracting hepatic lipidosis.

Loss of Appetite

If you notice your cat hasn't been eating his food, you should try adding a bit of tuna or other ingredient to flavor it up and make it more appealing. If your cat still doesn't want to eat, it's time to call the vet. Your cat may not have developed hepatic lipidosis yet, but if he keeps refusing to eat, he can and will. A cat may not regain his appetite for weeks after being diagnosed and started on treatment.

Weight Loss

If your cat isn't eating, he's going to lose weight. Cats lose weight rapidly when suffering from hepatic lipidosis, and this is a sign that something is wrong. Most cats with this condition will need to be fed through a tube inserted into their esophagus or stomach. The tube can be inserted at the vet, and the pet can be taken home. The owner will use a syringe to push mashed up canned cat food through the tube. After a few weeks of feeding this way, the cat should be feeling up to eating on his own again.


Another sign of hepatic lipidosis is jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and eyes. Seeing a cat's skin might be difficult with all the fur, but you'll notice the whites of their eyes turning yellow. Jaundice is a sign that the liver is failing and too many toxins are building up in the body. His gums may also take on a yellowish appearance. This symptom disappears as the liver begins to recover.

Drooling or Excessive Salivation

Hepatic lipidosis suffering cats may feel a bit nauseous, and drooling can be a result of that.

Swollen Abdomen

Your cat's abdomen may swell up as it becomes filled with a fluid called ascites. It may be painful to your cat to touch it.


Although potentially fatal, Fatty Liver disease can be reversed with aggressive treatment and early diagnosis. Recovery can take weeks to months. It is a slow process. During this time you may see some symptoms such as slight hair loss. Your cat may vomit, especially if overfed, and may have diarrhea which could come out green in color.