Understanding Cat Liver Disease

The cat liver is a large and important organ, in charge of regulating the levels of most chemicals in the bloodstream. The liver also clears toxins from the blood, produces proteins for the plasma and helps the distribution of fat in the body.

Cat liver disease occurs when too many lipids accumulate in the liver. Feline liver disease is more common in older and obese cats. Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, is one of the most frequent liver ailments in cats.

Causes of Liver Disease

The causes of liver disease in cats are not precisely known. It may be caused by metabolic, toxic or nutritional causes. There are some diseases that are known to cause liver damage:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Cushing's disease (caused by adrenal cortical hormone in excess)
  • Infectious peritonitis
  • Feline leukemia or FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus)

Symptoms of Feline Liver Disease

The symptoms of feline liver disease may not occur in the early stages of the disease. When the condition is severe, you will notice some of the following symptoms.

  • The cat lacks appetite and may refuse to eat. This will result in massive weight loss.
  • On the other hand, the cat will have a swollen abdomen.
  • Diarrhea, vomiting or excessive salivation.
  • Jaundice may also be present. The whites of the eyes will be yellowish. The gums and the inside of the ears may also change their color and look yellow. This is due to the liver's incapacity to process toxins.
  • Behavior changes: he'll be depressed, lethargic and easily irritable.
  • In serious cases, the cat will have seizures.

Diagnosing Cat Liver Disease

Liver disease is difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms of cat liver disease may point to other conditions such as cancer or pancreatic disease. Blood tests and a biopsy can show if the liver is affected. The test will show an increased level of liver enzymes. A liver biopsy may also be performed for a proper diagnosis.

Liver Disease Treatment

If the liver damage is caused by a disease, the treatment should focus on that disease. If the cause is not determined, the treatment options are limited. A balanced diet, rich in protein, will be prescribed to reduce the liver's workload. Due to lack of appetite, the cat may refuse to eat. In this case he might need a feeding tube inserted in the esophagus or stomach. Alternatively, the sick cat may be force fed with a syringe, with liquid food inserted directly into his mouth.

Choline is a supplement that is often prescribed for liver diseases in cat. Choline can reduce body fat, having a role in lipid metabolism.

The liver has high regenerating capacities, so if the disease is detected in time, it may be reversible.

Cat Liver Failure

If cat liver disease is not detected and treated, the condition will lead to liver failure. The liver will no longer have the capacity to eliminate toxins from the body. Liver failure is fatal.