Fatty Liver Disease in Cats (Hepatic Lipidosis)

Overweight cats that lose weight too quickly are at risk for deadly fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis.

Fatty liver disease is the most common form of liver failure in cats. The cat is a carnivorous species, ingesting large amounts of protein in the wild. Being overweight was never in the cards for cats that hunted to survive. However, today's indoor cats are much more likely to become overweight. Then, if they drastically decrease or stop their food intake, those fat stores are mobilized to be converted to energy to keep the cat alive. However, the feline liver, not being used to handling large amounts of fat, is not able to metabolize it properly and liver failure can result.

The liver's main jobs are to break down proteins, produce digestive chemicals, aid in metabolism, produce coagulation factors (to aid in blood-clotting), handle the decomposition of red blood cells, and detoxify the body. In liver failure, these are the things that suffer.

Breeds, Ages, and Gender of Cats Commonly Affected by Fatty Liver Disease

Often, fatty liver disease is diagnosed in middle-aged or older cats but there are no breed or gender predilections.

Presentation and Signs of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

Causes of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

It generally requires around two weeks of eating 3/4 or less of a cat's normal food intake to develop fatty liver disease. There is always an underlying cause for the sudden sharp decrease in appetite. The most common of these causes are:

Diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

Your veterinarian will use several criteria to arrive at a diagnosis fatty liver disease.

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

The treatment of fatty liver disease in cats is aimed at reversing the malnutrition caused by the increase of fat and the decrease of protein supplied to the liver.


Home Care of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

Sometimes force-feeding, fluids, and medications can be administered at home but treatment must be aggressive and the correct amount of food must be successfully ingested if the cat is to survive. There is a short window of time to intervene and reverse the effects of fatty liver disease, so home care must be approached prudently.

Prevention of Feline Fatty Liver Disease

Prognosis of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

The prognosis for a cat with fatty liver disease is very good (around 90% recovery) when it is treated appropriately and aggressively. Without treatment, most cats will die. Also, the underlying condition that caused the cat to stop eating in the first place must be identified and addressed.

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