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Feline Fatty Liver Disease
Feline Hepatic Lipidosis
Fatty Liver Disease is one of the most common liver diseases in cats, primarily seen in older, obese cats.
If your cat stops eating for a few days, its body will need to break down fat very quickly to keep nutrient levels balanced. This overwhelms the liver, causing fat to build up there. Eventually, the liver stops working properly. As the disease progresses, it may result in fatal liver failure.
Anorexia is the leading cause of fatty liver disease. If your cat was overweight before the anorexia, it has a greater chance of developing fatty liver disease.
Other conditions cause a loss of appetite, which can result in fatty liver disease:
- Intestinal disease
- Social problems (for example, a new cat or home)
Your cat will lose its appetite for a few days in a row. As the disease progresses, you may notice:
- Weight loss
- Vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration
- Jaundice: yellowed eyes or skin
If you see any of these signs, go to the veterinarian immediately. The disease is fatal if not treated quickly and aggressively.
To properly diagnose your cat with fatty liver disease, your veterinarian may perform the following:
- Blood tests
- Liver biopsy (by surgery or needle): to check for excess fat
- Other tests may be performed to determine why your cat stopped eating
Immediate treatment to stabilize your cat may include:
- IV fluids
- Antibiotics and vitamins
- Blood transfusions
The primary treatment is dietary therapy until your cat's normal appetite returns (usually 6 to 7 weeks). The liver will then continue its regular functioning and remove the excess fat on its own.
- A feeding tube inserted surgically into the cat's stomach
- Feed it a high protein, high-calorie diet with a syringe
- Every so often, try to give your cat some food by mouth, so you will know when its appetite returns
- After your cat eats normally for 3 to 4 days, please bring it back to your veterinarian to remove the tube
The actual cause of the disorder is unknown, but obesity and anorexia are associated with the disease. Prevent obesity by not overfeeding your cat.
Also, try to avoid stressful situations that may cause a cat to suddenly stop eating. These include a new pet or family member in the home, or suddenly changing your cat's diet.
There is a great chance for full recovery if you catch the disease in its early stages and give proper, aggressive treatment. If there is an underlying medical issue causing fatty liver disease, it is important to address that as well.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM