Feline Fatty Liver Disease

"Feline fatty liver disease or “Feline Hepatic Lipidosis” is the most common metabolic disorder noticed in aged and obese cats. This condition may be termed as the accumulation of fat over the liver. The condition affects the normal functioning of the liver. The exact cause of is unknown, but is suspected to be associated with different diseases. Affected cats appear overweight, older and with significant loss of appetite. Other signs that indicate liver disease include jaundice, dehydration and progressive weakness. Diagnosis is based upon a cat's clinical history, signs, laboratory testing and radiography. Treatment involves diet therapy, fluid therapy and can be prevented by taking extreme care during feeding."

Causes of Feline Fatty Liver Disease

Feline fatty liver is the most common disease noticed in cats throughout the world. The exact cause of this condition is still unknown. It is suspected that it is actually a mass abnormality in the metabolic mechanism caused by different diseases. That is why feline fatty liver is usually linked with diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus, Hyperthyroidism, Feline Chronic Kidney Disease, Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) and Pancreatitis.

It is also unknown what factors lead to the accumulation of fat around liver; too many variable factors have been noticed in different cats. Usually it is thought that “Stress” is the most common factor, as it is noticed in almost all cases of feline fatty liver. Obese and aged cats are usually more susceptible.

Signs and Symptoms of Feline Fatty Liver Disease

Cats with fatty livers appear overweight,older and appear to be under extreme stress. Stress and depression are two of the main signs and predisposing factors for feline fatty liver. Loss of appetite along with progressive weakness and lethargy can be noticed clinically. The appetite is usually reduced within a period of 2–4 weeks, with out any cause, thus making this condition “idiopathic”, which means without a known cause

Fatty liver severely affects the physiology or functioning of the liver, thus some typical signs are those of a liver disorder such as jaundice, abdominal pain, vomiting and dehydration accompanied by lethargy.

Diagnosis of Feline Fatty Liver Disease:

A cat's history and clinical signs can help in suspecting the existence of feline fatty liver, since signs such as loss of appetite and those of progressive weakness can help in identifying the condition.

The blood can be examined in a laboratory for different liver enzymes. Testing will show that certain components of the blood such as ALT (alanine aminotransferase) and AST (aspartate aminotransferase) are elevated, while levels of the enzyme SAP appears elevated as well. High cholesterol occurs in affected cats.

Radiography and ultrasounds can help in identifying conditions of the liver, enlarged liver and other conditions, such as neoplasm of inflammation can be ruled out.

A liver biopsy is usually required for confirmation of the disorder and for determining an effective treatment plan.

Treatment of Feline Fatty Liver Disease:

Once confirmed, diet therapy is considered the best approach for diagnosed cats. Cats should be fed a special diet for 3–6 weeks. The diet should be high in proteins and calories but lower in cholesterol and fatty acids.

Cats with fatty liver, usually refuse to eat; therefore, forced feeding through feeding tubes, which are inserted into the stomach, are required in almost all cases of feline fatty liver.

Dehydration is also common, thus rehydration with electrolytes and fluid therapy is highly recommended. Dietary supplements, especially vitamin K and phosphorus should be included in infusions. Prolonged use of “Thiamine” as a dietary supplement can help in overcoming problems of appetite in affected cats.

A supportive therapy that can be used in addition to conventional treatments is the homeopathic product Liver-Aid Formula.  It contains ingredients such as Milk Thistle (positive effect on liver function), Burdock (liver supportive properties) and Greater Celandine (digestive and liver support).


The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health