Thursday, June 24, 2010

Question: Hepatic Lipidosis?

Dr. Schaeberle,

I have a cat that is overweight, at my last visit the veterinarian mentioned Hepatic lipidosis could develop. Should I be concerned?



Hi Beth,
Cats are sometimes prone to a serious illness called fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis. Overweight cats are at higher risk. Typically, stress or illness causes the cat to stop eating. When the cat stops eating, the body is tricked into thinking it is starving and fat starts to mobilize from the body, accumulating within the liver. This, in turn, affects liver function.

Most cats with fatty liver disease have experienced a recent, rapid weight loss, their skin and mucous membranes appear yellow or jaundiced, and they may be dehydrated, have nausea or vomiting and appear quiet or depressed.

Definitive diagnosis of hepatic lipidosis is by ultrasound of the liver or by liver biopsy, however, the disease is often suspected based on history, blood tests and clinical signs.

It is very important that cats with fatty liver disease start to receive enough calories to maintain their daily energy requirements. Force feeding may be attempted if the cat is not vomiting. If vomiting is present, medications are often used to control nausea, and many patients benefit from having a feeding tube placed. The feeding tube is usually placed either via the nose, or via a brief surgical procedure to place the tube in the esophagus. The cat is then fed a slurry through the tube. The feeding tubes can stay in for several weeks, and many cats can be fed at home by their owners. Once the cat starts eating on his own, the tube is removed. Other treatments might include intravenous fluids, antibiotics and vitamin
supplements and liver support drugs like SAMe.

Hepatic lipidosis can be a very serious illness and in some cases, may even be fatal so prompt treatment is necessary. If you notice that your cat is not eating for several days, or if her skin or gums look yellow, please seek immediate veterinary attention.

Thomas Schaeberle, VMD

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