Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats

Hepatic Lipidosis is a common liver disorder seen in cats. One of the most common liver disorders seen in cats is a disease known as hepatic lipidosis, a potentially fatal condition where the liver develops progressive fatty infiltration and dysfunction.  Symptoms of this disease commonly include weight loss, partial or complete loss of appetite, vomiting, and often a progressive yellowing of the mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, gums and skin).

There is often a history of obesity prior to onset of clinical symptoms.  Many times an emotional and/or physical stress may also precipitate disease onset.   For example, many animal guardians who are intent on getting their overweight cats to lose weight will often change diets to a low fat diet.  Many finicky cats may not like the diet change and going off food for even a few days can sometimes lead to the onset of hepatic lipidosis in susceptible cats.

Diagnosis of this disease is often made by clinical history, as well as labwork suggesting fatty infiltration of the liver.  Definitive diagnosis often requires ultrasound and/or needle aspiration or biopsy of the liver.  Other disorders such as pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and inflammation of the liver (known as cholangiohepatitis) may also exist at the same time in affected cats.  These conditions can complicate management of hepatic lipidosis, as well as also lead to secondary infections and liver failure.

Treatment of hepatic lipidosis involves getting nutrition into these often severely anorectic cats by either force feeding and/or veterinary surgical placement of a feeding tube.  With aggressive nutritional support, many cats can be cured of this potentially life threatening disease. The best way of preventing this disease is through consistent and wholesome diets, and doing any dietary changes gradually with cats.

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  3. Initially my cat had ear infection and went through two bouts of antibiotic shots. Then took her back to vet because she was very aggressive and combative. She was put on Prozac, but otherwise had a clean bill of health. The Prozac made her too listless and she wouldn’t eat or drink… I took her off the Prozac but she still isn’t eating . drinks very little.her skin is now yellow. She went from a very large ten pound cat to skin and bones. I think I need to find a new vet. He just keeps saying she is healthy.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    If she is yellow like you describe she is quite ill, and may have a serious problem with her liver, pancreas or blood cells. She needs to have full medical evaluation ASAP,l and have blood work repeated, etc

  5. Thank you very much for your input. Lucy is in the hospital being tube fed and i.v. fluids. She will hopefully be able to come home in a few days. I am so grateful to you.

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