fatty liver in cats

Fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome, is a disease that affects the liver in cats. It is the most common acquired liver disease in cats and can be life-threatening.In most cases, this is the result of anorexia and dramatic weight loss in overweight cats. Knowing how to recognize the signs of this serious disease, how to prevent it, and when to seek veterinary treatment, can help save a cat’s life.

What is fatty liver in cats?

Fatty liver usually occurs in overweight cats who are stressed out and eat poorly. It is usually seen in cats, but rarely in dogs.

The liver is an organ that performs several functions, including processing fat to produce energy. If the liver and its cells are overwhelmed trying to break down fat to produce energy, it can’t process fat fast enough. This causes fat-laden liver cells to swell and impair liver function. If left untreated, fatty liver disease can be fatal because the liver cannot function. Clinical symptoms vary but may include weight loss, anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, jaundice, and weakness.

Signs of fatty liver in cats

  • lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • lose weight
  • general weakness
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Vomit
  • diarrhea

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Causes of fatty liver in cats

Any disease or condition that can cause a cat to stop eating suddenly can lead to fatty liver disease.Reasons a cat may stop eating include a dislike of new food, environmental stress, various diseases that cause loss of appetite, and more. When a cat stops eating, its body looks for fat sources from within, and the liver tries to process that fat for energy. In cats, especially those who are overweight, this fat can overwhelm the liver, preventing it from functioning properly.

Diagnosing fatty liver in cats

If you suspect your cat has fatty liver or has stopped eating, see your veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination, take a complete medical history, and obtain a blood sample for a complete blood count and to check organ function. Specific enzymes in the blood provide information that veterinarians use to help them determine if the liver is functioning well. These enzymes may indicate that your cat has fatty liver or other problems causing the same symptoms.

To definitively diagnose a cat with fatty liver, an ultrasound and liver biopsy may be required to verify the presence of fat in the liver cells. Surgery is sometimes required to visually inspect the liver and obtain a sample for testing.

How to Prevent Fatty Liver in Cats

To prevent your cat from developing fatty liver, make sure your cat is not overweight but eats regularly. Restricting food intake and increasing activity will help cats lose weight, but you never want your cat to stop eating completely or it could lead to fatty liver.