Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats: A Guide

One of the largest internal organs in a cat’s body is his liver. The liver is made up of many parts, each section carrying out an essential function for the body. One of these functions helps with the digestion of food that helps to supply the body with energy by releasing glycogen. A feline’s liver is also responsible for synthesizing proteins, storing vitamins, creating bile, and reducing any poisonous properties that may be present in the body.

As you can assume, the liver is an incredibly important organ within a feline’s body. A cat cannot function without the support from his liver. Unfortunately, diseases can affect the liver, causing a plethora of issues for your furry friend.

Understanding how the liver plays a role in the body is the first step to understanding how liver disease can occur, and specifically Hepatic Lipidosis. This article will provide a brief overview of Hepatic Lipidosis in cats, common signs, and potential treatment options for cats diagnosed with this issue.

What is Hepatic Lipidosis?

Hepatic Lipidosis, also referred to as Fatty Liver Disease, occurs when a feline’s liver is no longer able to carry out the essential functions needed to maintain homeostasis in the body. If left untreated, this serious condition can lead to illness or even death.

This particular type of liver disease usually presents itself when a cat loses his appetite and stops eating. Most often, it happens after a pet parent chooses to make a change to the cat’s diet. Oftentimes, pet parents believe that a cat will “come around” to the new food, but this is rarely the case. If your cat continues to refuse to eat, take him to the vet as soon as possible.

When the cat stops eating, his body goes into starvation mode and will begin to pull energy from his body’s fat storage. These fat stores are then sent to the liver and are broken down for nutrition and energy. Since a cat’s body normally relies on protein for energy, his body will fire off warning signals when the fat storage is used instead. His liver can become overwhelmed by this new energy source, which causes his fat cells to store up in the liver, hindering its regular functioning. 

Try to think of this process and how it would affect a human body. If someone were to stop eating, the body would go into starvation mode as well. The body will have to rely on fat stores for energy until the individual eats again to help regulate the metabolism. The difference is that a human body can process the fat stores, but the liver of a cat cannot. The fat cells accumulate in his body and continue to mess with the overall processes of the liver.

It is this process that causes Hepatic Lipidosis, which is the most common type of liver disease found in cats. This particular disease can happen suddenly, or it can be a slow and progressive disease that’s brought on over time.

Don’t know how much a cat should eat on a daily basis? Professionals recommend that cats should eat several small meals throughout the day. In a natural habitat, they have to eat smaller portions to be able to move often and hunt smaller animals. It is abnormal for them to eat large meals of kibble that are available at all hours of the day–it goes against a feline’s design. Cats are naturally active and lean creatures, there bodies aren’t meant to store excess fat. This is why Hepatic Lipidosis can be so dangerous for feline companions.

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease in Cats

There are a many symptoms of liver disease in cats. As the owner, being alert to these issues will be imperative to your cat’s health. Often, it is these types of changes that can create or lead to fatty liver disease in cats:

If your cat has experienced any of the above issues, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. These symptoms often go hand-in-hand with the following criteria:

Specifically, if a feline has been affected by fatty liver syndrome they will be exuding symptoms such as anorexia, weight loss, dehydration, an excessive amount of droll, and vomiting. The longer the disease progresses, the worse these symptoms will become.

If the cat does not receive the proper care and the illness progresses, they will begin to experience the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Fatty liver disease is extremely serious and should not be ignored. If you assume your cat is suffering from Hepatic Lipidosis, get him to the vet as soon as you can.

If Hepatic Lipidosis is a secondary disease, it may be masked by other symptoms. These include:

Can Fatty Liver Disease be Prevented?

The good news is that there are measures that can be taken to try and avoid Hepatic Lipidosis. As the most common cause of this liver disease is lack of food, the owner is responsible for feeding their feline on a daily basis. It’s also important that the cat is being fed nutritious, high-quality food. It will be very important that a cat is getting the appropriate amount of calories each day, so just be sure to do some research first or ask your vet for a cat nutrition checklist. Finding the root cause of a cat’s lack of eating should be a priority before the disease has a chance to develop any further.  

Another way this health problem can be prevented is by making sure your cat is in a safe and comfortable environment. Everyday stressors such as other pets, nagging children, or even loud noises can cause stress in your cat.

A cat’s lack of eating could possibly be due to a pain in his mouth. If there is a sore on his tongue or the roof of his mouth this will likely cause discomfort