Just like in humans, cats can contract Hepatitis at any stage of their life. While it may be difficult to watch your cat suffering from any kind of illness, the best thing you can do as their owner is to recognize when they are sick and get them the help they need as soon as possible.
This article will provide you with an overview of Hepatitis in cats, common symptoms associated with this health problem, and discuss how a cat contracts this illness in the first place.
An Overview of Hepatitis in Cats
When discussing hepatitis, it’s important to have a complete understanding of the disease itself, it’s impact on the body, and the common symptoms your cat may display if he has been affected. Hepatitis is a medical condition often used to describe inflammation of the liver in cats. It’s connected to an accumulation of inflammatory cells in the liver in conjunction with progressive scarring or the emergence of excessive fibrous tissue in the liver. Over time, these symptoms can lead to decrease functioning of the liver, which can become quite serious as it progresses.
Hepatitis can be caused by bacterial infections, ingestion of toxic substances, medications which attack the liver, and contact with another infected animal (through mucous membranes, feces, and blood).
More About the Liver
The liver is a remarkably important organ which performs a variety of key tasks. It produces enzymes that support digestion and metabolizes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It also stores essential vitamins and nutrients, breaks down toxins and eliminates waste from the body. Because of the liver’s large reserve capacity, if one portion of the liver stops working, another area can take over. The liver can even regenerate its own tissue in some circumstances. However, hepatitis can actually break down the liver over time, rendering it less and less effective. Because the liver is responsible for a variety of functions, cats with hepatitis may exhibit a wide array of symptoms. Below is a list of common symptoms of hepatitis in cats:
- Decreased appetite: With key functions of the liver such as digestion and metabolizing proteins, fats, and carbs affected, it’s common for cats to lose their appetite when they are diagnosed with hepatitis.
- Fatigue: With less food coming in, cats will inevitably have lower energy levels. Felines frequently display signs of sluggishness, which often become quickly apparent.
- Weight loss: Another byproduct of decreased appetite is weight loss. If you notice your cat’s weight dropping quickly, it’s important to take him to the vet as soon as possible.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea: Signs of feline vomiting and diarrhea in cats are typically the first signs you may notice. Because the liver is less effective, and in some cases incapable of performing the key tasks mentioned above, vomiting and diarrhea often ensue.
- Frequent urination and excessive thirst: Vomiting and diarrhea combined with a decrease in appetite all contribute to excessive thirst. It’s not uncommon for cats with hepatitis to ingest far more liquid than normal. Naturally, this leads to frequent urination. It’s important to keep a keen eye on your kitty’s fluid intake as this can be another tell-tale sign something is wrong with his health.
- Swelling of the abdomen: Abdominal swelling results from enlargement of the liver along with fluid build up in the abdomen.
- Jaundice: As the disease progresses, it can cause jaundice, which results in the gums, eyes, and skin turning a yellowish color. This can be one of the tell-tale signs of hepatitis.
- Unusual color of feces: It’s not uncommon for fecal matter to be discolored due to decreased liver function.
- Neurologic and nervous system signs: These symptoms tend to be exhibited if the disease has progressed. Neurologic symptoms such as disorientation, depression, aggression and even blindness can occur. Symptoms regarding the nervous system such as seizures and coma, though less common, have occurred in some cases as well.
Is Hepatitis in Cats Contagious?
Feline hepatitis can be both chronic and infectious. In the case of chronic hepatitis, a cat can never fully recover from their symptoms. If the disease is infectious, it can become highly contagious. If your cat has been diagnosed with infectious hepatitis by a veterinarian, it’s important to take this diagnosis seriously especially if you have other animals in the home. The disease can be transmitted to other cats either through contact with the blood or the feces of the infected feline.
Once diagnosed, the scope of veterinary-prescribed treatment is primarily focused on symptom management, thus the recommended course of action may vary from cat to cat. If the hepatitis is considered infectious, isolating your cat from other animals is highly recommended and the best way to reduce the risk of infection.
If your cat has been diagnosed with acute hepatitis, he may recover quickly. Often times, signs of chronic hepatitis may take a while to show, which is why veterinarians commonly schedule liver biopsies around four to six weeks after being diagnosed with acute hepatitis.
It’s highly unlikely that chronic hepatitis will ever be “cured.” Unfortunately, cats are often diagnosed after the disease has progressed. Overall, the ability to identify symptoms and seek treatment early on provides the greatest chance of a prolonged outlook and reduces the risk of infecting other animals in the home.
- “Liver Inflammation (Chronic) in Cats.” PetMD, www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/endocrine/c_ct_hepatitis_chronic_active.
- Meggitt, Jane. “How Is Hepatitis Treated in Cats?” Pets The Nest, 14 July 2016, www.pets.thenest.com/hepatitis-treated-cats-9931.html.
- “Hepatitis in Cats – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.” Animalwised.com, www.animalwised.com/hepatitis-in-cats-causes-symptoms-and-treatment-411.html.