The liver is a vital organ of the body. Its functions include digestion, removal of toxic waste from the blood, conversion of essential nutrients and storage of vitamins and minerals. While the liver works twenty-four seven to help the body function, it also becomes vulnerable to several diseases. Inflammation in the liver causes hepatitis, which, if, goes untreated, can damage the liver and prove to be fatal. But what causes liver diseases in cats?
What are the Causes of Liver Diseases in Cats?
Several factors can cause liver diseases.
Age is the number one factor for liver failures and diseases in cats. An elderly cat is more susceptible to liver disease than a cat in her initial years. However, this doesn’t mean that younger
cats can get away with liver diseases quickly.
Breed plays another important role in developing particular liver problems. Siamese cats are prone to developing liver diseases over a period of time.
Hepatic lipidosis is a very common type of liver disease in obese cats. Inappropriate fat infiltrates into the liver and causes it to swell and inflame. Not eating for 3 days can end up harming your cat with a syndrome called Hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver. When the body doesn’t receive food, the liver realizes that the body is not receiving the nutrients and fuel it needs to function. The liver starts to break up its own sugar reserve and this damage the liver. Getting your cat checked if it refrains from eating for more than 24 hours, is a wise decision.
Medications such as Acetaminophen, can damage the liver in cats.
An animal’s organs are placed close to each other. As a result, the liver, gallbladder, intestines, and pancreas are packed closely in a cat’s body. Therefore, even if one of these organs becomes infected or inflamed, all the other ones will get infected too. This type of liver disease is called Cholangiohepatitis complex.
What are the Symptoms of Liver Disease?
The symptoms can vary in every cat; however, these are the most common symptoms that every cat is bound to experience if it is suffering from liver disease.
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Excessive drooling
- Lack of energy or depression
- Dark colored urine
- Pale gums
- Accumulation of urine in the abdomen that appears like sudden weight gain.
- If an obese cat suddenly stops eating, it could lead to a liver condition called Feline Hepatic Lipidosis.
The above signs can be severe or mild in nature but should never go unnoticed. If your cat is showing any of the above symptoms, chances are she is suffering from liver disease. You should immediately take her to the vet for further diagnosis.
How is Liver Disease Diagnosed?
The signs of liver disease are generally not clear and definite. This makes it less easy to diagnose the disease. There are endless causes and symptoms to derive a conclusion from; hence, it is very important that you visit your vet who will discuss the best way to diagnose if your cat has liver disease or not.
The first step will be to go through your cat’s medical history. It’s medical, nutritional check and clinical examination will give an overview of what exactly could be happening. The vet might ask you about any of the above-listed symptoms, change in environment or diet, intake of any toxins, etc. Mostly the veterinarians take a blood sample for a test to check some parameters like kidney, liver, hormones, enzymes, the blood cell count and protein levels.
In some cases, the vet might even recommend radiography and ultrasound to get a clear image of the liver and its surrounding organs.
How to Treat Hepatic Diseases?
A lot of preventive measures and dietary changes need to be adopted. These changes should be slow and under the supervision of a vet. The treatment of any liver disease is aimed at resting the liver, and completely minimizing the functions that involve metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the body. The liver during this stage, is very sensitive and needs utmost care.
The right kind of diet and foods will prove to be beneficial. Feed your cat the right kind of high-quality fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, the ones that its body can easily process and digest out of the system. Also, make sure to limit the amount of sodium intake of your cat and add antioxidants like Vit E, C, and selenium to fight against oxidative stress.
Types of Liver Diseases
Cats can suffer from a wide range of liver diseases that may be hard to differentiate between. A liver biopsy gives a clear picture of the right treatment required. Some important liver conditions are:
Lymphocytic cholangitis is a non-infectious disease but causes a lot of inflammation. The causes for this condition are unknown, but it could be due to an abnormality in the immune system. The condition causes the liver to swell and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs used in the treatment. However, prolonged or life-long use of it can cause the body to relapse.
As this bacteria makes its way to the liver through the bile duct from the small intestine, it causes the neutrophilic cholangitis, a bacterial infection in the liver. To diagnose the condition, a liver biopsy can be done, or samples of the bile from the gall bladder are tested. The condition causes inflammation and pain in the abdomen.
Medical aid should be provided promptly, and antibiotics should be given to stop the bacteria from spreading.
When overweight cats stop eating according to their appetite all of a sudden, it causes a sudden change in their metabolism. As a result, fat starts to accumulate in the liver, and the condition is therefore also known as the “fatty liver.” Having a fatty liver can cause abnormal swelling and can be fatal if it goes untreated.
The diagnosis of hepatic lipidosis is typically based on cat’s medical history, clinical signs consistent with hepatic lipidosis, blood tests, and an abdominal ultrasound of the abdomen, specifically looking at the liver and gall bladder. Clinical signs vary but usually include dramatic weight loss (>25%, may include dehydration deficits), lethargy, vomiting.
The treatment is an expensive affair where it takes months for the cat to recover.
- IV fluids to help treat dehydration
- Placement of a temporary feeding tube to provide adequate calories
- Anti-vomiting medication
- Appetite stimulants
- Vitamin K
- Potentially plasma transfusions
Toxic Liver Damage
Toxic liver damage is a result of unsynthesized drugs and toxins that remain in the body. Some species of cats have a bad metabolism when it comes to drugs and other chemical medications. These drugs don’t flush out of the body and cause damage to the liver. Because cats are so sensitive in nature, you should always consult your vet before giving any medications to your cat.
Amyloidosis is a condition where a type of protein called amyloid gets deposited in the liver. This causes the liver to swell and makes it dysfunctional. As a result, making the liver prone to ruptures and bleedings into the abdomen. While some cats may experience it for the first time, the others are usually genetically predisposed to this condition. The liver becomes very fragile and vulnerable to sudden bleeding in the abdomen and ruptures.
Liver conditions a common problem in cats, and it is best if we as cat owners communicate closely with the vets so these conditions can be diagnosed in early stages.
Harsh Arora is a proud father of four rescued dogs and a leopard gecko. Besides being a full-time dog father, he is a freelance content writer/blogger and an educationist, with more than 6 years experience in the field of content writing.
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