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Fatty Liver in Cats

Veterinarian Reviewed on September 30, 2011 by Dr. Janice Huntingford

There are a number of liver problems that plague cats but Fatty Liver or Hepatic Lipidosis is the most common. Cats with fatty liver are not necessarily obese cats but they can be. Fatty liver occurs when cats stop eating for whatever reason –whether it is because of infections, emotional stress, diet change or some other reason. Cats have a very specific requirement for protein and if they are not eating their bodies will break down muscle tissue. At the same time their bodies are starving so the fat stores are broken down and the liver tries to process the fat. However the fat overwhelms the liver and ends up being stored in the liver awaiting processing. Unfortunately all this fat “ clogs” up the liver and pinches off the bile ducts. This causes a further decrease in the cat’s appetite and causes the cat to become jaundiced. If the cat does not get some nutrition at this point, he or she will expire. 

Treatment of the condition can be difficult. If there are any underlying diseases that are causing the cat to have stopped eating (infection, inflammation, etc.), these must be addressed to allow the cat to feel better. But the cornerstone of therapy is to get the cat to eat once again. Sometimes this means placing a feeding tube and feeding a liquid diet. Sometimes this means syringe feeding which is never fun with a cat.

Conventional veterinarians may treat these cats with feeding tubes and liquid diets. they may even add nutriceuticals like SAM-e , feeding tubes and appetite stimulants. Treatments may include intravenous fluids, antibiotics, laxatives, blood transfusions, corticosteroids, ursodeoxycholic acid, colchicines, vitamin and mineral supplements and force-feeding a diet high in calories. If the cause of the disease is cancer or a tumor, chemotherapy may be used.

From a holistic stand point diet, herbs, minerals, acupuncture and other natural medicines may form the basis of treatment. Milk thistle is one of the foundation treatments for Hepatic Lipidosis. The Chinese herb, Eight Gentleman is a great appetite stimulant. Acupuncture can be used to stimulate appetite and help to move the fat out of the liver. Chinese Food Therapy can also be helpful for these patients.

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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Milk Thistle is a potent herbal supplement for long-term use that supports a wide variety of dog liver issues, and is also helpful for digestive disorders.

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