Pet Health: Hepatic Lipidosis in Cats   Pet Supplies



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What is Hepatic Lipidosis?

Hepatic lipidosis, also known as "feline fatty liver syndrome," is the most common form of liver disease in cats in North America. Cats that are obese appear to develop this disease more frequently. While the most common form of this disease is idiopathic (of unknown cause), it can occur in association with other liver disease.

Stress, even minor stress, appears to play a significant role in the development of this disease if the stress results in anorexia. Hepatic lipidosis usually occurs after a cat stops eating for three or more days although it can occur more quickly. The most common presentation of this disease is an overweight cat that, due to a stressful event, stops eating, starts to lose weight, and begins vomiting. The failure to eat usually lasts more than two weeks, but it can cause hepatic lipidosis in as little as one week. There is no age or breed disposition. It is often associated with a low-grade pancreatitis. Hepatic lipidosis rarely occurs without some period of not eating, but it is sometimes diagnosed in hyperthyroid cats or diabetic cats, apparently as a side effect of those conditions.

Diagnosis can be made by blood tests, an abdominal ultrasound and a liver sample (biopsy).

The primary treatment of this disease is feeding the cat. If the cat cannot be induced to take food by mouth, it may be necessary to place a feeding tube (sometimes called a PEG tube if it is placed endoscopically)into your cat's stomach. This is a semi-permanent tube that is surgically placed by your veterinarian. It allows the cat to be syringe-fed directly through the tube. The tube is easily removed when it is no longer needed.

With tube feedings, approximately 70% or more of cats will recover from hepatic lipidosis.

Last updated 12/04/2004

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