Liver Disease in Your Cat: Causes, Signs & Symptoms
What is liver disease?
The liver is an important organ with many functions, including the digestion and conversion of nutrients, the removal of toxic substances from the blood, and the storage of vitamins and minerals. Because the liver works to rid the body of so many different substances, it is susceptible to damage from many different sources. Liver disease results in inflammation, known as hepatitis. If untreated, this can lead to loss of function as healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue. Diseases elsewhere in the body can also affect the liver’s function.
Fortunately, liver disease can be effectively managed and progression limited. Many cats go on to live happily years after their diagnosis. Proper nutrition and continuous dialogue with your veterinarian are key to managing your cat’s liver disorder.
What causes liver disease?
Factors that increase your cat’s likelihood of developing liver disease include:
Age: Several diseases, including liver dysfunction, are common in geriatric cats.
Breed: Certain breeds, such as Siamese cats, are more likely to be born with or are prone to develop particular liver problems.
Obesity: Cats that are severely overweight may be more likely to develop liver disease.
Medications and chemicals: Medications containing acetaminophen can damage the liver in cats.
Does my cat have liver disease?
The signs of liver disease can be very similar to those of other conditions. If you notice any of the following signs in your cat, contact your veterinarian for a complete examination.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Poor or loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of gums, whites of the eyes or skin)
- Increased thirst
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Changes in behaviour
- Excessive drooling
- Lack of energy or depression
Other possible signs of liver disorders include dark-coloured urine, pale gums, or a build- up of fluid in the abdomen that could be mistaken for sudden weight gain. Your veterinarian can administer other tests to diagnose liver disease.
IMPORTANT: The signs of liver disease are not very specific, making it difficult to recognise. If obese cats stop eating, there could be fatal complications. Cats that lose their appetite for two to three days may experience Feline Hepatic Lipidosis, a condition associated with a dangerous build-up of fat in the liver that impairs proper function. If your cat is not eating, consult your veterinarian immediately.
The importance of nutrition
If your cat is diagnosed, you may be wondering how to take care of your cat with liver disease. Treatment of any hepatic disease is aimed at resting the liver and minimising those functions that have to do with metabolism of fats, proteins, carbohydrates and drugs. When your cat has liver disease, it’s even more important to feed the right cat food. Feed your cat easily digested carbohydrates, high-quality fats and limited amounts of sodium to control on-going liver damage and improve liver function.
For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your cat’s liver health.
Ask Your Veterinarian About Liver Disease:
- Are there any foods I should avoid giving my cat because of her condition?
- Ask how human food may affect your cat’s health.
- Would you recommend a Hill’s™ Prescription Diet™ cat food for my cat’s liver health?
- Ask about special nutritional concerns for your cat
- How much / how often you should feed the recommended food to your cat
- Discuss which treats you can feed your cat with the recommended food
- How quickly should I expect to see signs of improvement in my cat’s condition?
- Can you provide me with written instructions or a booklet on liver disease for my cat?
- What is the best way (email/phone) to reach you or your hospital if I have questions?
- Ask if you need a follow-up appointment.
- Ask if a reminder email or notice will be sent.