Liver Disease in Obese Cats (Hepatic Lipidosis)
The argument for a healthy diet for a pet cat is a strong one. Proper diet and regular exercise benefit cats just the same as humans. Overweight cats can become extremely sick. One such disease that seems to affect obese cats is hepatic lipidosis. Hepatic lipidosis is also known as feline fatty liver syndrome. The disease tends to affect females of the species more than males. It also tends to affect obese cats more than cats at a proper healthy weight. Cats are the only animals that develop this disease. If not treated immediately and aggressively, there is a 90 percent fatality rate. No one knows its cause, but obesity is something that can increase the chances of it.
Hepatic lipidosis tends to be triggered after a period of a loss of appetite within a cat. No one really comprehends why there is a loss of appetite in the first place, but this is where the disease first starts. The cat’s starving of self forces the body’s fat deposits to be run through the liver. The heavy amounts of fat being broken down by the liver essentially overwhelm it. The liver cannot process the fat that is being absorbed for sustenance fast enough. This is why the disease is much more dangerous for obese cats. Some cat owners have reacted to their cast’s refusal to eat food with indifference, while others have opted to force feed their pet. Both of the previous options shouldn’t be employed. The only real way to stay on top of such a potentially life-threatening disease is to take your pet to the vet at the first signs of anorexia.
Anorexia is the first stage of hepatic lipidosis, which can be followed by lethargy, vomiting and jaundice which is a yellowing of the gums, skin and inner ear. Extreme cases include drooling, blindness, semi-coma and seizures. All of these symptoms are signs that the cat should be taken to a veterinarian.
A veterinarian will be able to determine hepatic lipidosis with a blood test and an x-ray to determine the state of the liver. Obviously, the most complete way of diagnosing the disease is to determine the fat globules on the liver. This is usually done by an invasive procedure where part of the liver is extracted or a lesser technique where a sample is taken with a needle.
The solution to hepatic lipidosis requires aggressive feeding of the cat. Of course, some (again) resort to force feeding, which isn’t the best for the cat and gives the animal stress. Most argue that the best option to pursue during full-blown hepatic lipidosis is tube feeding. Tube feeding does introduce stress as well, with the options being a nose tube, a throat tube or a stomach tube. Even with tube feeding, the percentage of death is only reduced to 30 percent.
An intensive high protein diet for three to six weeks is what comes next. The liver stabilizes and the cat can eventually get back to its normal life. Cats have the ability to regenerate their livers rather quickly. Furthermore, the chances of a cat having this disease twice are rare.
With a potential 10 percent survival rate and a forced corrective diet, hepatic lipidosis is a strong argument against the perpetuation of feline obesity. Proper diet and exercise can be strong deterrents to this potentially fatal disease.