Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease is quite common in middle aged overweight cats. A cat's liver is not efficient in metabolising body fats and this clog up the liver when too much fat arrives at the same time. This occurs when a fat cat stops eating.

A previously overweight cat stops eating for whatever reason
Lacking food, the body starts sending fat to the liver to process into lipoproteins for fuel. These fats come from all the other fatty depots in the body. Most fat is stored in the abdomen
  Cats' livers are not terribly efficient at processing fat, and much of the fat is stored in the liver cells.
Left untreated, eventually the liver fails and the cat dies

Whatever the cause, the symptoms are common: A previously overweight older cat suddenly becomes anorexic (quits eating), loses weight, and may salivate excessively or vomit. The cat may become very lethargic and may show jaundice (yellowing of eyes, mucous membranes and skin). However, anorexia and weight loss can also be symptoms of other diseases, such as liver cancer or pancreatic disease, and FLS (Fatty Liver Syndrome) can only be accurately diagnosed conclusively through tests. A complete blood profile may indicate increased liver enzymes, and the diagnosis can be confirmed with a liver biopsy done under light sedation. We will use a special biopsy needle to take a liver sample through the skin. We will use our ultrasound machine to guide the biopsy needle to the correct place.

Fatty liver disease has a good prognosis if we catch it in time:
The treatment for Fatty Liver Disease is dietary, and works quite well in reversing the condition if diagnosed early. The idea is to force feed the cat enough nutrients to reverse the metabolic malfunction that caused the condition in the first place. We have powerful appetite stimulating drugs and if necessary we may even need to hospitalize your cat with an oesophageal feeding tube in place. We will then feed a small amount of liquid food down the tube several times daily. It may take as long as a few weeks before the cat can be offered food normally, to test his appetite. We have sometimes had to leave a feeding tube in for over a month. we usually use food with very high water content such as Hills a/d or Royal Canin Recovery tin food for force feeding.

Please note that this disease can only occur in a cat that is initially overweight. Thus prevention is better than cure. Please keep your cat healthy, lean and well exercised.