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What Causes Liver Failure In Cats

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Cat Care & Health : What Causes Liver Problems in Cats?

, BS, DVM, DACVIM, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

The liver performs numerous functions. It has a large storage capacity and functional reserve and is capable of regenerating. These properties provide some protection against permanent damage. However, the liver is also susceptible to injury because of its role in metabolizing, detoxifying, and storing various toxic compounds.

Diagnosing Liver Failure In Cats

So how can you test for liver disease or liver failure in cats? Since the liver plays a part in so many body functions, your veterinarian may order a variety of tests to help them get to the bottom of your cats symptoms. The most common ways to diagnose liver failure includes:

  • Blood work
  • Radiographs
  • Liver biopsy during an ultrasound or exploratory surgery

Liver failure in cats can be a bit tricky to diagnose, especially in the early stages of the disease. Just be sure to take your vets advice for proper diagnostics, and your cat will have access to the best treatment plan for their situation.

Infectious Diseases Of The Liver

Several types of infections may cause liver disease, including viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic disease.

The most common fungal infections associated with liver dysfunction are coccidioidomycosis Coccidioidomycosis Funguses are parasitic, spore-producing organisms. They obtain their nourishment by absorbing food from the hosts on which they grow. Many species of fungus exist in the… read more and histoplasmosis Histoplasmosis Funguses are parasitic, spore-producing organisms. They obtain their nourishment by absorbing food from the hosts on which they grow. Many species of fungus exist in the… read more . If the liver is involved, signs may include abdominal swelling, jaundice, and liver enlargement. Coccidioidomycosis can be treated with longterm use of antifungal medications. However, relapses sometimes occur. Histoplasmosis is often treated using prescription antifungal medications. Depending on the level of illness, the outlook for recovery may be poor. Lifelong antifungal treatment is necessary for some cats with these diseases.

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How Long Can A Cat Live With Liver Problems

Diseases elsewhere in the body can also affect the livers 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 cats liver disorder.

Diagnosis Of Liver Disease

Causes and Symptoms of Liver Disease in Cats

As the clinical signs of liver disease are often vague and non-specific, blood and urine tests are usually needed to identify that liver disease is the underlying cause. Several abnormalities may be seen on blood and urine tests:

  • Bilirubin levels may be elevated in the blood and urine
  • Liver enzymes can be measured in the blood these are enzymes that are produced in liver cells and if there is damage to the liver these enzyme concentrations in the blood can become elevated. These enzymes may include:
  • ALT
  • AST
  • GGT
  • Bile acids these are produced by the liver and are important in the digestion of fat in the intestine. In liver disease and where there is obstruction to the flow of bile, bile acid concentrations in the blood may be elevated. While elevated liver enzymes can give information about liver damage, the bile acid test generally gives some information about liver function.
  • Haematology looking at the red and white cells present in the blood this may give some indications about potential underlying infections or inflammation in the liver.
  • Proteins in the blood
  • Results of blood tests may help confirm the presence of liver disease, but it can be difficult to assess the severity or extent of disease from these tests alone, and they will not reveal the underlying cause. Some of the blood changes can also occur with other diseases as well such as diabetes mellitus and hyperthyroidism, so further tests may also be required to rule these out.

    Liver biopsy

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    Liver Failure In Cats: Causes Signs & Treatment

    • Fact Checked

    As a living being with complex body functions, it is common to overlook just how essential one organ is to your cats lifethat is, until something goes wrong. Liver failure in cats is one of those conditions which can occur without any obvious signs from the start. Unfortunately, this can lead to life-threatening symptoms which go undetected until its too late.

    But what is liver failure in cats, and how can you detect it in time to treat it? Read on for all the vital information on liver failure in cats, from causes and signs to diagnosis and treatment.

    How Is Liver Disease Diagnosed

    A physical examination and bloodwork help the vet understand the cats ill health is down to their liver. Whats trickier is to identify why the cat has liver disease.

    The tools your vet is most likely to use include ultrasound, and biopsy.

    • Ultrasound: Gives a grayscale picture of the liver and helps the vet identify unexpected solid or fluid-filled areas, and abnormal blood vessels.
    • Biopsy: This involves harvesting a sample of cells or a piece of tissue, which is then sent away for analysis. Its usually a biopsy which enables the vet to label the condition with a specific diagnosis.

    But additional tests may be required such as specialized blood tests, x-rays, or an MRI scan.

    So what sort of causes is the vet investigating? Lets take a look.

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    About Dr Cathy Barnette Dvm

    Dr. Barnette is a veterinarian and freelance writer based in Florida. Her 14 years of experience in small animal clinical practice have allowed her to witness firsthand the communication gaps that often exist between pet owners and members of the veterinary team. Her goal is to create engaging content that educates owners, empowering them to make the best possible decisions for their pets. Dr. Barnette has two cats of her own, in addition to a dog and a pet dove.

    Control Complications Of Hepatic Failure In Cats

    What causes liver and kidney problems in cats? What kind of nutrition is required in this case?
  • Ascities may be treated with diuretics such as spironolactone .
  • Treatment for hepatic encephalopathy is indicated when present. Lactulose , a substance that slows absorption of ammonia from the intestinal tract into the body should be administered orally. It can also be used rectally as an enema when diluted with warm water. Neomycin enemas may be of value as well. Antibiotics, such as oral neomycin or metronidazole, may be recommended.
  • Treatment for cerebral edema is extremely important. Combinations of mannitol, furosemide , and hyperventilation should be considered and instituted early in the disease process.
  • Gastrointestinal ulceration may be treated with drugs that decrease acid production by the stomach. Cimetidine , famotidine , ranitidine , misoprostol and omeprazole may expedite the resolution of GI ulceration associated with liver disease.
  • Antiemetics to reduce vomiting should be considered in some patients. Metoclopramide or chlorpromazine are excellent choices.
  • Coagulopathies associated with liver disease need to be treated with injectable vitamin K and/or fresh frozen plasma.
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    Recovery Of Liver Disease In Cats

    If an affected cat is able to survive the first few days of treatment, prognosis is generally good and recovery can be expected within three to six weeks. It is important that veterinary recommendations are followed and that dietary restrictions are adhered to closely. Follow-up visits will be necessary to ensure proper recovery.

    Efforts should be made to ensure that the cat is not stressed, and it should be given a quiet place to rest and recover away from children and other animals. Owners will need to keep a close eye on the cats weight, hydration, and overall health and inform the veterinarian promptly of any changes.

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    Liver Disease Average Cost

    How Does The Liver In Cats Work

    The liver is one of the most important organs and it can have serious consequences if the liver is not working as it should.

    The liver plays a vital role in digesting nutrients and detoxifying chemicals and is an essential part of the immune system. It is involved in building and breaking down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. The liver also plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and is responsible for storing vitamins and minerals.


    “It is involved with almost all of the biochemical pathways that allow growth, fight disease, supply nutrients, provide energy, and aid reproduction. Liver cells, which are called hepatocytes, go through thousands of complex biochemical reactions every second in order to perform these myriad functions”

    Long Beach Animal Hospital

    Since the liver has so many important functions, it goes without saying that when the liver is not working properly, there can be serious health consequences. Canine liver disease is a broad term describing a number of liver diseases in dog. Chronic liver inflammation in dogs is also known as canine hepatitis or hepatitis in dogs.

    Early diagnosis of canine liver disease is important, i.e. so the condition can be treated or at least managed.

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    How Do You Treat Fatty Liver Disease In Cats

    The primary aim is to get the cat eating again: the issue is caused by metabolic changes that happen when a cat is not absorbing any food via their digestive system.

    Since Fatty Liver Disease causes cats to lose their appetite, it is not always so easy to get them to take in the food that they need to get them onto the road to recovery.

    Force-feeding has sometimes been carried out . This approach is not recommended, as it causes stress and fear, and may lead cats to dislike food, even more, leading to an even longer period of inappetence.

    A feeding tube is needed for most cats, and this needs to be put in place under anaesthesia. Three types are available.

  • A naso-esophageal tube is placed through a nostril, to the back of the nose and then into the esophagus. These tubes are narrow, so they require the use of liquid food for feeding.
  • An esophagostomy tube or pharyngostomy tube is inserted through an incision in the side of the cats neck: these are wider bore, so allow the use of normal food thats been liquidified to be given via a large syringe.
  • A gastrotomy tube may be placed directly into the cats stomach through the abdominal wall: these are not used so commonly, as they tend to be more complicated.
  • The aim is to feed the cat a daily allowance of around 50 kcal/kg of their ideal weight, using a balanced, digestible, recovery type of diet.

    Other supportive treatment is usually needed, including:

    What Causes Liver Failure In Cats

    Liver Disease in Cats: Causes and Symptoms

    There are several causes behind liver failure in cats, including:

    • Drugs which damage or destroy liver cells. These include some antibiotics, analgesics, chemotherapy agents, and anesthetics.
    • Infections or toxins
    • Heat stroke or overexposure to heat, either from hyperthermia cancer treatment or time spent outside
    • The inability to breathe
    • Perfusion, or an improper flow of fluids into the liver
    • Blood clot disease
    • Shock or trauma
    • Problems synthesizing proteins due to a metabolic disorder

    Determining the cause of the failure is essential to stop further damage, or death, in the tissue.

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    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 cats health.
  • Would you recommend a Hills® Prescription Diet® cat food for my cats 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 cats condition?
  • Can you provide me with written instructions or a booklet on liver disease for my cat?
  • What is the best way 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.
  • Liver Failure In Cats

    Numerous function performed by the liver in the body. The organ comprised of a large storing capacity and functional reserve with the ability to regenerate. These properties of the liver act as a safeguard against permanent damage. Nevertheless, the liver is susceptible to damage because of its role in metabolising, detoxifying, and storing several harmful substances.

    The liver mostly performs functions like metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein along with the metabolism of the drugs. The liver also stores and metabolise the vitamin for the usage within the body. The liver helps to store minerals, glycogen, triglycerides and then it manufactures proteins that are essential for the body to perform body functions. The liver enhances the production of bile acid that is important for the digestion. It also detoxifies the products that are harmful to the body like ammonia.

    The liver disease in cats categorised by the sudden loss of 70% or more damage to the liver function. The unexpected liver failure may be due to the massive, necrosis of the liver.

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    About Fatty Liver Disease In Cats

    Fatty Liver Disease, also known as Feline Hepatic Lipidosis or Fatty Liver Syndrome, is one of the most common liver diseases seen in cats.

    Its a complex type of feline liver failure that is still not fully understood. It can happen as a primary condition .

    More commonly, it tends to be secondary to some other primary condition .

    The condition is typically seen in middle-aged, obese, or overweight cats that have stopped eating for a couple of days or more. Lipids accumulate inside the affected cats liver cells, and the consequent disease process then aggravates the original issue which caused the cat to stop eating in the first place.

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    Since hepatic lipidosis is typically the result of an underlying medical condition as mentioned above its important for your cat to have their regular wellness check-up each year, as well as for you to have any concerning signs and changes evaluated and worked up by your veterinarian. If any medical conditions are diagnosed, its extremely beneficial to work with your veterinarian to treat and control those conditions as best you can.

    Now that you have a firmer grasp of hepatic lipidosis itself, here again is the list of common medical conditions that cause or increase a cat’s risk.

    You can be pretty sure that your cat is stressed if they start hiding. While some cats may normally be more solitary than others, a sudden and persistent change in the way theyre interacting with you should be cause for concerning. Not only could an increase in hiding be a sign of stress in cats, but it can also be indicative of pain or problems as wide ranging as a urinary obstruction, kidney disease, a digestive obstruction, or much more. So just remember hide and seek is a bad game for a cat.

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    What’s The Outlook For Cats With Liver Disease

    Although the liver can regenerate in mild or even moderate cases and regain normal function, Anthony says a liver disease prognosis for your furry friend depends on how early the issue is caught and when treatment is instituted.

    “Unfortunately, many of these cases aren’t seen until the cat is very ill,” she notes. “They often require hospitalization for several days with aggressive rehydration, nutritional support, and medications.” The prognosis in these situations is case-by-case, especially if underlying or co-occurring conditions exist.

    Anthony adds that liver disease in cats is challenging to flesh out since the symptoms are often subtle and the causes of the disease are so varied. “The main takeaway for any cat owner is: watch your cat closely for changes in appetite, activity, and body weight,” she says. “Take your cat to a vet right away so the disease can be determined quickly. And prepare yourself for a lengthy, sometimes expensive, treatment plan.”

    Diagnosis Of Acute Liver Failure In Cats

    The veterinarian will need to know all of the cat’s symptoms, how long symptoms have been present and the cat’s complete health history. The veterinarian will examine the cat, looking for signs of jaundice and abdominal distention.

    Several labs will be taken. These will include a complete blood count, a biochemical profile and a urinalysis. These tests will determine if an infection is present that is causing the liver problems, what other organ systems are being affected, protein synthesis impairment, abnormally high liver enzyme activity and the presence of bilirubin in the urine.

    Though all of these tests can indicate acute liver failure, a biopsy will be necessary to obtain a definitive diagnosis and to determine why the liver is failing. The veterinarian will take a small sample of the liver either using an ultrasound-guided needle aspiration or during surgery. This sample will be sent to a lab for analysis.

    X-rays and ultrasounds may also be performed in order to look for liver enlargement and other hepatic abnormalities.

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    How Can I Help My Cat With Liver Problems

    The main treatment of the liver disease itself, is through intensive nutritional support. Cats usually need to be hospitalised and fed special diets via a feeding tube until such time that they are able to feed again for themselves. Although many cats do recover with intensive support, recovery may take months.

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