What is feline hepatic (liver) lipidosis (fat metabolism) or FHL? FHL is a disease that can occur in cats, particularly in overweight cats, that are under stress and do not eat or they are unable to eat due to a secondary disease. Stressful events that may cause your cat to stop eating, for example, are any abrupt changes to his/her environment. For instance, a new pet is introduced, moving to a new home, boarding, a new baby arrives, or diet changes.
Symptoms to be aware of are as follows: loss of appetite, severe weight loss, occasional vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, swollen abdomen, and/or jaundiced (yellowing of their skin). If symptoms go untreated your cat may develop other conditions and/or death can occur. FHL can cause your cat to become diabetic or develop pancreatitis. These diseases can also cause FHL. Studies have shown that 55% to 80% of known cases of FHL can survive after receiving urgent care.
To diagnose your pet, an examination is needed. On exam, doctors can feel if the liver is enlarged, and evaluate if he/she is jaundiced. To further evaluate the liver's functionality and appearance, they will draw blood, perform X-rays, or obtain biopsies of the liver via ultrasound.
Treatment would require your cat to stay in the hospital for up to a week or more until severe symptoms subside. Because of liver failure, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances all patients usually receive IV fluid therapy. Most cases are force fed a special diet high in fat through a feeding tube until they are strong enough to go home. Treatment continues at home with a feeding tube for up to 4-6 weeks until your cat regains his/her appetite and strength. Patients may also need additional support nutritionally with certain vitamins such as: B12 (supports pancreas), vitamin E (repairs liver), and milk thistle (repairs liver).
Since most cases of FHL pertain to obese cats, feeding your cat an appropriate diet to maintain a healthy body condition is imperative. Please, contact us at Eagle Animal Hospital if your cat has not eaten in a few days or if you notice any of these symptoms mentioned above. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and the surrounding area.
Written by Jennifer Styer, veterinary technician