The Danger of Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Feline hepatic lipidosis, or feline fatty liver syndrome, a common liver disease found in older, overweight cats, is a disease of which all owners should be aware. It begins as a cat quits eating, and progresses as its body responds by breaking down fat to supply nutrients. Serious problemes occur when fat deposited at a rapid rate in the liver cannot be processed, and remains in and around the liver cells, thus causing liver failure.There are a number of reasons, from simple to complex, which cause a cat to stop eating; but once fatty liver syndrome occurs, it can advance in severity quickly. This was the case with Animal Hospital Jones Road patient “Teaser,” a lovable orange tabby diagnosed at age fourteen and after a long illness, recovered from both feline hepatic lipidosis and pancreatitis.

After Teaser vomited and did not eat for two days, his owner brought him to Animal Hospital Jones Road for evaluation. Initial in-house lab test results caused us to suspect liver disease.We hospitalized Teaser immediately and began intravenous fluid treatment. To confirm our diagnosis, we conducted additional lab work in-house and studied the liver via ultrasound. The image presented by the abdominal ultrasound suggested changes in the liver tissue, and no other abnormalities were visible.

Frequently cats suffering from feline hepatic lipidosis develop this condition secondary to a primary problem, as we found to be true with Teaser. When our initial treatment for liver failure did not improve Teaser’s health, his owner gave us authorization to perform exploratory surgery, despite his weakened state.

Teaser’s status was critical. The surgery plan called for implantation of a feeding tube that would enable us to force feed a special mixture for cats with liver failure, for we knew he was going to require nutritional support until his normal appetite returned. Additionally, we hoped to identify other conditions contributing to his illness. The exploratory surgery revealed evidence of pancreatitis, along with transformation of the liver, indicative of feline hepatic lipidosis. We sampled tissue for biopsies of both organs.

Facts gathered during surgery posed new challenges in Teaser’s case. Rather than insert a feeding tube directly into the stomach, we elected to bypass the pancreas by placing a jejunostomy tube in a section of the small intestine. Tissue biopsies later confirmed pancreatitis and feline hepatic lipidosis.
Determining the appropriate liquid nutrition to replace the enzymes and other essential elements normally produced by the pancreas posed the next obstacle. After consulting with Texas A&M University and other expert sources, we found a local compounding pharmacy that could provide the appropriate enteral, or internal supplemental, nutrition. Using our pump infusion gravity feeding system, we fed Teaser this formula for several days until he gradually developed an interest in eating on his own.

Not all patients experience feline hepatic lipidosis as severe as Teaser, however, it is rarely an illness from which cats recover quickly. Many Animal Hospital Champions Northwest and Animal Hospital Jones Road patients are healthy today as a result of the successful usage of feeding tubes and a well maintained enteral feeding program.

Whenever possible, we train our clients to prepare and administer the food, giving stable patients the opportunity to recover at home.

We attribute the success of Teaser’s case to several factors. He arrived at Animal Hospital Jones before deteriorating detrimentally. Our veterinary medical staff quickly utilized several in-house tools and called upon a pool of outside resources to gather diagnostics and implement proactive treatment. And, throughout his illness, Teaser was always aware of his owner’s love – she visited him often.

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