Liver Problems in Cats
The liver is a super organ, from cleansing the blood and helping digestion to absorb nutrients and removing toxins. Because the liver plays such a vital role in regulating bodily functions, it is more prone to be affected by a variety of different sources. The liver can regenerate cells so a full recovery for your kitty is a possibility. However, if not diagnosed and treated promptly with medication and a suitable diet, liver problems in cats can cause quick deterioration with widespread effects.
Causes of liver problems in cats
Age is the most prevalent factor that causes liver issues in cats. However, breeds such as Siamese are typically prone to liver problems. Cats that are also obese are more likely to be affected.
Sago palms are commonly found in many gardens and greenhouses around the UK. If your cat has consumed any part of a Sago palm, including seeds, roots or leaves, they may vomit or have a seizure. If the liver is affected, your cat may have jaundice or black, tarry stools. Take them to the vets immediately if you suspect they’ve been in contact. Other causes of liver damage:
- Viral, fungal or bacterial infections
- Blood clots
- Heart disease
Signs of liver disease
As with many cat ailments, it’s often difficult to tell what the root cause is as symptoms are usually similar to other conditions. If you notice any of the following, booking an appointment with the vet is recommended:
- Jaundice (yellow skin, whites of eyes or gums)
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Odd behaviour
If you have an obese cat and they stop eating for a few days, take them to your veterinary clinic as soon as possible. A lack of appetite could be a result of Feline Hepatic Lipidosis. The condition causes a build-up of fat in the liver resulting in damage to the liver.
Treating liver problems
Treatment offered to your cat will depend on the cause of liver damage. For instance, if it is a result of an external factor like consuming a toxic substance then your vet may start fluid therapy to flush the toxins out of the body as quickly as possible. Charcoal may be administered to clear any remaining toxin in the stomach.
When acute liver failure is the diagnosis, your cat will require hospital care and several treatments including blood tests, intravenous fluids, possibly surgery and medication.
If your cat has been diagnosed with high copper intake in their liver, usually as a result of chronic hepatitis, you will need to monitor their food intake very closely. The aim is to reduce the copper as much as possible and to prevent further build-up. A complete dietetic feed, like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hepatic, contains low levels of copper to help reduce its accumulation in liver cells. The kibble is full of vegetable protein which provides a clean energy source that allows the liver to rest while cells regenerate. The Royal Canin Hepatic diet also contains high levels of essential fatty acids and highly digestible carbohydrates.
Your vet may also recommend starting a course of hepatic supplements to help protect and improve the liver function. Protexin Denamarin comes in a tablet form and is composed of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) – a naturally occurring molecule formed in the body which helps regenerate liver cells and improves body functions. Protexin Denamarin also contains natural ingredients, like Milk Thistle which protects and repairs liver tissue from the effects of toxins or drugs.
Even though liver disease cannot always be avoided, keeping a close eye on their diet, looking out for any unusual symptoms and keeping up with frequent veterinary appointments to catch any sign of liver disease as early as possible are the best preventative measures to take.
This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.
If in doubt contact your veterinary practice
And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!