How To Detect And Treat Hepatic Lipidosis In Your Cat

Hepatic lipidosis is a severe and life-threatening liver disease present in cats that can quickly lead to liver failure. The disease, also known as fatty liver disease, often stems from a form of anorexia that can lead your cat's liver to eventually stop working. That's why it's important to be familiar with the symptoms of this disease and what treatment options are available. Here's what you need to know about hepatic lipidosis.

About Hepatic Lipidosis

To understand hepatic lipidosis, you must understand how livers work for most mammals when they're starved or lacking nourishment. In such cases, the liver normally begins converting fat from the body's reserves into lipoproteins to help fuel emergency stores of energy. However, cat's livers are not very good at performing this task in an efficient manner, resulting in low liver function very quickly. Fat begins accumulating in your cat's liver until it essentially becomes yellow, inflamed and enlarged, leading to liver failure.

Once your cat's liver stops functioning properly due to hepatic lipidosis, it can interfere with your cat's ability to detoxify the body, synthesize proteins, produce chemicals, help with blood clotting, and process red blood cells. These are just a few functions that the liver performs, and a failing liver can lead to serious complications in many area's of your cat's body, leading to coma and even death.


Hepatic liver disease remains still a bit of a mystery, but often results from a cat suffering from malnutrition and starvation. That certainly doesn't mean you've stopped feeding your cat. It means that your cat may be unable to process or digest his or her food anymore. Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, hormonal imbalances, stress, kidney problems, and other diseases can lead to excessive vomiting, loss of appetite or inability to process nutrients. This can send the liver into emergency mode, helping create a situation in which hepatic lipidosis can easily develop.

Cats who experience rapid weight loss or obesity are also at increased risk of this disease. The disease tends to strike middle-aged cats regardless of breed.

Signs And Symptoms

As noted, hepatic lipidosis interferes with the efficient processing of red blood cells, and the yellow pigment located inside red blood cells then accumulates in different parts of your cat's body, including your cat's eye. This produces the telltale yellowing of your cat's eyes (jaundice) associated with hepatic lipidosis liver failure. If you notice this in your cat, you should treat it as an emergency situation and seek help at an animal hospital like River View Veterinary Service LLC. Other symptoms that indicate hepatic lipidosis include:

  • Prolonged anorexia in your cat
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Organ failure
  • Peeing outside the litter box and bouts of diarrhea
  • Psychological depression
  • Rapid muscle wasting

As the disease develops, your cat may suddenly collapse, meaning your cat may be near death.

Seeking A Diagnosis

You can play an important role in helping your vet make a diagnosis and work towards a treatment. Let your vet know when symptoms first occurred, your cat's diet, and your cat's overall health history.

At the same time, your vet will run blood tests, a urinalysis, and a chemical screening profile. Your vet will be looking for hemolysis, which indicates destroyed red blood cells, and pikiolocytosis, which points to red blood cells that are too big or too small. Livers that are in the process of failing usually also produce abnormally high enzyme levels like alkaline phosphate (ALP) and increased bilirubin. Your vet might also use imaging tools like ultrasound to examine the size of your cat's liver.

Ultimately, your vet will likely take a sample of liver tissue to confirm the present of fat droplets within the liver cells, a solid confirmation that your cat has hepatic lipidosis.

Proper Treatment

In advanced cases, your cat will require emergency intervention, which includes an IV containing supplements along with other intensive care treatments. Often, the primary way to reverse this disease requires force-feeding if your cat is refusing food. A feeding tube will be placed down your cat's esophagus so your cat can receive the nutrition it requires. Your vet will also have to treat any underlying issues that are found upon examination, such as kidney disease or diabetes.

If your cat is able to recover, you will likely need to change your cat's diet, provide supplements to your cat, and help your cat avoid stress. All of these are important factors in helping ensure your cat makes a full recovery from this potentially deadly disease.