Obesity and improper diet are the most common reasons behind feline liver disease. It has been seen that stress due to environment changes like a home shift, a new pet or a new baby often induces a cat to refuse food. A change in diet and concurrent bacterial infection are two other triggers that may lead to anorexia (loss of appetite) and ultimately to any of the following liver diseases:
Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Lipidosis)
Fatty Liver Disease is the most common liver disease in cats. An obese cat often stops eating properly for some unknown reasons and the body starts sending fats to the liver for conversion into lipoproteins, which are necessary for transporting lipids (essential structural component of cells along with proteins and carbohydrates) in the blood. Ironically, a cat’s liver is not very good in processing fat, which leads to Fatty Liver Disease.
Inflammatory and/or Infectious Disorders
These may relate to inflammation or infection of the bile duct or the biliary system, which may extend to the liver. Infections are mostly caused by pancreatitis, bacteria and parasites.
Toxic Hepatopathy (Damage caused by toxins)
This is induced by drugs, exposure to toxins and deficient supply of blood to the liver.
Primary liver cancer (cancer that originates in the liver itself) is not common in cats. Feline cancer mostly originates in distant or neighboring organs and metastasizes to the liver.
Portosystemic Shunt (Liver Shunt)
This is mostly a congenital condition where the blood supply bypasses the liver and is delivered directly to the systemic veins without detoxification.
Most of the symptoms of liver disease in cats and dogs are general in nature, such as weight loss, increase in water consumption and urination, diarrhea, vomiting and bad breath. This makes any liver problem more difficult to detect than other diseases. However, jaundice and abdominal pain are two specific symptoms that should be a cause of concern for all cat owners. Signs of jaundice are easy to notice as it causes yellowing of eyes, skin and mucous membranes. In cats, the skin at the base of the ear usually turns yellow. Abdominal pain can be noticed if the cat shows signs of pain on being lifted from the stomach.
Being the largest and an extremely multifunctional organ, the liver has a huge capacity to regenerate its cells. The liver can also function if majority of its mass is affected. This enables the liver to survive the onslaughts of toxins and a poor diet for a long time. A cat’s liver, being poor in processing fat, however, is more vulnerable to an insufficient diet. To avoid accumulation of fat in the liver, a cat’s diet should have high quality proteins in moderate quantities. Calorie intake should mainly be from non-protein sources. The diet should focus on eggs, cottage cheese, rice and liver.
Although pet liver diseases, including liver disease in dogs, evade early detection, once diagnosed they must be treated immediately. Despite the innate properties of the liver to keep on functioning even in face of dangers, if liver disease is left untreated it will ultimately lead to liver failure and death of the cat.