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Liver Failure in Cats

Hepatic Lipidosis continued...

Appetite stimulants may be prescribed by your veterinarian, but they are only effective if the cat is still eating at least a little on his own. In most cases, nutritional support involves special diets and formulas administered by your veterinarian by stomach tube or gastrostomy, an operation in which a feeding tube is placed into the stomach through a small incision in the abdominal wall. Nutritional support is continued until the cat recovers and begins to eat on his own. Any nutritional supplements given through a feeding tube should be warmed to room temperature.

Recovery may take two to three months and requires home nursing care and complete dedication by the owner. Survival of the first four days of intensive treatment is a very good sign, with 85 percent of those cats going on to recovery. If pancreatitis is also present, the prognosis is poor.

When cats stop eating for even a day or two, they are prone to liver disease. Seek veterinary attention whenever your cat refuses to eat for more than two days.


Cholangiohepatitis is the second most common liver disease of cats. This disease involves inflammation of the liver and the bile ducts. Bile is the product of the gallbladder and is important in managing fats and collecting toxins to be removed from the blood. When bacteria from the duodenum (small intestine) come up the bile duct (instead of bile going down), they can gain access to the gallbladder and the liver. This liver infection is often associated with inflammatory bowel disease and/or pancreatitis.

Some cats will become acutely ill, but many simply show anorexia and possibly jaundice and an enlarged liver. Some cats will have vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and weight loss.

Treatment: Treatment requires supportive care, including fluids and nutritional support-maybe even a feeding tube placed by your veterinarian. Antibiotics are important, as this is a bacterial infection. Antibiotics may be needed for three to six months. SAMe and vitamin E are useful antioxidants that can help the liver heal, and milk thistle is an herb with liver-protectant qualities. If inflammatory bowel disease is also involved, the cat may need immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisone.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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