Your cat’s liver is the largest organ in his or her body and one of the most important. It plays a vital role in detoxifying and filtering impurities from the blood. The liver coverts your cat’s food into nutrients, synthesizes enzymes and proteins, and produces bile that breaks down fat and detoxifies the blood. It is the only organ that can regenerate itself. Symptoms of liver disease vary and may include loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and yellowing of the eyes, skin and mucous membranes.
Liver disorders can be caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection or from parasitic diseases such as heartworm. Cushing’s disorder, diabetes mellitus, and tumors can also affect the liver function.
The liver also plays a major role in metabolizing drugs. Certain drugs are known to cause liver dysfunction in cats if used excessively, including antibiotics, anesthetics, analgesics, antifungals, dewormers, and corticosteroids. In addition, heavy metals, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, rat poisoning, and some poisonous plants can cause liver problems.
Hepatic Lipidosis (commonly known as fatty liver disease) is the most common cause of liver disease and is more likely to affect older and overweight cats. The disease has no known cause, although obesity is known to increase the risk. It has also been associated with other diseases such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, cancer, and digestive system disorders that reduce the appetite.
The disease begins when the cat stops eating and the liver is forced to convert body fat into usable energy. As the process continues, fat builds up in the cells of the liver and can cause liver failure. The disease is reversible with intense treatment.
- loss of appetite
- dramatic weight loss
- circling and pressing head on objects
Cats with fatty liver problems should follow a well-balanced diet that is high in protein (unless there are other coexisting health issues). Check with your vet for the best food recommendation.