Your cat's liver is the largest organ in their 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. Symptoms of liver disease can include loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, yellowing of eyes, skin and mucus 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 in 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.
In the initial stages of liver disease, the signs and symptoms are not specific and may include increased thirst and urination along with vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss. The liver may also swell and enlarge as fibrous scar tissue begins to form. The condition, known as fibrosis, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, which is a serious and irreversible condition. However if treated at the onset the liver can heal itself so that the cat has normal liver function.
- head pressing
- swollen and bloated appearance
- swollen lower limbs
- loss of appetite
Hepatic encephalopathy is a neurological condition caused by liver disorders and the resulting build-up of ammonia and toxins in the blood. Ammonia is a byproduct of protein metabolism and is something a healthy liver can process and remove from the body. When the liver malfunctions, however, ammonia can build up to toxic levels that affect the brain.
- head pressing
- behavioral changes
- aimless wandering
Dietary changes may be required based on the type of liver disorder your cat has. Always check with your vet and follow the diet they recommend.