Opinion

Obesity in cats can lead to a liver shutdown

Today’s society is very mindful of the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle.

It has become more and more popular to include daily physical activity in our lives and eat healthy unprocessed food.

I find an increasing number of my clients are also implicating better habits with their pets, being more diligent in choosing their pet’s food.

Having said that, I still see that obesity remains a common problem in pets.

Obese cats in particular are subjected to severe complication and compromising of their health by being overweight.

Even a mild illness can potentially get severely complicated in overweight cats because their immediate risks of developing a condition called fatty liver, the medical term for which is hepatic lipidosis.

I agree, there is nothing cuter than a big chubby cat, and cats by nature are very prone to gain weight, especially ones that are kept indoors where they tend to be less active.

The liver is the organ that has a major role in metabolizing and converting the nutrients deriving from food into glucose, which is a major energy source for body tissues and organs.

Fatty liver is a condition in which the animal stops eating for any reason. Even a mild illness can lead to decrease in the cat’s appetite.

With the absence of food, the body shifts fat into the liver in order to produce usable energy.

The fat accumulates in the liver’s cells and causes liver damage. Eventually, if left untreated, it leads to liver failure that might be terminal.

The direct cause of this condition is still unknown, but obesity is known to be a contributing factor to the condition development.

Any animal can suffer from this condition but cats, especially overweight cats, are most prone to suffer from fatty liver.

The symptoms of the disease vary. Because fatty liver is secondary to fasting, there is a wide variety of possible symptoms that are associated with the condition that made the animal stop eating in the first place.

The underlying cause can be any form of disease, or emotional stress and anxiety.

The symptoms that are associated with the liver damage are usually vomiting, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

Along with the process progression the damage to the liver exacerbates and might lead to yellowing of the body—jaundice coupled with severe weight loss.

Because the nervous system can use only glucose as a source of energy, liver failure leads to lack of glucose and damage to the nervous system.

This condition will usually be manifested by neurological symptoms such as seizures, and eventually coma and death.

The condition is diagnosed first by a veterinary physical exam, and a blood test that shows changes associated with liver damage.

The ultimate diagnosis is an ultrasound exam including sampling of the liver tissue with a needle.

The treatment for fatty liver is done by aggressive feeding of the animal by either force feeding with a syringe, or placement of a gastric tube.

The earlier the condition is diagnosed and treated the better the chances of recovery.

The best way to prevent fatty liver is by keeping the animal’s body weight normal.

Prevent obesity by feeding a good quality food and limit the amount of food only to the amount required for the animal.

Do not overfeed your pet, however tempting that may be.

If your cat is overweight and suddenly stops eating, do not wait for too long. Take it to see your veterinarian as soon as you notice the changes.

Even one to two days of fasting can lead to severe damage.

Because fatty liver tends to be secondary to other disease that led to the loss of appetite from first place, finding the underlying source of the problem is essential.

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