There is nothing cuter than a big chubby cat. Cats are very prone to gaining weight, especially those that are kept indoors and hence tend to be less active.
Among other risks of obesity, one of the most common and immediate risks for fat cats is development of a condition called fatty liver or, in its medical term, hepatic lipidosis.
The liver is the organ that has a major role in metabolizing the nutrients derived from food and converting them into glucose which is a major energy source for the body’s tissues and organs.
Fatty liver is a condition in which the animal stops eating for any reason. With the absence of food, the body shifts fat into the liver in order to produce usable energy.
The fat accumulates in the liver cells and causes liver damage, and eventually, if left untreated, 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, lethargy.
Along with the progression, the damage to the liver exacerbates and might lead to yellowing of the body, jaundice and 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, blood test that shows changes associated with liver damage, and 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 even though it is very tempting.
If your cat is overweight and suddenly stops eating, do not wait too long—take it to see your veterinarian. Even one or two days of fasting can lead to severe damage.
Because fatty liver tends to be secondary to other disease that caused the loss of appetite in first place, measures to find the underlying cause should be taken.
Please ask your veterinarian for more information on how to keep your pet’s body in good condition and ways to prevent and manage fatty liver.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West
Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.