Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Hepatic Lipidosis Is a Real Danger to Your Cat


Pet Column for the week of September 30, 1996


Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
By Joseph Hahn
Information Specialist

Hepatic lipidosis, also known as "feline fatty liver syndrome," is the most common form of
liver disease in cats in North America. This syndrome can be very dangerous to your cat
and can even be life-threatening.

"Cats that get hepatic lipidosis are generally obese," says to Dr. Sheila McCullough,
community practice veterinarian formerly at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Teaching
Hospital at Urbana. "However, not all obese cats have lipidosis and not all cats with
lipidosis are obese."

While the most common form of this disease is idiopathic (of unknown origin), it can occur
with another liver disease.

This syndrome is often brought on by a stressful event, which can include anything from a
recent vaccination to a change of address. The most common presentation of this disease is
an overweight cat that, due to a stressful event, becomes anorexic (stops eating), starts to
lose weight, and begins vomiting. The anorexia usually lasts more than two weeks, but it can
cause hepatic lipidosis in as little as one week. There is no age or breed disposition.

"An abdominal ultrasound and a liver sample are instrumental in the proper diagnosis of this
disease," says Dr. McCullough. "Other laboratory tests and procedures can assist in making
this diagnosis."
Three common diseases that have similar signs include:

1.Hepatic Lymphosarcoma - This is a form of cancer.
2.Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) - It is a viral infection in cats.
3.Cholangitis-colangiohepatitis - It causes inflammation of the liver and surrounding
tissues. It is often associated with a low-grade pancreatitis.

"One of the most important aspects in fighting this disease is to get this cat to eat," says Dr.
McCullough. "This is often accomplished with a PEG (Percutaneous Endoscopically placed
Gastric) feeding tube. This is a semi-permanent tube that is placed and removed by a
veterinarian. It allows the cat to be syringe-fed directly through the tube, avoiding the
struggle of syringe feeding through the mouth."

Hepatic lipidosis is one of the reasons that veterinarians encourage proper weight control
for cats. This is a common syndrome for overweight cats. If you would like further
information, contact your local veterinarian.