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Hepatic Lipidosis in Obese Cats
WARNING: If your ‘fat cat’ stops eating!
One of the dangers faced by obese cats is the possible onset of a liver condition called hepatic lipidosis (HL).
This condition can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner. It shows up when the obese cat stops eating for a period of a few days. Of course a cat may lose its appetite for any number of reasons including gastrointestinal upset, tumors or infection, and what makes this particularly dangerous specifically for the fat cat is the presence of excess fat in the body. In the appetite-suppressed cat, this fat is released into the blood stream, and finds its way to the liver, where it clogs the liver tissues and impairs proper liver function. In the obese cat, this condition becomes likely in the event of lack of appetite for any reason. This transfer of fat to the liver is simply a survival mechanism in the healthy animal, but for the obese cat it becomes life threatening. Immediate veterinary treatment is paramount!
Some symptoms to watch for include lack of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, possible yellowing or jaundice cast to the skin.
Even when the condition that upset the cat in the first place, is resolved, the cat’s appetite will not return, as the cat is now feeling unwell due to the HL. This creates a vicious cycle, and the longer the cat suffers from starvation, the more critically ill the cat becomes. Veterinary care MUST be sought in order to reverse this condition.
If the cat is still unwell due to the underlying original cause, such as a tumor, a two-fold approach must be taken in order to avoid permanent and irreversible damage. If the patient is to recover it must be supplied with appropriate proteins in order to liberate the excess fat from its cells. This is usually done through the use of a feeding tube that is inserted directly down the esophagus and into the stomach. High protein, low carb ‘recovery foods’ are used. These are a liquid formulation, and are pushed with a syringe down the tube and into the cat’s stomach. Once the cat is on the road to recovery, it would do well to maintain an appropriate body weight, made possible by feeding a diet that is very low in carbohydrates, preferably a species specific diet of raw meat. If the correct protocol is followed, HL should not recur.