Don’t get me wrong – I love a squishy kitty, but I can’t help but hug them and think “please don’t get hepatic lipidosis!!” I know, that’s not what most people think. 🙂 It’s the vet in me, I guess.
Most people know that obesity in any animal predisposes to diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. This applies to animals with two legs or four! Our beloved kitties, however, are very prone to a dangerous and potentially deadly disease, called hepatic lipidosis.
This is a fancy way of saying Fatty Liver Disease. Cats, especially those who are chubby, can develop this if they go off their food for even a few days. Simply put, Fatty liver disease is when the fat gets mobilized and finds its way to the liver. When the fat infiltrates the liver, it overwhelms the livers ability to process the fat and to generally do its’ job, which means the liver can’t function normally.
The trouble with this disease is that the cat doesn’t need to stop eating, just decrease his or her food intake by 25-35%. This may or may not get noticed by the owner in these busy times. Clients may also think it’s a good thing that the cat is finally losing weight and quickly, but sadly this leads to very dangerous side effects. Weight loss programs are very closely monitored in cats and are very specific to target weight loss and length of time that weight loss should take.
When a cat starts this process, the liver enzymes start to change and elevate as early as three weeks before the symptoms of jaundice or vomiting may occur. So unfortunately, it’s a real uphill battle once we see these changes.
Other symptoms can include lethargy, vomiting, varying degrees of yellowing of the mucous membranes, inappetance, swelling of the abdomen, and dehydration. All of these things can be symptoms of many other diseases.
Diagnosis for Fatty Liver Disease can be difficult, and sometimes a definitive diagnosis is not made, but treatment is still instituted. Treatment includes intravenous fluids, supportive medication, syringe feeding and hospitalization. It can sometimes be days before they start feeling better and eating on their own, sometimes weeks or months!!!
So the key message here is that fat cats are at risk of a very serious disease that can affect their liver and can even cause death! We strongly recommend a controlled weight loss program to decrease their risk – they’ll still be squishy but not at risk!