How does my cat develop hepatic lipidosis?
Hepatic lipidosisis a disease where a cat suddenly stops eating and the body begins to use fat stores as fuel. The fats are sent to the liver, to be broken down to supply nutrients. The liver sometimes can’t unable to process this fat as quickly as necessary, so the fat builds up in the liver, which interferes with normal function.
An affected cat may salivate, vomit or look jaundiced. If she stops eating, it’s critical that you get her to a veterinarian immediately, because hepatic lipidosis can quickly lead to dehydration and death. Don’t think, “well, if she gets hungry enough, she’ll eat,” because, unlike dogs and humans, cats just can’t live for very long without food.
Although it can occur in cats of any age, hepatic lipidosis often strikes older and obese felines. Even if the cat was once obese, but has since lost the extra pounds, the disease can still occur.
Hepatic lipidosis is considered to be idiopathic; that is, no one knows for sure what causes it. However, there is strong suspicion that, besides overweight and obese, cats can also be prone if they once experienced renal failure, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism or an owner-induced diet without careful veterinary supervision.
Here’s the good news: If caught early, hepatic lipidosis can be treated, usually with nutritional support. The bad news, though, is that the nutritional support often means using a feeding tube, since it’s critical to get the cat eating. Some owners have found some luck by feeding with a syringe. Have your vet instruct you on how to do this feeding method.
Prevention is always best, though, so try these strategies to help your cat fight it off:
• A cat can stop eating for a number of reasons, ranging from dental disease to stress. Find the cause before hepatic lipidosis has a chance to occur.
• If she’s carrying extra pounds, put her on a diet—but make sure she loses the weight very slowly. Avoid rapid or drastic weight loss plans.
• Don’t free feed. You will have difficulty knowing how much food your cat eats each day and can cause your cat to become obese, a contributing factor to hepatic lipidosis.