Liver failure in felines is a very serious condition, commonly used interchangeably with liver disease. The condition can occur on either an acute or chronic basis. Acute cases develop suddenly, while chronic failure develops gradually over a period of time.
Being a vital organ, the liver is responsible for performing many functions. So, if it stops working correctly, your cat will experience many issues. The organ is responsible for tasks such as removing toxins from blood, secreting bile and enzymes for digestion, converting sugars, and manufacturing certain hormones.
Feline liver failure develops for various reasons, but fatty liver disease is one of the most common reasons why it occurs in cats. This disease results when the body resorts to using fat stores for fuel because the cat isn’t getting the right amount of nutrition. In order to use the fat stores, they must first be broken down by the liver. Unfortunately, the liver may not be able to handle the workload, resulting in decreased function and disease.
The ingestion of toxins is another reason why cats suffer from liver problems. Cancer cells may also spread to the organ and lead to liver disease in cats. Usually, cats don’t have problems with cancer developing in the liver initially. It typically spreads from elsewhere.
As you just learned, cat liver failure can be caused by various factors. The specific reason why the condition occurs will play a large role in the type of symptoms your cat experiences. Oftentimes, they will be nonspecific, and not indicate exactly what problem your cat is facing.
Some of the initial signs include loss of weight and appetite. Increased thirst and urination are also common. Jaundice, which occurs when the mucous membranes, skin, and eyes turn yellow, will also develop as the disease progresses. Some cats will also have issues with vomiting, depression, lethargy, and even seizures.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, the vet will run a battery of tests after the initial physical examination and medical history questionnaire. An analysis of the blood and urine will be quite helpful. A radiograph, ultrasound, and in some cases a biopsy of the liver will also be helpful in determining if your pet is indeed suffering from feline liver failure.
A biopsy, or sample of the liver tissue, will help determine exactly what your cat is dealing with. The x-ray and ultrasound will help the vet determine what physical shape the liver is in, including if it’s enlarged and misshapen.
In the case of fatty liver disease, your cat will need to be provided with nutritional support, likely in the form of a feeding tube. If he is still willing to eat on his own though, stimulants may be provided to encourage him to do so.
Other forms of supportive care will be necessary. To prevent dehydration from setting in because of vomiting or lack of appetite, fluids may be provided intravenously or subcutaneously. Medications to limit vomiting may also be helpful.