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Cat hospitalized for hepatic lipidosis
sekhmet_the_eye posted:
I had to take my 3.5 y/o male kitty to an ER and then another vet this morning, long story short, theyre keeping him for 24 hrs to confirm fatty liver disease and see if he responds to treatment so we can figure out what needs to happen next. He's been on an IV for about 6 hours, and I know nothing immediate will happen, but Im wondering how long it might be before he starts to improve, if he will. I know it depends on how severe his condition is, but it seemed to be quite severe. Does anyone have experience with this? Might it take 2 or 3 days on an IV before he starts to stabilize? I am sick with worry and so scared of losing my little man.
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Hepatic lipidosis ("fatty liver syndrome") is a serious but usually treatable disease of unknown cause. For some reason, fat is stored in the liver cells to such a degree that they are destroyed, leading to liver failure. It's more common in overweight cats who suddenly consume too few calories, but it's sometimes seen in normal weight cats. Regardless of the cause, the diagnosis is made by biopsy or fine needle aspirates of the liver (blood tests just indicate liver damage, not what's causing it.)

Fortunately, the disease is reversible, but the single most important prognostic factor in treatment is making sure the patient gets lots of calories. In most cases, this means using a feeding tube into the esophagus, exiting out of the side of the neck. While this sounds extreme, it's a minor procedure to place the tube and cats tolerate it well. This way, food can be given to the patient regardless of whether they want to eat or not. Without this tube, the prognosis is much worse.

It often takes 6-8 weeks for the disease to resolve, at which point the tube can be removed. Interestingly, the disease is no more likely to recur in a cat that had it than one who never has. With proper treatment, these cats usually do well and return to a normal life.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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