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Hepatic Lipidosis

What is Hepatic Lipidosis?

Hepatic lipidosis is characterized by the excess accumulation of fat in the liver and is a common cause of potentially reversible liver failure in cats. The liver is responsible for a variety of important functions, including the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, the synthesis of proteins and vitamins, the storage of vitamins and iron, the

production of substances necessary for blood clotting and the removal or breakdown of toxins.

Hepatic lipidosis is just one of many liver diseases which can cause the clinical signs indicated above. It can be theprimary problem or secondary to another disease process. Possible primary disease processes include inflammatory bowel disease, other liver disease, cancer, pancreatitis or social problems.

What are the Causes?

Factors that may be associated with the onset of hepatic lipidosis include stress, obesity, anorexia, diet change, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes and hyperthyroidism. The typical cat with hepatic lipidosis has recently lost a significant amount of body

weight, has a poor appetite, is middle - aged and overweight.

Excessive amounts of fat are broken down from the cat’s peripheral fat storage during periods of fasting or decreased food intake. This fat is then transported to the liver. The liver should then process this fat and export it to the rest of the body in a new form.

In cats that develop hepatic lipidosis, this process is impaired and the rate of fat export from the liver is much slower than the rate of fat intake, resulting in fat accumulation within the liver cells. Damage to the liver is caused by swelling of the liver cells with excessive fat. At a minimum, impairment of liver function occurs, and in those cats with severe disease, overt liver failure results.

Types of Treatment

Regardless of the cause, the basic treatment for hepatic lipidosis is the same. Many cats will be dehydrated and completely anorexic when brought to the hospital. Intravenous fluids are used to correct the dehydration. Most cats with hepatic lipidosis refuse to eat, yet the only way to reverse the process of fat accumulation within the liver is through aggressive feeding. This supplies your cat with his or her full caloric requirements.

Force-feeding your cat is an option, but most cats are not very cooperative and meeting their caloric requirements is difficult at best. Cats also develop food aversions quite easily and the unpleasant experience of force-feeding may further delay your cat’s return to self-feeding. Placement of a feeding tube into the stomach or neck, is the most satisfactory method to manage feedings. Both options allow the

cat to receive the full caloric requirement with a minimum of stress and fuss.

Recovery diets can be fed through the feeding tube for as long as it takes your cat to recover. If necessary, the feeding tube can safely remain in place for several weeks to months. A feeding tube allows your pet to return home where you can perform the feedings and give medications in a less stressful environment.


Some strategies for preventing hepatic lipidosis include monitoring your cat’s weight regularly, weight loss foran overweight cat, feeding a measured amount of food,

monitoring how much is eaten, minimizing stress, making changes in diet very gradually and taking your cat for regular veterinary care, especially if you notice changes in behaviour, weight, or food intake.

Written by: Marie James - student@TISOVN

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