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How can I Tell if my Cat Has Lipidosis?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Feline lipidosis is a medical condition characterized by an accumulated amount of fat in a cat’s liver. As a result of the build-up, the liver is unable to properly function. When left untreated, the disorder can be fatal.

Feline lipidosis most often occurs as a result of poor nutrition and obesity. It can also result if the liver is injured through toxins or metabolism. Common diseases that sometimes result in feline lipidosis include heart disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, kidney disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, chronic upper respiratory disease, and feline lower urinary tract disease. Nonetheless, half of the cases of lipidosis have no known cause.

For cats who are at risk for lipidosis, such as those who are obese and advanced in age, stress can often trigger its development and symptoms. This stress can be the result of dietary changes, environmental changes, or bacterial infections. A cat with lipidosis typically demonstrates a lack of appetite and appears depressed.

If your cat has a decreased appetite for several days or weeks, it is generally best to consult with your veterinarian. This is particularly important if the cat has lost a significant amount of weight. Many felines also experience a loss in muscle mass, jaundice, and occasional vomiting. Some cats also develop a condition called encephalopathy as a result of the lipidosis. In this case, the cat may appear lethargic and severely depressed.

To diagnose lipidosis, a veterinarian must first perform a physical exam to feel whether the liver appears to be enlarged. To verify the enlarged liver, the veterinarian may also perform an x-ray and an ultrasound. The veterinarian will also perform a chemistry panel, which is a blood test, to determine if the cat's SAP, ALT, or AST enzymes are elevated. An elevation in any of these enzymes can indicate lipidosis. To make a final diagnosis of lipidosis, the veterinarian must conduct a biopsy.

If a cat is diagnosed with lipidosis, there are a variety of techniques to address the condition. Changing the cat’s diet to include foods that are high in protein and calories is necessary to help the cat regain its weight. The cat may also be placed on medication to stimulate its appetite or fed electrolytes to prevent dehydration. If the cat will not eat, a feeding tube may be necessary. In this case, the tube is inserted into the cat’s stomach.

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