Liver disease in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
September 22, 2021

The liver is an amazing organ with more than 500 vital bodily functions. It is an integral part of energy metabolism, aids in digestion, regulates blood clotting, clears the blood of medications or other substances, makes immune factors, produces proteins, and stores products and blood for future use. 

The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself and replace damaged tissue with new cells. 

Causes of liver disease in cats include anorexia, inflammation, infections, parasites, toxins, medication side-effects, endocrine disorders and cancer. Hepatic lipidosis secondary to anorexia and cholangiohepatitis (liver and biliary tract inflammation) represent two-thirds of feline liver disorders.

What are common liver disease signs in cats?

Early signs include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Intermediate or advanced signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased drinking and urination
  • Fever
  • Yellow gums
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended abdomen
  • Seizures or disorientation

How is liver disease managed in cats? 

If possible, the primary cause of liver disease should be identified and treated, with the overall goal of helping the liver regenerate new cells. This can include prescription diets, medications to cleanse the liver, supplements to protect cells from damage and steroids or antibiotics.

Severe liver disease requires hospitalisation, feeding tube placement, or surgery. 

Cats with liver disease need regular veterinary visits and diagnostic monitoring. Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian and an internal medicine specialist is important for the best outcome for your cat.

What is the prognosis for cats?

The prognosis depends on the successful treatment of the disease’s primary cause. Liver disease that is caught early and treated appropriately has a good prognosis, while longer-term disease can result in fibrous scarring (cirrhosis), which prevents the formation of new liver cells. 

Concurrent pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (triaditis), or liver cancer carry a more guarded prognosis.  

Management tips for a cat with liver disease

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food, water, and litter box and a comfortable location
  • Consistency with prescribed medications or supplements
  • Strict adherence to a prescription diet
  • Monitoring for changes in gum colour, appetite, energy, drinking, urination, or defecation

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your cat has uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhoea, yellow gums, a distended abdomen, disorientation, or seizures; collapses; or vocalising in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

At Goodbye Good Boy, we provide home euthanasia services to support loving owners in providing a peaceful passing for their beloved pets.

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give our team of passionate pet lovers a call on 1800 953 619.

This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.