The liver can be considered as the processing factor of the body, playing an essential role in the cat’s metabolism. Because the cat is a pure carnivore, the liver of the cat has lost the ability to carry out some of the processes that other animals designed to cope with a wider range of foods are able to manage, making the cat particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of certain substances.

Signs Your Cat May Have Liver Disease

Liver disease tends to cause rather non-specific signs such as lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. More specific signs can include an enlargement of the liver itself, and jaundice.

Causes

There are many possible causes of liver diseases, but the most important in the cat are: -

Lymphoctic cholangitis: an inflammation of the liver that is thought to be caused by a disorder of the cat’s immune system
Cholangiohepatitis: another form of liver inflammation most commonly caused by a bacterial infection that invades the bile ducts within the liver.
Toxic hepatopathy: there are many poisons that can affect the liver of cats, including plants, household and garden chemicals, and drugs such as paracetamol. Quite a number of cats have died because their owners have dosed them with drugs not intended for use in that species.
Hepatic lipoidosis: yet another strange-sounding liver starvation, or from other metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus. Fat is laid down in the liver, causing serious interference with its normal functions.
Liver tumors: the liver is a common site for secondary tumors to settle that have spread from another site in the body, but it is also quite common for primary tumors to develop in the liver or in closely related structures such as the pancreas.

Treatment

Differentiating the various possible causes of liver disease in the cat can pose a considerable challenge to the veterinary surgeon. Blood tests, X-rays, and ultrasound of the liver may all be useful, but in some cases it is necessary to carry out a surgical biopsy, taking a small piece of liver tissue to be analyzed under the microscope. Because the liver is important for breaking down many anesthetics in the cat’s body, and because blood clotting is often prolonged in affected animals, this procedure is not without significant risk.
Nevertheless, this risk may well be outweighed by the benefit of obtaining a definitive diagnosis.

Once the cause has been established, steps can be taken to try and correct it, as well as providing supportive treatment for the cat. Fortunately, the lover has a good capability to regenerate, but if chronic liver disease is allowed to persist, the normal liver will become replaced by fibrous tissue, a process known as liver cirrhosis. Antibiotics are effective against liver infections, and corticosteroids drugs will help to control inflammatory problems. The surgical removal of tumors is only occasionally possible when an isolated non-malignant mass can be identified. Cats with liver disease need a low-fat, easily digestible diet, fed little and often. In severe cases, the cat may need to be hospitalized and fed via a fine tube passed down the nostril and into the stomach.