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Cat liver failure

Cat Liver Failure

The liver is a crucial organ in the mammalian anatomy.

The liver is a crucial organ when it comes to the digestive, immune, and metabolic process. It is literally the site of fuel conversion. There are two types of fuel sources that mammals use - fat and glucose.

When the levels of glucose are low, fat is used; however, the preferred fuel source is glucose and excessive metabolism of fat is problematic in some species of mammals – especially cats. Liver failure in cats is most commonly caused by a disease that the animal shares with humans called fatty liver disease. In humans, the disease is mostly caused by obesity and alcoholism.

In cats, the disease is caused, surprisingly, by obesity and the opposite – not eating at all. This leads ultimately to liver failure. This is because obesity causes too much fat in the body, including in the liver. Not eating and anorexia causes fat stores to be sequestered in the liver and since cats cannot metabolize fat well, a build up starts causing liver damage.

The classical symptoms of liver failure in cats are yellowing of the eyes and mucus membranes from free bilirubin in the blood stream – this is a condition that is simply known as jaundice. The other symptoms of liver failure in cats include fatigue, a refusal to eat, drooling, and eventually death. The causes of cat liver damage and especially fatty liver disease lie in an animal’s stress levels and psychology. Despite the common misperception that cats are extremely independent and not very social, the fact is that cats are attached to their owners to a large extent. This becomes very apparent when a cat is placed in the care of someone unfamiliar for a long period of time. The animal faces separation anxiety and it refuses to eat. This problem can reach such a level that the fat stores are used by the liver for energy, causing the fatty liver and jaundice symptoms. If untreated, the cat could die.

Fortunately, a cat’s liver regenerates quite fast and simply feeding the cat on carbohydrate rich foods and protein meals is the best way to ensure that the liver switches from metabolizing fat and instead starts to use glucose. It is worth noting here that even fatty liver disease can indicate another disease so the vet might ask for a liver enzyme test.

  Submitted on April 16, 2010  

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