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The Cat's “Liver Fat”: Beware of Cats That No Longer Eat!

Cats have very particular physiology, and we must be careful with them: whatever the reason why they stop eating, we must quickly understand it and find a solution to restore their appetite. A cat needs to eat every day, even if it is too big!


Anorexic Cat: Multiple Causes

Anorexia in cats can be caused by multiple causes: hairballs that disrupt intestinal transit, digestive problems, infection, chronic pain, etc. Behavioral causes are also frequently involved: when the cat is stressed because of another cat living with him, he may not want to go near his bowl anymore...

Sometimes when a dietary change is made (for example, when the cat is put on a diet), the cat may refuse to eat because it does not like the new food. Unlike dogs, cats can sulk for a very long time. They are stubborn animals when it comes to having their food preferences respected! In any case, don't let the situation continue. If the cat stops eating for several days, it will lose weight very quickly and this may cause a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.


Influx of Fats Into the Liver

Under certain conditions, fasting for 2 to 7 days can cause a weight loss of at least 25% in cats. To compensate, the body then mobilizes its fat reserves. A large quantity of fatty acids passes into the bloodstream and takes over the direction of the liver, the “conductor” in terms of nutrition for the whole body. The liver stores these fatty acids, which arrive en masse, so that it can then redistribute energy. The problem is that a cat that stops eating becomes deficient in carnitine, a kind of vitamin that the liver needs to “burn” fat. Without carnitine, fats accumulate in the liver; the liver increases in volume, its functioning is disrupted, this is called hepatic lipidosis or “fatty liver” of the cat.

Diagnosis :

  • Physical examination and history of the animal.
  • Blood biochemistry will be essential to confirm the presence of liver function impairment, assess the severity, and then monitor its evolution.
  • Once liver damage has been confirmed, X-rays can help to clarify the cause of liver failure.
  • Screening for leukemia and feline AIDS may be recommended if your pet is considered at risk or has never been screened to ensure that one of these two diseases is not the primary cause of anorexia.
  • Hematology and urology can sometimes be helpful in clarifying the cause of the problem and your pet's general state of health.
  • Finally, liver biopsy is the only way to differentiate liver lipidosis from another cause of liver failure. However, it is an invasive procedure that carries certain risks.

Warning Symptoms

During hepatic lipidosis, the cat is listless and suffers from nausea; jaundice is visible in 70% of cases. As a consequence of hepatic dysregulation, the liver has difficulty synthesizing urea, the molecule that allows the elimination of excess nitrogen. This nitrogen accumulates in blood in the form of ammonia, which can lead to a true intoxication of the cat: it drools and develops nervous disorders. The cat finally presents a great muscular weakness, it can have difficulty raising the head normally.

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Imperative Nutritional Care

Beyond 48 hours, an anorexic cat must be presented to a veterinarian. There is no need to wait for the cat to eat on its own: the more the process worsens, the less it will be able to eat on its own. However, re-feeding must start as soon as possible to hope to cure the cat. Faced with a cat that refuses to eat, the veterinarian may find it necessary to place a probe, in order to directly provide the cat with the nutrients it needs. Most often, the catheter is passed through one of the cat's nostrils and allows the cat to be fed liquid food that goes directly into the cat's esophagus. If the cat does not quickly start eating on its own, another type of catheter will be inserted, thanks to a small surgical procedure that allows the catheter to be inserted directly into the esophagus (without going through the nose), which is more comfortable for the cat. In 90% of cases, if the condition is treated quickly, the cat recovers completely. When anorexia is due to another disease that develops in cats, the prognosis obviously depends on the nature of this disease.

Maximum Risk in Overweight Cats

The more the cat is overweight, the more it is predisposed to suffer from lipidosis: in an obese cat, Fat mass is indeed very important and the flow of fatty acids to the liver is massive, much more than if the cat was thin before stopping eating. The rate at which a cat loses weight should never be too fast, otherwise, its liver may suffer the consequences.

© 2021 Ben Youssef Lotfy

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