Hepatic Lipidosis In Cats: Symptoms And Treatment

Hepatic Lipidosis in cats is a disease that affects all breeds of cat, no matter their age. It can be caused by another disease, usually a liver problem, but is most often triggered after an extremely stressful event for the cat.

It is not uncommon for a move, the arrival of a new pet or child in the household or a change in diet to trigger a loss of appetite or even anorexia, which then leads to hepatic lipidosis.

This disease is difficult to treat, because the care is long and must be accompanied by increased monitoring of what the cat eats. Early diagnosis is essential for effective treatment.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand, prevent and recognize liver lipidosis in cats.

What are the symptoms of Hepatic Lipidosis in cats?

Hepatic lipidosis is a disease that affects the liver. It becomes overloaded with lipids (fat) and can no longer function properly. Cats that are overweight are more likely than other cats to develop this disease.

The main cause, but also the first symptom of the disease, is anorexia. If a cat stops eating for several days, their body reacts by drawing upon their fat reserves. As the fat accumulates in the liver it becomes swollen turns yellow, and ceases to function.

Lipidosis is a diseases often linked to stress as it' s the main cause for a loss of appetite in cats. Stress leads to anorexia which leads to the disease.

Hepatic lipidosis can also occur randomly or because of another disease or poor nutrition, in which case, it is the disease that causes and then maintains anorexia.

In both cases, lipidosis very quickly becomes a vicious circle since the disease causes a loss of appetite which overloads the liver with fat and aggravates the symptoms.

Other symptoms of hepatic lipidosis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Muscle wasting
  • Depression
  • Downward flexion of head and neck
  • Jaundice (e.g., yellowing of eyes)
  • Drooling of saliva
  • Cat may collapse in later stages
  • Other symptoms will be related to concurrent, underlying disease

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How do you treat hepatic lipidosis in cats?

The diagnosis

First, a conventional veterinary examination will determine the origin of the problem, which in this case is the liver.

A blood test is then performed to check the liver enzymes and determine how sick the liver is. However, the test does not determine that it is a lipidosis, it simply reveals that the liver is affected.

If the liver is indeed affected, then an X-ray can better assess the cause and monitor the size of the liver as lipidosis causes it to swell.

Screening for other diseases that can lead to anorexia (VIF, leukemia) can be done to eliminate these possible causes.

Finally, only one examination can truly confirm the diagnosis of liver lipidosis: a liver biopsy. It's an invasive method, which consists in taking a piece of the organ directly to be able to analyze it. It can be dangerous for already very affected cats.


The treatment of hepatic lipidosis is long and requires great involvement from the owner. Healing depends very much on the cat's diet and appetite.

At an advanced stage, it is possible that feeding the cat yourself is the only solution to counter the anorexia that the disease causes.

During the first few days of treatment, intravenous fluid therapy can help fight dehydration and can be combined with medication to stimulate appetite. However, appetite medications cannot be used too long.

Medications to control symptoms such as vomiting, fever or diarrhea may also be prescribed.

But the best medicine against hepatic lipidosis is food. A sick cat's diet should be adapted to be highly nutritious, appetizing and easy to digest. Little by little, if the cat eats properly and in sufficient quantity, the liver will be able to function normally again.

How can I prevent my cat from getting hepatic lipidosis ?

Overweight cats are more prone to lipidosis, so first make sure your cat's diet is not too rich or poorly adapted. Beyond this disease, a quality diet will help you avoid many other health concerns for your pet.

Stress is another important factor in lipidosis. So be especially careful when your cat is in an unusual or stressful situation.

Overall, this disease remains difficult to avoid and diagnose. You therefore need to know your cat's habits well and pay attention to their eating habits to detect it as quickly as possible.