Hepatic lipidosis is the abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver. While a normal liver contains about 5% fat, in cats with hepatic lipidosis, the fat content may reach 40% to 50% of total liver weight, resulting in liver failure. Although some cases are caused by toxic materials or diabetes, most cases occur in grossly overweight cats who are subjected to periods of starvation or have a severely reduced appetite. While starvation in other animals produces a mildly fatty liver, in obese cats the severe lipidosis is often fatal. Cats of normal weight are usually able to tolerate periods of starvation without developing lipidosis.
Why this type of lipidosis occurs is unknown, but researchers are investigating amino acid deficiencies and hormone abnormalities.
Cats with lipidosis are usually over 2 years old, and most have not eaten at all or eaten very little for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Many have lost up to 50% of their body weight.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Aggressive nutritional support is necessary to save cats with lipidosis. Hospitalization and feeding by stomach tube is typical.
2. Recovery is not rapid. Most cats need treatment for 4 to 8 weeks or longer. Once affected cats begin to eat on their own, the chances for recovery are good.