Image Source: Pixabay
Fat always gets a bad reputation when it comes to nutrition and
health. Naturally, our reaction to fats is the same when we find
it in our cat’s food. However, the truth is that a certain amount
of fats are necessary and even, important for your cat’s overall
health.How you ask? Well, that’s exactly what we are going to
discuss in this write-up. But, before we do that, let’s take a
look at what fat is.
Cat food comes with all kinds of fat and each of those fats
offers a unique set of benefits. The fat found in cat food isn’t
hard to digest and they offer your cat energy. Fats are basically
composed of fatty acids, which serve as the building blocks for
the various kinds of fat. These fatty acids can be classified
based on a range of factors such as the length of the
carbon-chain. For instance, there are short-chain fatty acids,
medium-chain fatty acids, and long-chain fatty acids.They can
also be classified as saturated fats, poly-unsaturated fats, and
unsaturated fats. This type of classification is based on the
number of carbon atom bonds found in the backbone. Additionally,
they can also be classified on the basis of the location of the
carbon atom bonding. Examples of this type of classification
include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Fats that are not synthesized in your cat’s body are called
“Essential Fatty Acids”. You cat needs these fats to be included
in her/his usual diet. In fact, that’s why they are called
“Essential Fatty Acids”. To be more specific, essential fatty
acids for cats include arachidonic acid and linoleic acid. Both
these fatty acids fall under the omega-6 fatty acid
classification.Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are not
technically essential. However, they are added to cat food due to
the many benefits they offer, such as improving brain functions
and healing inflammation.Fats offer a ton of benefits for cats.
- Providing your cat with energy. Fats are a good source of
energy. In fact, they are richer sources of energy than proteins
- Helping with the development of cell membranes. Fats also
help with the transportation of nutrients across those cell
- Helping with improving nerve signal transmissions.
- Helping with the production of hormones such as testosterone,
progesterone, and estrogen.
- Helping with the absorption of vitamins such as A, D, E, and
K, which are also known as “fat soluble vitamins”.
Lastly, fats also make cat food more palatable and filling, which
is helpful if you don’t want your cat making a fuss.
What Is Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver) in Cats?
The liver is one of the largest organs in a cat’s body, and it
carries out a number of important functions. It aids in
digestion, supplies energy by storing and releasing
carbohydrates, synthesizes proteins and certain fats, produces
bile, stores vitamins, manufactures hormones, and reduces
poisonous properties of toxic chemical compounds. Whew!
As you can see, the liver performs many important processes that
affect the entire body, and if its functionality is compromised,
a cat’s life may be at risk.
Hepatic lipidosis -- or fatty liver -- is a disease characterized
by an accumulation of excess fat in the liver that interferes
with its ability to function. It is the most common form of liver
disease in cats in the United States and can be fatal if left
untreated. Read on to learn all about hepatic lipidosis in cats.
Causes of Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver) In Cats
Hepatitis lipidosis occurs when fats known as triglycerides
accumulate in the liver’s cells and stop the organ from
functioning normally. These fats typically accumulate because a
cat has stopped eating for
two weeks or more. Fat moves to the liver from other storage
areas in the body to compensate for the fat that would normally
be absorbed through food. However, the liver is not able to
process the excess fat, and so it collects in the liver’s cells.
These swollen cells then damage to the organ.
In many cases, hepatic lipidosis is a secondary consequence of an
underlying condition that causes appetite loss, such
as obesity, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer, stress, kidney
disease, pancreatitis, or another
form of liver disease. In cases
wherein an underlying condition cannot be identified, the disease
is referred to as “primary” or “idiopathic.” Idiopathic means
that there is no known cause.
Hepatic lipidosis can affect any cat, but it is most common in
Symptoms of Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver) In Cats
The classic and most obvious symptom of hepatic lipidosis
is loss of appetite or
Additional symptoms may
- Behavioral or neurological
symptoms such as drooling, blindness, disorientation,
and seizures. These symptoms
are often caused by hepatic encephalopathy, a decline in brain
function that occurs when the liver is no longer able to remove
Diagnosing Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver) In Cats
If your cat is not eating, contact your veterinarian. They will
perform a physical exam to feel for an enlarged liver and run
blood tests that will reveal abnormalities. They may also take
X-rays or use an ultrasound to get a visual of the liver.
While the above tests may point to hepatic lipidosis, the only
way to definitively diagnose the disease is through an analysis
of liver tissues. The liver sample (or biopsy) is obtained either
surgically using laparoscopy (in which small tools and a camera
are inserted through holes in the skin) or through aspiration
(removing a liver sample with a syringe).
Treatment For Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver) In Cats
The longer the cycle of anorexia and fat accumulation lasts, the
more likely yourcat will be to suffer serious consequences. In
fact, as many as 90% of affected cats succumb to the disease
without prompt medical intervention.
Treatment for hepatic lipidosis will depend on the severity of
your cat’s condition as well as any underlying medical conditions
that may be causing or exacerbating the disease.
Most treatment involves some combination of the following:
Hospitalization and Fluid
Therapy: Temporary hospitalization with fluid
therapy may be necessary if the cat is dehydrated or
support: In other words, getting your cat to eat.
This is the only way to reverse the process of fat accumulation
in the liver. Appetite stimulation medications are sometimes
used -- as is force-feeding -- but the most common practice is
tube feeding. If the cat needs to be tube-fed temporarily, a
tube is placed through the nose and into the esophagus or
stomach. If the cat needs to be tube-fed long-term, the tube
can be surgically
inserted into the esophagus or stomach. Most cats with hepatic
lipidosis require tube feeding for 1-3 months. Your
veterinarian can recommend a good food and the proper
veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics if
there is a possibility of infection from harmful bacteria in
veterinarian may suggest certain supplements for
- Vitamin K: Prevents blood
clotting problems associated with hepatic lipidosis.
- Vitamin B-12: Most cats
with hepatic lipidosis are deficient of all B vitamins.
- L-Carnitine: A supplement
that aids in the transfer of fats.
- Taurine: An amino acid
that helps bind toxic bile acids for their removal from the
body. Taurine is often deficient in cats with hepatic
supplement that promotes overall liver health
The good news is that cats who are treated promptly often fully
recover and rarely relapse. Contact your veterinarian early to
give your cat the best chance for survival.
More on Liver Disease
What Causes Liver Shunt In
Cats And Dogs?
Denamarin For Dogs And Cats:
Managing Liver Disease
Food For Liver Disease In Dogs