A Veterinary Report On Liver Disease In Cats

Dr Stavroula Tsovolou

Published by Dr Stavroula Tsovolou

Updated on

I Love Veterinary blog is reader-supported, and we may earn a commission from products purchased through links on this page, at no additional cost to you. Learn more About Us and our Product Review Process >

What is Feline Liver Disease? 

How much do you know about liver disease in cats? To begin with, the location of the liver in cats is in the abdomen behind the diaphragm. It is of vital function and performs numerous functions such as :

  • Protein and hormone synthesis
  • Digestion aid
  • Regulates the energy metabolism
  • Metabolites and eliminates toxic wastes from the body
  • Regulates the immune system

The liver has a strong regenerating capacity but is also highly susceptible to injuries. 

scan of a cat liver

Liver Disease in Cats 

Liver disease in cats often has vague symptoms. These range from anorexia to lethargy to weight loss.

Additional symptoms of liver disease in cats can be :

  • Presence of stomach ulcers
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Blood clotting abnormalities
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Increased urination and thirst
  • Liver size changes
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

What Causes Liver Disease in Felines?

Let’s take a look at what causes liver disease in cats. 

It is not uncommon to see liver disease in cats as they are particularly prone to this disease due to the lack of metabolic pathways that help the liver deal with some toxins. They are susceptible to liver damage by toxins and drugs.

Cats can also develop a liver syndrome known as hepatic lipidosis. This syndrome occurs when cats have not eaten for more than three days. The liver breaks up its stores in an attempt to provide the body with nutrients, eventually leading to liver disease.

Other causes of liver disease in cats are: 

How Do Vets Diagnose a Liver Disease?

Veterinarians have access to various means and tests to help diagnose and find out what causes liver disease in cats. For example, elevated liver enzymes in cats give the veterinarian information regarding liver function. Read our article and find out about Elevated Liver Enzymes in Dogs.

The first step is performing blood and urine tests to help diagnose and detect liver disease.

In regards to blood tests, some alarming results that may indicate liver disease are:

  • Elevated bilirubin levels
  • Elevated concentrations of liver enzymes present in the blood
  • Increased bile acid concentrations
  • Red and white blood cells provide information regarding underlying infections or any inflammation in the liver.
  • Protein concentrations 

Ultrasonography is a very helpful diagnostic imaging tool that helps determine the size, evaluates the structure of the liver, and detects abnormalities such as gallstones and gallbladder diseases.

Obtaining liver biopsies or aspirations for bacterial cultures, tissue analysis, cell analysis, and toxicologic analysis also helps in the identification of liver disease.

Nuclear scintigraphy is also a useful tool in cases that require the identification of portosystemic shunts and any other blood vessel abnormalities.

X-rays help assess liver size providing necessary information regarding liver disease causes.

Info About Liver Biopsies

Liver biopsies help your veterinarian determine what is causing liver disease and what is the most appropriate treatment to follow.

Before obtaining a liver biopsy, the veterinarian should examine your cat’s blood to ensure it clots properly.

The veterinarian will anesthetize the cat to obtain a sample from the liver. The risks of anesthesia are usually low, and the procedure is safe and without complications.

There are two ways to obtain a liver sample. The first is by introducing a needle through the skin that reaches the liver (fine needle aspiration), and the second is via surgery.

Available Treatment Options

Concerning the treatment of liver disease in cats, it depends heavily on what the causative factor is.

Supportive treatments, such as intravenous fluids and nutritional support, in addition to the specific treatment, are essential for treating the underlying cause of liver disease.

Medications that help with liver function are :

Special prescription diets for cats are also available that help support liver function and have a decreased carbohydrate ratio. Your cat needs to continue eating throughout its battle with liver disease.

Cat liver

What Happens if I Don’t Get Treatment for My Cat?

If you don’t treat your cat for liver disease, the symptoms and the condition will unfortunately only worsen.

Below are outlined several complications that can arise from leaving the liver disease untreated.

Development of hepatic encephalopathy: This condition is a neurological syndrome caused by liver dysfunction and is common in feline liver disease cases.

Clinical signs suggestive of hepatic encephalopathy include dullness, walking in circles, head pressing, wandering around, weakness, lack of coordination, vision problems, excessive salivation, behavioral changes, collapse, and even seizures. 

Cats can even be comatose in severe cases.

Development of Ascites is another condition that can affect cats with untreated liver disease. Here fluid accumulates in the abdomen. This fluid accumulation happens due to high blood pressure and an imbalance in salt and water metabolism. 

Clotting defects are also a common occurrence in cats suffering from liver diseases. In this case, administering the necessary clotting factors using blood plasma for this condition is necessary. You can also combine Heparin or Vitamin K.

Fibrosis can also develop and eventually lead to cirrhosis. Fibrosis is the formation of fibrous tissue in the liver. Cirrhosis is a severe disease that disrupts liver function. 

It is possible to reverse or reduce fibrosis in some cases. 

Liver Disease and Kittens

Liver disease can also affect kittens, even though it is a condition that more often occurs in geriatric cats.

With liver disease in kittens, the signs of the disease are again vague and include loss of appetite, weakness, rapid weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If your kitten displays any of these signs, a prompt trip to your veterinarian is the best choice. 

Diagnosing liver disease in kittens early greatly increases the chance of survival of your beloved feline.

How Vets Deal With Liver Failure in Cats

 Hospitalization of your cat is imperative in this case.

The cat will undergo intense nutritional support and monitoring of its health around the clock.

Usually, cats get fed via a feeding tube until they can eat independently once again.

This intense and supportive therapy can take up to a few months to help your cat recover.


So what about the prognosis of liver disease in cats? If the liver disease is left untreated, the prognosis is grave. 

Cats that suffer from untreated liver disease must be medically supported and hospitalized if they are in for a chance of overcoming this condition. 

What is the Life Expectancy for a Cat With Liver Disease?

Let’s take a look at liver disease in cats’ life expectancy.

Life expectancy for a cat with liver disease depends on how early the disease is detected.

When identified and diagnosed in its early stages, the move greatly increases the survival rate.

With proper treatment and support, your cat can overcome liver disease.

Is There a Way to Prevent Feline Liver Disease?

The best way to prevent feline liver disease is to ensure your cat receives adequate balanced nutrition.

Being overweight and obese in cats puts them at a higher risk for developing this disease, so it is essential to maintain your cats’ weight healthy.

Always monitor and get to know your cats’ feeding patterns. Any changes you may see and reluctance to eat, don’t brush them off. Contact your vet to evaluate your cat’s health.

Liver disease

We’ve Got You Covered

As scary as liver disease is, it is not all doom and gloom if your cat suffers from liver disease.

Your cat can live for many years with the proper supportive treatment and nutrition. Make sure your feline is carefully monitored and has frequent health checkups by your vet. These regular checkups will help monitor your cats’ health status, and changes will get caught early on.

Remember to provide your cat with a balanced, nutritional diet and allow them to exercise to help maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Prevention is always better than cure.

Sharing is caring!


pedialyte for dogs

Pedialyte for Dogs: 2024 Updated

8 min read

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Drop your email below to join I Love Veterinary squad and enjoy regular news, updates, exclusive content, new arrivals and more!