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Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

December 22nd, 2007 · 1 Comment · Cats

Recently our cat Kirby started to lose weight (about 3 pounds) and completely stopped eating. At first we thought it might be allergies or an upper respiratory infection. We took Kirby to our local vet who prescribed an antibiotic, gave him subcutaneous fluids and took blood to test for other possible issues.  We were told to take him home and to keep a close eye on him. After a few weeks of this we decided to take Kirby to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital  for a second opinion. The doctors completed an exam, reviewed his blood work, did an ultrasound and did a liver biopsy. They diagnosed Kirby with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis, or Fatty Liver Disease. This basically means that a cat stops eating and its body starts sending fat to the liver to process for fuel. The liver is not very effective at breaking down fat, so it starts to store the fat which causes the liver to fail and the cat to die.  The frustrating part was that they could not find an underlying reason for the condition and this is common with FHL. They told us that if caught early enough that there has been success in reversing the condition.  Our doctors felt that since Kirby was only 6 years old and that we immediately took him to a vet for attention, he had a good chance. The treatment is force feeding the cat until the urge to eat on his own returns. The doctor would put a feeding tube through the side of his neck into his stomach. We would have to feed him every 6 hours through the tube. This involves taking a prescribed high protein soft food, adding a little chicken stock, and pulsing it through a food processor so that it pours into a syringe. You slowly administer 55ml of food over a half an hour.  In addition he would take water, Pepsid, a medicine to make him hungry, and a medicine to reduce nausea. We would do this for 4 to 8 weeks. There were no guarantees that this treatment would work, it is expensive, takes a huge time commitment from you and we had to make a decision quickly. We found numerous resources online such as Animal Help,, and PawPrints and Purrs. We also spoke to Pete’s grandfather who is a retired vet. After reviewing everything we decided that we needed to take the chance. Some people have reported being successful in force feeding their cats without a feeding tube. We did not think this would work with Kirby. He hates taking medicine and is known to foam at the mouth while being forced to take medicine.   The vet highly recommended the feeding tube since this treatment is already stressful and time consuming. We had to leave Kirby overnight, so that they could insert the tube and monitor his first feedings. It was a shock to see him the next day. They had to shave his stomach for the ultrasound, and he had a bandage that wrapped around his neck with the feeding tube sticking out.  At home he was lethargic. We had to carry him to the litter box after each feeding. It is not easy feeding a cat every six hours. This disrupts your sleep and your daily life. Everything revolves around getting home or waking up to feed the cat.  Kirby would throw up and on many occassions did not make it to the litter box. Thank heaven for carpet cleaners. It is a lot like having a newborn! After the first week, we returned to the doctor and Kirby was much more alert and back to his loveable self after regular feedings and he had gained 3 ounces. Over the next two weeks we continued the feeding. At the end of week two, Kirby started taking small bites of regular food. At week three we returned to the doctor and he had gained 1 pound and 4 ounces.  Kirby is now eating about a 1/4 cup of food each day and we only administer food through the tube once a day. If all goes well and he reaches a 1/2 a cup a day, and had gained weight the vet will remove his feeding tube at the next visit two weeks from now. Kirby will need checkups every six months and close monitoring of his food intake for the rest of his life. Kirby’s treatment and followup care has been expensive. We have spent about $2800.00 over the last 4 weeks. His care was top notch and we owe much gratitude to his vet Dr. May.

Leave me a comment if you have any questions.

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