If you have an obese or overweight cat, you probably want to help them lose weight so they can be healthier. But if they lose too much weight too soon, it can actually be a bad thing for their liver (and them). Similarly, if your cat decides all food is off the menu for a few days, it could cause a potentially deadly liver condition called fatty liver disease.
Fast Weight Loss Could Spell Trouble
Overweight or obese cats shedding some pounds will help to reduce their risk of developing health conditions like diabetes, arthritis and nonallergic skin diseases. However, losing weight too quickly can put cats at risk of developing fatty liver disease (also called hepatic lipidosis).
Your cat’s body uses fat for energy, and the liver plays an essential role in making, breaking down and distributing fats. Fatty liver disease occurs when the body breaks down too much fat too quickly and the liver can’t process the fat fast enough. The fat is then stored in and around the liver, which impairs liver function. If fatty liver disease is not diagnosed quickly and treated aggressively, it can lead to liver failure and even death, in some cases.
If your cat is on a weight management program, it is important that you work closely with your veterinarian to make sure your cat avoids rapid weight loss that could potentially lead to fatty liver disease.
Take Time Switching Diets
Veterinarians often recommend that overweight cats switch to a weight loss management formula, such as Diamond CARE Weight Management Formula for Adult Cats, to help them reach their weight loss goals. However, sometimes cats don’t like a sudden change in their food and they will refuse to eat their new food. This can be a problem, because if cats don’t eat for 24 to 36 hours, they can also develop fatty liver disease.
You should always follow your veterinarian’s advice on how to switch to a weight management diet (or any new diet). It is important to introduce the new food slowly to avoid your cat’s refusal of their food. We’ve got some more tips on transitioning your cat to a weight management diet here.
Kitty Won’t Eat? Call Your Vet
There are many other reasons for your cat to turn their nose up at the food bowl. They may have an upset stomach, pain or an underlying medical problem; or they could be stressed. These conditions may cause your cat to lose their appetite, and as we mentioned above, cats are at risk of developing fatty liver disease if they stop eating, even for as little as two days. So if your cat hasn’t eaten food for more than 24 hours, for whatever reason, call your veterinarian.
Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Other than loss of appetite, cats with fatty liver disease may be lethargic (they don’t want to move or play) or have vomiting and diarrhea. You may also notice a yellow tint to their ears, their gums and the white of their eyes if they have become jaundiced due to impaired liver function.
Your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam and possibly do blood tests, urinalysis and an X-ray to determine if your cat has fatty liver disease. A definitive diagnosis usually requires a liver biopsy. Your veterinarian will also look for any underlying conditions that may have caused the fatty liver disease so that these can be treated as well.
The best outcome for fatty liver disease requires early detection, however this can be difficult, as the signs can be subtle. Cats with fatty liver disease are typically given a specific diet, formulated with the right nutrients and calories, which is fed as a liquid or slurry, usually through a feeding tube. They may also be prescribed medication to help stimulate their appetite, prevent vomiting and help support their liver. Depending on the severity of the disease, it may take cats as long as two to four months to eat on their own again. But once recovered, cats with fatty liver disease usually don’t develop the disease again.
Fatty liver disease can be a life-threatening condition. It’s important that your cat is under veterinary supervision if they are on a weight management program so they can lose weight safely. And remember, if your cat hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours, it’s time to call your veterinarian.
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