Cirrhosis in Cat Like humans, felines depend on their livers to remove toxins from their bodies, whether from poisons, disease, inflammation, heart failure, or trauma. The liver is easily damaged, but it also has the ability to regenerate. When a cat has end-stage liver disease, it means the liver is severely damaged and may not be able to regenerate. You will see several obvious signs and symptoms of end-stage liver disease in your cat.
Jaundice in cats
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and other tissues caused by liver disease. It comes from a substance called bilirubin, which is caused by the breakdown of red blood cells. Check the whites of your cat’s eyes and its gums. Part the fur and look for yellowing of the skin, especially at the base of the ears.
Swollen Stomach in cats
Your cat may suddenly have a hugely distended belly without any other symptoms of weight gain. You may even see that other parts of its body are getting thinner. This happens when liver disease interferes with the circulation of the stomach, and fluid accumulates. A swollen stomach can also be the sign of other serious feline diseases, so make sure your cat sees a veterinarian immediately.
Changes in Digestion and Elimination
Cats often experience digestive upset when in end-stage liver failure. It may refuse to eat or vomit when it does eat. You may notice that its feces and urine are discolored. The feces may be pale gray, and the urine may be dark. Both symptoms are caused by changes in the bile produced by the liver. If you notice any change in your cat’s eating or elimination habits that lasts more than a day or so, have your cat seen by a veterinarian.
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Cirrhosis in Cats
Says Dr. Hanen Abdel Rahman Cirrhosis in Cats. Cirrhosis is a chronic, end-stage liver disease in which normal liver tissue has been replaced by fibrous scar tissue. Your cat needs approximately 20% of normal liver function to survive. When cirrhosis occurs, scar tissue replaces functioning liver cells.
Symptoms Cirrhosis in Cats
Symptoms will depend on the cause of the cirrhosis, and may include:
- Bleeding problems
- Behavior changes; seizures; pacing or circling
- Painful abdomen
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of appetite; weight loss
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Lack of energy; depression
- Increased thirst; urination
- Swollen abdomen (fluid-filled)
- Orange-tinged urine
- Yellow-tinged gums and whites of (sclera) or lining of the eyes (jaundice)
Diagnosis And Treatment
Your veterinarian will take a complete history and perform a thorough physical exam of your pet. Additionally, diagnostic tests will be required to identify if your cat has cirrhosis of the liver. These may include:
- Electrolyte tests to ensure your pet isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
- Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infection and other diseases
- A thyroid test to determine if the thyroid gland is functioning normally
- X-rays to evaluate the size, shape, and position of the liver
- An abdominal ultrasound to evaluate the liver and other vital organs
- Coagulation profiles to assess your pet’s clotting function
- A liver biopsy
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
- Serologic tests to identify if your pet has been exposed to infectious diseases
- A complete blood count (CBC) to rule out certain blood-related conditions
Treatment for your cat will vary depending on the underlying cause of liver damage and cirrhosis. The good news is that treating the underlying cause of cirrhosis can, in many cases, stop the progression of the damage.
Treatment may include the following:
- Blood products, if your pet is anemic
- Dietary modifications
- Medications, depending on the cause
- Discontinuation of any therapy that may have caused the liver damage
- Intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy, if your pet is dehydrated
Prevention in cats
The prognosis for your cat depends on two factors: how much of the liver’s function is impaired and the ability to treat and control the underlying cause. The most effective prevention of cirrhosis is to address liver disease as early as possible and maintain your cat’s preventive health care to avoid any situation that may cause liver disease.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your cats or pets.