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What is Enlarged Liver?

If you notice that your cat is acting lethargic, has a loss of appetite, or they are having abdominal distress, they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. In fact, if proper treatment is not received, it could lead to full liver failure, which could be devastating to you and your cat.

An enlarged liver in a cat indicates that the organ is swollen. A variety of underlying causes can lead to this condition, which is known in the medical community as hepatomegaly. If you notice that your cat has a swollen abdomen, then you should have your cat examined to see what the underlying issue is. A swollen and enlarged liver can cause parts of the organ to fail to function properly.

Symptoms of Enlarged Liver in Cats

When your cat is suffering from an enlarged liver, the following symptoms may be present. Some of these symptoms may be more difficult to see, so if you notice any combination of them, take your cat to see a veterinarian. 

  • An enlarged abdomen 
  • Lethargy and inactivity
  • Discomfort and pain when moved
  • A loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice 
  • Increased thirst and urination

Causes of Enlarged Liver in Cats

An enlarged liver can be caused by a number of underlying causes. Here are a few of the more common ones:

  • Cholangitis or Cholangiohepatitis are inflammatory bacterial infections in the bile ducts that find their way into the liver.
  • Hepatic Lipidosis is when fat accumulates in the liver and slowly deteriorates the liver’s functionality.
  • Portosystemic shunts occur when the blood in your cat’s body bypasses the liver. This miscommunication prevents the blood from being cleansed of the toxins in your cat’s system.
  • Liver cancer and a few other types of cancer can cause an enlarged liver.
  • Toxic liver damage can also result in an enlarged liver, which can be the result of medications that your cat ingested.

Diagnosis of Enlarged Liver in Cats

When your cat is ill, it is never recommended to diagnose the illness yourself. A misdiagnosis can actually cause more harm to your cat when it comes to an enlarged liver, especially if the underlying cause needs immediate treatments. Here are some of the tests your veterinarian may use to diagnose your cat:

  • Take an x-ray to determine how large the liver is.
  • Take an ultrasound to ensure that there are no obstructions blocking the pathway into the liver.
  • Check for changes in the ALT, ALP, GGT, and AST enzyme levels. Testing these enzymes will require a blood test.
  • Check your cat’s glucose and cholesterol levels.
  • Check your cat’s bilirubin levels by way of a blood sample to see if they are elevated.
  • Perform a urinalysis to check for ammonium biurate crystals.
  • Test your cat’s thyroid to make sure it is functioning as it should.
  • Take a blood count to measure the number of white and red blood cells in the body.
  • If cancer is a concern, a biopsy of the liver may be taken to be tested.

Treatment of Enlarged Liver in Cats

Treatments will vary based on the findings of the underlying cause of the enlarged liver. Here is a breakdown of the treatments of some of the most common causes:

Cholangitis and Cholangiohepatitis 

Antibiotics and other drugs may be prescribed. Intravenous fluids will most likely be used to keep your cat hydrated, and their nutritional intake will be monitored. If your cat is vomiting, then your veterinarian may suggest antacids to help. Recovery may only take a few days, unless chronic Cholangitis is the issue, then it could require additional therapy and treatment.

Hepatic Lipidosis

When your cat suffers from this disease, they typically refrain from eating, which causes a failure of the fat that is ingested to be broken down. Until the reason for your cat’s anorexia-like behavior is determined, the best way to treat them is to ensure that they are eating. In most situations, this means that a feeding tube is required. The sooner he or she begins eating on their own, the quicker they will recover. 

Liver Cancer

If cancer is found in the liver it is often recommended that the lobe affected be removed. Chemotherapy can be initiated to slow the progress of the cancer. This treatment is often effective, but cancer that is located in more than one lobe often offers a poor outlook.

Recovery of Enlarged Liver in Cats

To ensure that your cat’s liver is functioning properly, you must monitor their food intake and drinking habits to assure that the liver is working properly. Give them the antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian as well as any vitamins that they need to replenish in their systems. Treatment and recovery from an enlarged liver is not a difficult process, but if you ignore the symptoms of an enlarged liver when you first notice them, it could be fatal.

Enlarged Liver Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

4 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting diarrhea

My kitten start to have diarrhea 4 days ago. Then yesterday starting vomiting after eating and drinking. They did X-ray and found that he have liver enlargement maybe because of food and they gave him 2 injections. I was giving him last week adults cat food. He is now two days without food nor water. What should I do for him. He’s starving and looking for food. I gave him little water and he vomited. I’m sad for him.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1955 Recommendations
If Ginger is not eating or drinking you should return to your Veterinarian so that he may receive fluid therapy; a smooth and wet kitten diet should be mixed with water and syringed slowly into the mouth to encourage eating and hydration, but again you should return to your Veterinarian for treatment. Without examining Ginger I cannot prescribe any medications. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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7.5 years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen Abdomen

Medication Used

Stopped all

Six days ago my 6 kg male cat had fever 104.2 F and he was diagnosed with possible worm toxicity and pneumonia. He was given 1.5ml Oxidil (250mg) for 4 days, hepamerez, no-spa and apatite stimulant. He was also dewormed with parax for round and hookworm. After two days he was given, oxidil, praziquantel for tapeworm and antispasmodic with it. It was next day when we noticed enlarged liver and soft swollen belly. His temperature is normal for past 2 days, but his abdomen is soft and swollen, he has mild to moderate pain. His breathing is laboured . I am force feeding him and he only takes uncooked chicken almost 0.25 kg and a little bit liver daily. He drinks water on his own but is slightly dehydrated . He urinates three- four times a day. I had to give him lactulose 2 days ago and his poop was normal coloured , slightly soft. He has NO vomiting or diarrhea. Has his liver enlarged due to drug toxicity while giving him medication for fever? How long will it take if the liver is enlarged due to drug toxicity? What diet should I give him and so I need to give him multi vitamins?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1955 Recommendations

The medication that Don received isn’t associated with causing liver enlargement; liver enlargement may be caused by a variety of different conditions which may cause the liver to increase in size. The first step with an enlarged liver is to check the liver enzymes to determine the level of liver function (as well as blood counts and kidney function) to see which liver enzymes are normal and which are high, this would help to understand the severity of the problem; this information would help to create a treatment plan. Dietary management is important when the liver is under stress, feeding a low (but high quality) protein diet is important to reduce the livers need to process large amounts of protein. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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