What is Liver Inflammation?
Liver inflammation is a medical condition that involves the swelling of the tissues of the liver, blood vessels in the liver, or the bile ducts. When inflammation occurs, blood and bile flow are affected, which results in bile and fluid accumulation in the liver and surrounding tissues. This swelling can cause issues with liver function, eventually causing blood clotting and neurological issues. Liver inflammation can affect cats of any age, sex, or species. The symptoms may be mild when inflammation begins but will grow more noticeable and severe as inflammation increases or continues for an extended time. Liver inflammation can cause severe, life-threatening issues including seizures, shock, coma, or death. Any animal exhibiting symptoms should be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Liver Inflammation in Cats
A variety of symptoms is associated with liver inflammation in cats. Many of the symptoms are similar to those caused by liver disease. In cases which liver inflammation is mild to moderate, symptoms may not be present. Prolonged or significant inflammation will result in a number of symptoms presenting, caused by poor liver function and the accumulation of bile as ducts become blocked by inflammation.
- Abdominal swelling or bloating
- Jaundice or yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes
- Inappetence or unwillingness to eat
- Weight loss
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Dark urine
- Grey or white feces
- Poor coat quality
- Hair loss
- Changes in behavior
- Head pressing
- Poor coordination
- Muscle wasting
- Fainting or collapse
Several types of liver inflammation occur in cats. Some types of inflammation are related to poor liver function, and others are brought on by various conditions. Some of the more common types that affect cats and other companion animals include:
- Hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease
- Cholangitis-Cholangiohepatitis Syndrome or CCHS (Suppurative CCHS or Nonsuppurative CCHS)
- Hepatitis granulomatous
- Infectious liver disease
Causes of Liver Inflammation in Cats
Liver inflammation can be brought on by a variety of conditions or issues. Inflammation can occur due to infection, disease, dietary issues, or stressors. It can also be brought on by issues with nearby organs and related bodily systems, including the pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and the circulatory system. Some common causes of liver inflammation in cats and other companion animals include:
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
- Poisoning or toxicity
- Gallbladder issues
- Some cancers, especially those located in or near the liver
- Certain medications
- Immune system disorders
- Blood diseases and cancers
- Dietary issues and changes
- Environmental causes
Diagnosis of Liver Inflammation in Cats
Symptoms of liver inflammation are similar to the symptoms associated with almost any liver disease or disorder. This can make diagnosing the issue challenging for veterinary staff. Multiple diagnostic measures will likely be employed to ensure the underlying cause of your pet’s inflammation is identified. Be prepared to provide your veterinarian with your pet’s full medical history, any symptoms you have observed, any recent changes or issues that could be causing the issue, and the timeline associated with symptoms. Your veterinarian will complete a full physical examination of your cat. This will allow them to identify visible symptoms and feel for any abdominal swelling, particularly swelling located around the liver.
Blood and urine samples will be taken, and routine laboratory analysis will be performed. Blood tests will include complete blood count, biochemistry panel, electrolyte panel, and clotting ability. Blood and urine will also be analyzed for signs of infection. Fecal samples may also be taken and tested, particularly for parasitic infections. Abdominal x-rays, ultrasound, or other diagnostic imaging techniques will allow your veterinarian to examine your cat’s liver noninvasively. If inflammation is severe and infection is not determined to be the cause, further diagnostic measures may be required. Analysis of bile acids, exploratory surgery, and liver biopsy may all be used in conjunction with other diagnostic techniques to determine the exact cause of the inflammation.
Treatment of Liver Inflammation in Cats
The specific treatment methods your veterinarian uses will vary depending on the underlying cause of liver inflammation determined by diagnosis. In many cases, medication will be prescribed to help treat the cause and to treat the more serious symptoms. Pets with severe inflammation or serious underlying conditions may require hospitalization. Some common treatment methods for liver inflammation include:
Liver inflammation is frequently caused by bacterial infection of the liver, blood, or the body in general. In these cases, antibiotic medications will be prescribed. This is a common treatment for suppurative CCHS. Antifungal or anti-parasitic medications may also be used, depending on the type of infection. This treatment carries a low to moderate risk. Proper dosing is essential to reduce the risk of side effects.
This category of drugs is used to reduce inflammation. This will help with the treatment of the symptoms associated with the inflammation. It also aids in pain management. Proper dosing is key in reducing the risks associated with this type of medication.
Intravenous (IV) Fluids
Fluid therapy is required for cats who are experiencing dehydration associated with vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive urination, which are common symptoms of liver inflammation. This is a low-risk treatment, which is generally provided on an inpatient basis.
Supplementation and Nutritional Support
Some dietary changes and supplements may be recommended to improve your pet’s physical state and aid with healing the liver. Vitamin K is often used to treat jaundice and aid in restoring liver function. If dietary changes are recommended, gradually changing your pet’s diet is essential to reducing any risk.
If inappetence has become a severe problem, feeding therapy may be prescribed. Appetite stimulants or a feeding tube may be used. This therapy will continue until your cat has reached a healthy weight.
Recovery of Liver Inflammation in Cats
Your cat’s prognosis will vary depending on the underlying cause of the inflammation, the severity of damage to the liver, and the success of the treatment methods. The prognosis will be poor if the liver disease has reached an advanced stage or is of the variety that does not respond well to treatment. It may take several weeks or months for your pet to fully recover, even if treatment is successful. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions, including proper dosing of any prescribed medications and returning for any requested follow-up visits. Continue to support your pet’s healing process by ensuring they receive proper nutrition and that stress is kept to a minimum. Avoid making any significant changes to your cat’s environment during healing.