November 2009 Issue

When Your Cat Won’t Eat

A wide range of conditions can trigger feline hepatic lipidosis, so itís important to recognize it.

When a catís food intake drops off, for whatever reason, the resulting decrease in protein intake can trigger feline hepatic lipidosis (FHL), which is the most common form of liver disease in cats. Inadequate protein mobilizes fat from the adipose tissue, and the fat then accumulates in the liver. "Itís a vicious cycle," says Ned Kuehn, DVM, MS, a veterinary internist with Michigan Veterinary Specialists in Southfield, Michigan. "When a cat decreases her food intake, more fat accumulates, making the cat feel worse and eat even less. This makes the hepatic lipidosis get worse." The cat becomes anorexic, and severe liver failure occurs ó often in as little as a couple of weeks. "Iíve seen it happen within a week," says Dr. Kuehn. Some of the Causes. A wide range of conditions can trigger FHL. "About forty percent of cases are due to environmental changes in the house," explains Dr. Kuehn, who is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Triggers include vacations, moving, a new baby, workers in the home, divorce and even teenagers leaving for college. "Cats become stressed and decrease their food intake," says Dr. Kuehn. Illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism or cancer; traumatic injury; or the presence of a foreign body in the intestinal tract may also lead to FHL.

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