Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Owning animals is expensive

This evening I saw this article: Nine Lives, with the Bills to Match. The article discusses how pet owners are keeping their creatures alive longer these days, and consequently spending more money on pet care.

I've definitely felt that pain. When Cleo developed feline hepatic lipidosis, a kind of liver failure that is also known as fatty liver disease, I paid a pretty penny to get her well again. Although I cared for her at home, rather than hospitalizing her or having a feeding tube surgically implanted, I still had frequent doctor's visits, special food and IV bags, and diagnostic tests to pay for. I can only imagine what the bill would have amounted to if I weren't able to care for her at home!

This article, as well as other things that are going on in my life right now, reminds me of how important it is to make sure that you don't keep more animals that you can afford to care for. I know people who even delay getting their pets vaccinated because they can't afford it, so what'll they do if one of their pets needs serious medical attention?

This article is right: Pets are living longer now. We've realized that many conditions, such as fatty liver syndrome, don't have to be fatal for animals — or, perhaps, vets realized that conditions like this are good opportunities to make money off of attached pet owners. Regardless, you should never own a pet for which you cannot afford, or are not willing to pay, its medical expenses.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

How to force feed your cat

If your cat stops eating and develops feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, by the time you realize she is sick she won't have any appetite at all. Since hepatic lipidosis is treated by feeding high protein foods to your cat, you will probably need to force feed her for a month or two before she is ready to start eating on her own.

Here is what I learned when I force fed Cleo back in November of 2005:

1. Choose a food that has a high protein content, but a thin consistency. My vet sold me wet food that is usually used for elderly animals who can't chew because of bad or missing teeth. With a little bit of water added to the food, it was thin enough to pass through the tip of a large syringe.

2. Use a syringe or a spoon to force feed your cat. Your vet may be able to provide you with plastic force-feeding syringes for free (mine did), or you can buy them at a pet store. There is also a way to force feed a cat using a spoon and your finger to open the cat's mouth, which I discovered more recently.

3. Wrap your cat up in a towel so that she can't struggle as much. I also wonder if this makes her feel a little safer, even though it puts her at your mercy. Fussy babies are often soothed by being swaddled tightly; maybe this works for cats too. In any case, force feeding my cat was not the traumatic experience that leads many vets and websites to recommend a surgically implanted feeding tube.

4. Insert the tip of the syringe (or your finger, depending on the method you are using) in the corner of the cat's mouth. The cat probably won't open her mouth if you go at it from the front, but by putting a little pressure in the corner you should be able to get her to open up. Also, she'll swallow better if the food is deposited on the back of her tongue.

5. Feed small, more frequent meals. Don't try to force feed your cat too much at once, as she'll probably just throw it up. When Cleo had feline hepatic lipidosis, I usually divided the cans into sixths and fed her at 2-3 hour intervals.

Despite what the vet may tell you, force feeding really isn't that difficult — and personally, I think it's much less traumatic for a cat than going into surgery when they are already that ill. At the very least, try force feeding before you decide to have a feeding tube surgically implanted!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dangers of wet cat food

A few days ago, I blogged about the benefits of wet cat food, which I've been feeding Cleo for about 6 weeks now in an effort to avoid another bout of fatty liver disease (feline hepatic lipidosis). The changes I've seen her undergo — i.e., more energy, healthier fur, more positive moods — have made me a believer in wet food.

However, we can't forget that only a year ago, many cats and dogs got sick (and some even died) from melamine contamination in wet pet food. So although wet food seems to be a better choice for your cat than dry food, we still need to be careful about which wet foods we choose.

According to this article on safe cat food, you should never feed your cat wet foods that contain wheat gluten, rice gluten, or rice concentrate. For one thing, these ingredients are used in place of animal protein — and grain proteins aren't as healthy for your cat. More importantly, though, wheat gluten is often imported from China, where it is a perfectly acceptable practice to add melamine to cat food.

If you aren't already aware of this problem, be sure to check the ingredients in the wet food you are feeding your cat! Also, note that different flavors in the same line of cat food can have different ingredients. I just checked 3 different flavors of the food I've been feeding Cleo lately — 2 flavors contained rice gluten, and 1 didn't. So don't assume that just because you don't see rice gluten in one flavor, that the brand doesn't use it at all.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Benefits of wet cat food

Since I thought a month or so ago that Cleo was once again developing fatty liver syndrome (feline hepatic lipidosis), I have been feeding her wet cat food exclusively.

I had been told when I was younger that wet cat food was actually worse for cats, because it made their teeth rot. Now I'm finding that the opposite is actually true: Wet cat food is actually better than dry food. This article talks about the lack of healthy protein in dry food, which may in turn make fatty liver disease more likely.

I have to say that since Cleo has been on an exclusively wet food diet, I have noticed some big differences. She is more affectionate and energetic, for one thing. But aside from mood changes, she also appears healthier: Her weight is holding steady, and her fur is softer, shinier, and less prone to matting.

In any case, I'm a believer now, and it's wet food for Cleo from here on out!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Help with force feeding your cat

Are you having to force feed your cat? Do you need more information on force feeding?

I had to force feed my cat, Cleo, for about four weeks back in 2005. She had stopped eating because a dog was introduced into the household, and as a result of her "hunger strike," developed feline hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver syndrome.

More recently, I force fed my cat a few times over a several-day period. Her appetite had disappeared and she lost three pounds over a period of a month or so, so I was naturally concerned about a recurrence of fatty liver syndrome. Luckily, she started eating on her own, and we have kept her on a diet of wet food ever since.

Also, long before Cleo got sick, my family had a cat that developed kidney failure. In the last weeks of his life, he stopped eating and we had to force feed him via a syringe. It was during that period that I developed my methods of force feeding a cat, so force feeding Cleo in 2005 wasn't anything new to me.

However, I realize that most people whose cats develop feline hepatic lipidosis/fatty liver disease probably have no clue how to force feed a cat. Luckily, there is help: This article does a great job of explaining how to syringe feed a cat. I'll also post with my own instructions at a future date.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

In honor of Mother's Day

I may not be a "real" mommy yet, but I'm definitely a cat mommy! So in honor of Mother's Day, here is a cute picture of one of my "fur children," the one who survived a bout with feline hepatic lipidosis (a.k.a. fatty liver disease) in the fall of 2005.

Feline hepatic lipidosis survivor

As you can see, she's doing great now. If your cat has feline hepatic lipidosis, don't get discouraged — your cat can get through this too!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fatty liver disease doesn't only affect fat cats

In the fall of 2005, my cat, Cleo, came down with feline hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease. In doing the research on it, I discovered that fatty liver disease happens when a cat, usually an overweight or obese cat, stops eating for whatever reason.

This article is a good reminder that feline hepatic lipidosis isn't restricted to obese cats — any cat who stops eating suddenly and drops a lot of weight is susceptible.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Another story of feline hepatic lipidosis

The other day, I blogged about Bear, another cat with feline hepatic lipidosis. I like the idea of posting links to other stories of cats who survived feline hepatic lipidosis, so here's another: A forum thread from 2003, with the story of Marble's recovery from fatty liver disease.

Like with Bear, Marble had a feeding tube implanted. Her mommy took her to work with her every day so that she could feed her at two-hour intervals. This goes to show that you don't have to be self-employed or work from home, as I did when my cat, Cleo, developed fatty liver disease.

Marble started eating again on her own after a little more than 3 weeks. In comparison, it took me 4 weeks of force feeding Cleo. I think it's nice for people to know that it doesn't always take 6 to 8 weeks of force feeding in order to cure feline hepatic lipidosis.

If anyone else has stories of feline hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease that they want to share, please feel free to comment. I think it's important for people to know that this disease is completely curable!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

No force feeding needed

When my cat stopped eating as much again recently, I was worried that I'd have to start force feeding her again in order to stave off another onslaught of fatty liver disease (feline hepatis lipidosis). Luckily, over the last couple of days she has started eating more again on her own, and is now back to scarfing down as much as I give her.

I also moved her food to a different location a few days ago: Instead of feeding her on the kitchen table now, I'm putting her dish on the landing on the basement steps. The dogs can't harass her or eat her food there. The downfall is that Prince, my other cat, can — but I'll just need to try to keep an eye on the food situation.

I've also been feeding Cleo more food at a time, fewer times a day. It seems to work out well.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Force feeding your cat: Where to get syringes

When my cat developed feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, in the fall of 2005, I had to force feed her for about 4 weeks before she started eating on her own again. Because I wasn't willing to have a feeding tube surgically implanted, I had to force feed her by mouth using large plastic syringes (without needles in them, of course).

I got the syringes for free from my vet whenever I bought food: They sold veterinary-approved wet food that had a very thin consistency, ideal for elderly cats and small dogs with teeth problems. By mixing this food with a little water, I was able to get it thin enough to pass through the syringe.

I assumed that the vet would be the best place to get syringes for force feeding cats, but last time I was at Petco I noticed that they sold syringes. The package contained two plastic syringes, and said something about "for feeding small animals." The were pretty large syringes, though, so they couldn't have meant too small.

Don't forget, though, that you don't have to use plastic syringes in order to effectively force feed your cat. When I was worried about Cleo developing feline hepatic lipidosis again, I force fed her a couple of times using just a spoon. The same post also talks about another method I read about, where you form little balls with the wet food and put them in the back of the cat's throat to force her to swallow, just like the way you would give her a pill.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Feline hepatic lipidosis: Bear's story

The other day I was searching for information on feline hepatic lipidosis to share with my readers (all of whom are probably very worried about their cats, and therefore very grateful for links to more information). I found a web page much like my original one, written by someone whose cat, Bear, developed feline hepatic lipidosis.

Unlike Cleo, Bear developed feline hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, as a result of a medical condition that caused him to stop eating. Also unlike Cleo, Bear's owner decided to have a feeding tube, known as an e-tube, surgically inserted into her cat's esophagus.

I wish I could have talked to Bear's owner. I could have told her that yes, food does end up everywhere, but that to me it was worth the mess and extra time it took to feed Cleo all over again. When a cat is that ill, I can't imagine that it does him or her very much good to also have to recover from a surgery.

In any case, I hope Bear's story of overcoming feline hepatic lipidosis encourages you to not give up on your cat. Even fatty liver disease is curable!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The dangers of plastic

The other day, I blogged about the high levels of chemicals that cats are ingesting. I mentioned in that post that there are some concerns about chemicals from plastic getting into people's bodies, too.

I managed to find the article that I found recently about the possible effects of the chemicals in plastics. It's pretty serious — scientists and doctors are apparently starting to think there is a connection to certain kinds of cancers.

Eliminating plastic in your household is a good idea not only for the sake of your cats, but also for your own health and well being.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cleo still not eating as much

I blogged the other day about how nervously I've been watching over Cleo, and how afraid I am of another bout with feline hepatic lipidosis/fatty liver disease. She was eating her quota of one entire can of wet food every day, so I'd stopped worrying about it — but that changed 3 or 4 days ago.

I'm not positive how much she is eating every day now, but it seems to hover around half a can. She jumps up on the table and appears to want food, but when I put it out she doesn't eat it right away, like she normally would. Usually I'll find it's gone a few hours later, but because she isn't as enthusiastic about it, she is taking considerably longer to eat.

And yesterday, I noticed that she had stopped "asking" for food as much. (By that, I mean that she is not jumping up on the table to beg as frequently.) It's very worrisome!

I'm not sure what has caused this change in appetite, but if she doesn't regain it soon, I may need to take her to the vet after all. I definitely don't want her to develop a fatty liver again!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cats' exposure to chemicals

I read an article a couple weeks ago about the numbers and high levels of chemicals that have been found in cats. Although there's nothing to say that these chemicals are connected with fatty liver disease or feline hepatic lipidosis, it certainly isn't a stretch of the imagination to think that some of these chemicals could make a cat sick. When a cat stops eating, for whatever reason, it is at risk for getting feline hepatic lipidosis.

It's astonishing to me — and somewhat frightening — that we're suddenly finding all these toxic levels of chemicals everywhere. I want to scream, "Well, what did you expect?!" It makes perfect sense to me that manmade chemicals will cause unforeseeable problems in people, animals, and the environment.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it. We can't even figure out how to completely avoid our own exposure to harmful chemicals, let alone our pets'. After reading the article, though, I have these suggestions to make:

1. Avoid cat food with fish in it. Fish tends to have high concentrations of mercury, thanks to factories that keep dumping waste into our oceans. Yay industrialization! Your cat might miss the fish, but at least you won't have to worry about mercury building up in her veins.

Be sure to check the ingredients, though, as I'm willing to bet that most chicken- and beef-flavored cat foods also contain fish.

2. Buy good cat food. I wouldn't touch Purina, IAMS, or some of the others with a ten-foot pole. Most of the time, pet food is made with ingredients that wouldn't be considered suitable for human consumption: spoiled fish and rancid meat, for example, all doctored up (with chemicals!) so that the animal won't notice.

There are some high-quality organic cat foods on the market, but I suggest researching any brand before buying it for your pet. Just because a brand of cat food claims to be safe doesn't mean it is — food companies often define "safe" very differently than you or I would.

3. Don't feed your cats out of plastic bowls. More and more, studies are finding out that the harmful chemicals contained in plastics are leaking out into our food. It's not just when you microwave plastic dishes, as we once thought — right now they're finding that simply adding hot water can cause plastic to shed chemicals. In the future they'll no doubt find that simply coming into contact with plastic causes chemicals to be released into our food.

The other day, I saw a cat dish at the store with a bright sticker on it, proclaiming that the dish was made of "safe" plastic. I have two complaints about this: One, I don't know how they define "safe," and two, that decision is based on current science. Ten years ago everyone microwaved food in plastic dishes and thought nothing of it. Who's to say that there isn't some hazard in that plastic that we haven't discovered yet?

Since there's no real research yet that shows which plastics (if any) are safe, my recommendation is to just use stainless steel or ceramic dishes.

4. Don't give your cat plastic toys. The article also talks about how dogs imbibe checmicals from chewing on plastic toys. Technically, so do cats — there are plenty of plastic balls and other plastic toys on the market for cats. Luckily, you have plenty of other choices, so it shouldn't be difficult to avoid buying anything plastic for your cat.

5. Keep your house clean. The article says another source of chemicals in pets is from the accumulation of dirt and chemicals on the floor. Therefore I recommend cleaning frequently and regularly. Sweep, vacuum, and mop as often as necessary to prevent dirt from accumulating on the floor. I also recommend regularly wiping down windowsills and any other place your cat likes to sit, since dust and dirt accumulates there as well.

Think of it as if you had a baby crawling around on the floor or going all the other places your cat does. If you wouldn't want your baby getting into it, your cat probably shouldn't be around it, either.

6. Use common sense. It's scary how many things we have to watch out for with our pets these days. Most of it is preventable, too — if cat food companies would simply stop trying to cut costs at the expense of quality, and if scientists would stop trying to invent things (like plastic) that were never made to interact with our environment, a lot of these problems could be eliminated.

Unfortunately, there's not much chance of either of those things happening, so it's up to you to use common sense and avoid exposing your cat to things that could potentially harm her.