Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Feline hepatic lipidosis: Is a feeding tube right for you?

I've been talking to a cat owner recently who is trying to decide whether to have a feeding tube inserted in her cat's esophagus. This is a common suggestion that vets make when a cat has feline hepatic lipidosis, a.k.a. fatty liver syndrome or fatty liver disease, but in my opinion it's not always necessary. Whether you opt for a feeding tube is a personal decision that should be based on you and your cat's needs, not the vet telling you it's "standard procedure."

The absolute biggest reason to opt for a feeding tube is if you are unable to feed your cat enough via force feeding, but you would be able to with a feeding tube. For instance, if your cat is fighting you so much that you physically cannot get enough food into him or her via force feeding. A high protein diet is essentially how you jump start their liver and get them well again, so it is imperative that you feed your cat as much as possible of the recommended daily quota for their weight.

A feeding tube is not, however, a solution for vomiting food back up, or a lack of force feeding because you don't have the time. You will still have to give the cat frequent, smaller meals, even with the feeding tube, because it is nausea from the liver failure that causes them to vomit, not the force feeding itself.

Some vets claim that the force feeding is too stressful on the cat, and therefore a feeding tube should always be used. To that I have to say, "And surgery isn't?" I mean, come on, if a cat is starving to death and feeling very weak and sick, they don't exactly have the reserve of physical strength to recover from surgery.

I am not a vet, but I personally believe in going with the least invasive treatment required. If you can nurse your cat back to health via force feeding, then why would you choose to put them through the surgery to have a feeding tube inserted? If you aren't able to get enough food into them via force feeding, then of course the feeding tube may be necessary, but I guess what I'm getting at is that you shouldn't put your cat through that unless it is necessary.



  • At June 18, 2009 at 1:46 PM , Blogger lvampire said...

    My cat Louis had this about 5 years ago, and was hospitalized for 15 days, and his care cost me about $2 thousand dollars, but he did recover, and had only a VERY minor relapse about a year later, but has been ok up until NOW. I've been giving him Zentonil 100 on an irregular basis, but am concerned that he is relapsing because the only 2 times that he's slept on my bed in the past years, are when he's been sick with FLS, and he's been on the bed again for the past few nights. He's had NO other symptoms other than that, but I am still going to take him in for some bloodwork, just in case. I wish all cats that have this, the best of luck, it can be controlled if caught early enough. Lee

  • At July 10, 2009 at 12:14 AM , Blogger Pretty Pirate said...

    My cat Sam had the feeding tube because we were unable to force feed him. He would throw up from gagging. I had to give him a anti nausea shot every morning so he could keep the food in, even via the feeding tube. It was a long month long process to heal him, the most stress filled month of my life. It also cost 3000$. We were at the vet pretty much every day except sundays for that whole month. So many things went wrong. But he is fine now, and went from 14 pounds at his smallest (he is a large cat) back up to 21 (too large). We are now trying to transition both our cats to raw food so he can lose some weight, I am concerned about diabetes. This transition made me start thinking about the Hepatic Lipidosis, the transition from the food has me a little on edge because they say you are supposed to not feed them as much so they get really hungry and then will eat the new food. I am scared to do that, so I have been giving them some dry, wet and raw. If you want to read more about the ordeal we went through I started a blog when I was healing him. If you start from the end you can read the whole story.

  • At July 27, 2009 at 12:38 PM , Blogger Katharine Swan said...

    Lee, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I've been horrifically busy and my inbox (I get emails anytime someone comments) has gotten way out of control.

    What ever happened with Louis's bloodwork? I agree that when they aren't feeling well they start doing things they wouldn't normally do -- such as sleeping on your bed, in Louis's case. I hope he's okay.

    Pretty Pirate,

    The feeding tube is not meant to prevent throwing up, but to make it easier to get food down. It's the liver failure that actually causes them to feel sick and gag. The feeding tube is typically for people whose cats really fight the force feeding, because it enables them to force feed without having to deal with the, er, sharper end of the cat's resistance. :o)

    Cleo has also gained weight since her recovery, and is right back up where she shouldn't be. I think she's 13 or 14 pounds now, which is pretty heavy for her. Unfortunately, I worry about forcing a diet on her because I've read that it doesn't take much of a reduction in food, or a very long period of time, in order to cause liver failure. Plus, I can't put her on a diet without starving my other cat, who only eats barely enough to stay alive! Cats can be so difficult sometimes. :o)

  • At September 23, 2009 at 7:31 PM , Blogger Bev S said...

    Thank you so much for this blog.

    My cat Hunter has just been diagnosed with FLD and finding this blog has given me much hope in him getting better.

    I had him to the vet yesterday after he stopped eating the day before. He had been eating before that but not much. The first thing that the vet wanted to do was insert a feeding tube. I told her no as we could not afford it. She then suggested that they give him fluid injection and valum injection which would make him want to eat. That worked like a charm and he ate about a 1/2 a can of Hills Science Diet a/d right there at the vet.

    After we got him home, he ate a bit more but once the valum wore off, he was back to not eating on his own. The vet has given me four more doses of the valum to give him over the next 4 days. I have started force feeding him about every 2-3 hours. He doesn't like it but he doesn't fight me too much. I also use a syringe to give him water so he does not get dehydrated again.

    Hopefully all of this will work for him.

  • At September 25, 2009 at 1:18 PM , Blogger Bev S said...

    Well, now Hunter has developed a stuffed up nose. I wonder if he has a cold? Or could I have caused it with force feeding him and force watering him?

    Taking him to the vet for a follow up today.

  • At September 28, 2009 at 3:58 PM , Blogger Katharine Swan said...

    Bev, what did the vet say?

    I personally don't think you could have caused the stuffed up nose. But you know, it might have been not feeling well that caused him to stop eating. Or his immune system could be crap right now because he's essentially starving to death, and he might have gotten sick because of that. Do be sure to have some bloodwork done, though, to be sure he doesn't have anything serious.

    Let me know how Hunter is doing!

  • At January 11, 2010 at 7:20 PM , Blogger Lisa said...

    Thanks for this blog! My cat Freddie is being treated for hepatic lipidosis as of yesterday. He's on fluids, special food and two antibiotics. Our vet said to start him out with 1/4 of the can and increase to 3/4. I forgot to ask how fast we need to be up to 3/4! Today he ate the 1/4. I keep putting it in different bowls and calling him like I do when I fed him before (but I bring the food to him now) and he eats a little each time. I hope he gets better.

  • At January 23, 2010 at 12:42 PM , Blogger KDee said...

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