Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't underestimate the role of environmental causes!

I often hear from people whose cats have been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, or feline hepatic lipidosis. One common theme is that people can't believe that a change in the household could possibly have made their cat stop eating long enough to get sick.

However, environmental causes often play a role in fatty liver disease. Cleo suffered liver failure just a month or so after we added a dog to the family. By the time we noticed, she had already lost three or four pounds.

Fear of a dog, or of another cat, or even a dislike of another cat, is plenty to keep a cat away from their food long enough for feline hepatic lipidosis to set in. For one thing, it doesn't take very long — I've read that just two weeks on a reduced diet is enough to make the cat's liver bog down and stop working. In other words, the cat doesn't even have to stop eating entirely for fatty liver syndrome to set in.

Please, please don't underestimate the role that environmental causes can play in feline hepatic lipidosis. If you have a sick cat, consider what changes in the household could have caused him or her to stop eating. And if you don't have a sick cat right now (or once they get better), please please please always keep a close eye on your cat's eating habits, particularly during times of change in the household!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Prevent feline hepatic lipidosis by putting your cat first

Dogs are commonly the cause of feline hepatic lipidosisThis post is about making difficult decisions... also known as putting your pets first even when it goes against your own desires.

But first, let's talk about how Cleo got sick. When my then-boyfriend (now-husband) moved in with me in September of 2005, he brought his dog with him. I'd never owned a dog, so my cats had been more or less spared from that until then.

Prince, my male cat, adapted pretty well. Cleo did not. Unfortunately, we didn't realize she was doing so poorly until after she'd lost 5 pounds and fatty liver disease had set in.

Environmental stress, such as a new dog or cat coming into the household, is often a cause of feline hepatic lipidosis. There are ways to introduce a dog into the family without your cat getting sick and almost dying, but of course we didn't learn this until too late.

The main rules:

1) Put your cat's food where s/he can access it and eat unmolested by the dog.
2) Keep close tabs on how much s/he is eating.
3) Make sure s/he doesn't feel rejected in favor of the dog — some cats get very upset about this.

After nursing Cleo back to health, we followed these rules. For a long time, she had her own gated-off room where she could eat, go to the bathroom, etc. without having to worry about being harassed by the dog.

Later, we even added a new dog to the family. This was after we had moved into our current home, which has a basement she can go to but the dogs can't. Down there she has food, water, and even a bed in the guest bedroom to sleep on. This helps immensely because it makes her feel safe to have someplace she can go where the dogs won't bother her.

But sometimes it doesn't work out this well, and you need to think about what is best for your cat.

My husband brought home a stray puppy yesterday morning. While trying to find a place for him in a no-kill shelter, we started to fall in love with him, and were considering keeping him for ourselves.

Everything seemed perfect. He gets along well with our dogs, is affectionate, and is quickly learning our routine.

All except one thing.

He can get into the basement.

Cleo is extremely upset about him, much more so than when we introduced the last dog. It could be because she senses he's a puppy and has a lot more energy, but I suspect it's more because he invaded her happy place.

It took two days to make our decision, but finally we decided that the joy of adding a dog to the family was simply not worth the risk — however slim — of Cleo getting sick again.