Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Should you euthanize for fatty liver disease?

So you have a cat that is sick with feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. Should you euthanize your cat?

(I've posted before on my feelings about euthanization, so I'll spare you the lecture this time. I figure you can go back and read it if you want to. There was also a great article in USA Today's Paw Print Post on the subject: Veterinarian debates ethics of presenting euthanasia option.)

There are many reasons why pet owners choose to euthanize their animals. I'm going to approach the question of whether you should euthanize a cat with fatty liver disease from a variety of viewpoints, in the hopes of helping someone make their decision.

If you don't agree with euthanizing animals:

There are people in this world who don't believe in euthanizing animals anymore than you would euthanize a person. To them an animal has just as much a right to live as a person and euthanization is therefore murder. Obviously if you feel that way, you probably won't be even considering euthanizing your cat because they have FLD. Actually, I'm not even sure why I included this category, except to say that I think it's a beautiful thing if you love an animal enough to care for it until then end and allow it to enjoy the time it has left with you.

If you believe in euthanization to prevent an animal's suffering:

In the scheme of things, fatty liver disease doesn't make an animal suffer as much as other diseases might. Starvation is the main issue, unless they have something else at the same time that is causing them pain. And if you are willing to force-feed your cat all the food it needs to get well again, technically its days of starvation are over. Sure, it might be a bit cranky about being force-fed or having a feeding tube, but I'm not sure that qualifies as suffering.

If your cat has feline hepatic lipidosis because they also have something else, well, you will have to decide whether the other condition is causing them enough suffering to justify euthanization. I can't help you there, since that is a variable I can't quantify in this blog post. I do, however, suggest testing to see if your cat has something else, rather than assuming it does — many cases of FLD are caused by the situation, and are completely curable.

If you believe in euthanization only if there is no (or not a very good) chance of survival:

If this is your position, most likely you will not want to euthanize a cat with fatty liver disease. Most cases of feline hepatic lipidosis can be cured with just four to eight weeks of force-feeding them. However, you should probably have some tests run before you become too committed, because it is possible that your cat may have something serious (that they won't survive) that caused the FLD in the first place.

If you don't have the time or money to spend on getting your cat well again:

Let's face it, you probably shouldn't have animals. Euthanize your poor cat if you aren't going to commit to caring for it, and don't get another. Pets do require both time and money, so if this is your reasoning for euthanizing your cat, you'd be better off with a pet rock.

(Sorry, I know I wasn't going to lecture, but I just have no sympathy for people with that attitude.)

The bottom line is, fatty liver disease is curable. Most cats survive from this condition, and the ones that don't usually have something else very serious that prevents them from getting well again. Be sure to keep this in mind when deciding whether to euthanize a cat with FLD!