Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fatty liver disease: The importance of a good vet

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a reader about the horrible experience she had been through with her cat. Her cat had fatty liver disease, but because her vet kept misdiagnosing the problem, he wasn't treated early enough and didn't make it.

Lisa wanted me to emphasize to my readers the importance of working with a vet who knows how to treat fatty liver disease (and, I would add, understands that fatty liver disease is curable — some vets don't!). I asked for her permission to print her email here, as I think her story expresses the warning better than I ever could!

I just lost my sweet boy Smokey to fatty liver disease. He was only 3 years old.

It all started about 1 1/2 months ago. I asked my husband, "Do you think Smokey is losing weight?" and he said, "You noticed it too." I took him to our local vet the next day and they kept Smokey 2 nights and released him to me on a Friday and said they thought he just had a case of the flu.

I was relieved Smokey was going to be all right. Boy was I wrong! About 1 1/2 weeks later Smokey stopped eating over the weekend so I had to force feed him by hand. I called my vet on Monday and they scheduled a test for him to see if he had a rotten tooth. He was fine, so they then called and asked to run a FelVP test on him that tested negative, which I thought it would since I have 2 other cats which are healthy.

I went to visit him on Wednesday and they didn't do a blood panel or start IV's in him. By Thursday he looked like he was going to die. I told them to start feeding him and give him water, so they put a tube through his nose and on Friday he looked a little better. Then I went to see him on Saturday and he looked bad again. On Sunday I got the results he had liver disease and they kept feeding him through the tube.

On Monday he looked better and Tuesday even better. Then on Wednesday I went to visit him and his tube was out of his mouth and they were feeding him with a syringe. I was so happy! He looked like he was getting so much better. I visited him again on Thursday and he looked even better, but when I went to visit him on Friday I was told he was having a feeding tube put through his neck and I wouldn't be able to see him until Saturday.

He still looked okay on Saturday and on Monday I picked him up and was shown how much to feed him through the feeding tube and how often. By last Sunday he started to go downhill again. On Monday I found a website about fatty liver in cats and how much they should be fed. My vet had me under feeding him so I upped the food intake to 40ml a day and on Wednesday I even upped it to more with the vets approval who contacted another vet about fatty liver.

Well, on Wednesday night his feeding tube fell out of his mouth from his vomiting, which he seemed to do about twice a day. I rushed him back to the vet and they told me he wasn't going to make it so I had to put my poor boy to sleep.

My whole point of this story is to tell other cat owners to make sure there vet knows how to treat fatty liver so they don't have to go through the pain my whole family is going through. He should be alive if he had been treated aggressively from the start over 1 1/2 months ago.

Lisa Horst



  • At January 23, 2010 at 12:45 PM , Blogger KDee said...

    My kitty Weezer is going through the FHL right now. She is 14 years old. I love seeing how much success everyone has had in dealing with this themselves. We don't have her on a feeding tube, she is being force fed by hand, though she is starting to resist more and more, so we'll see if that changes over the next couple days. We are giving her Iams Max Calorie, about 1 can per day so far. It's been 4 days since she saw the vet and though she had been keeping the food down for the most part, she is vomiting a little more today, especially when we try to give her the Metronidazole antibiotic, or after she drinks water. She is actually looking a little worse, mainly weaker. Did anyone else have the same problem where things started looking worse before they got better? Approximately how many days after regular feeding did it take for your kitty to look better and less jaundiced? I'm afraid to take her in to the vet again because I've been unemployed for a couple months and am hesistant to have the vet put her through a bunch of tests that may not really change anything. She wants us to get an ultrasound, but she isn't giving much info about what that will actually tell us. What were the results of your ultrasounds? Does anyone know if an X-ray would give similar info for less money? I hate to sound like I'm putting a price on my cat's health, but we've put our other pets through many expensive tests before to find that we are still at square one afterward. Any feedback about your experiences compared to mine would be greatly appreciated. I am so scared, I don't know what to do. I just want her to feel better without going broke in the process. This was bad timing financially :( I'm in the Orange County, CA area if anyone has any vet recommendations. Thanks...

  • At January 23, 2010 at 1:01 PM , Blogger Katharine Swan said...

    Hi KDee.

    The problem is that something caused your cat to stop eating, and if it's a medical treatment, it will have to be identified and treated too if you want her to recover from FHL. If she has pancreatitis, lyphoma, or something else, an ultrasound should pick it up. X-rays are not as good and, from my understanding, are designed more to show the bones than anything else.

    If you can point to a situational change that would have caused her to stop eating, though, the ultrasound and other tests may not be necessary. For example, I knew Cleo stopped eating because of the introduction of the dog into the household. If you are certain it is something like that, you can probably hold off on the ultrasound.

    I would also suggest trying to find a low cost vet clinic in your area, since you are unemployed.

    I force fed Cleo for 4 weeks before she started eating on her own, and the jaundice didn't go away for at least a week or two beyond that, so don't expect that to change quite yet. I did find with her too that after about a week, she started throwing up more. Your cat will also start fighting the force feeding more as she gets stronger -- that's normal.

    I do have to say that you are doing an excellent job of getting lots of food into Weezer. I'm impressed! Good for you!

    Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll do my best to answer them!


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