Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Friday, March 12, 2010

Force-feeding your cat: What to feed

I've said it before but it's worth repeating: Force-feeding is the most important method of treatment if you want your cat to recover from fatty liver disease. As such, the type of food you feed is pretty important.

There are a couple of things to consider when choosing a food to force-feed your cat.

1) A cat with feline hepatic lipidosis needs protein in order to get the liver going again, so the food needs to be high in protein.

2) Most likely you will be feeding via a syringe, so the food needs to be thin in consistency.

When Cleo was sick, my vet had me feed her Hills Prescription Diet a/d, which is a thin-consistency, high-protein food meant for either dogs or cats. By adding a very small amount of water, I was able to make the food soupy enough for it to pass through the syringe. The food also contains a minimum of 8.5 percent protein, which isn't super high but is high enough for curing a cat of hepatic lipidosis.

Buy Hills a/d

Because Hills a/d is a prescription food, you will need to buy it either from your vet, or online with a prescription (the retailer verifies the prescription with your vet). It does make force-feeding much easier, however, and is well worth getting the prescription.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Force-feeding your cat: The midnight snack

To treat feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, you are supposed to force-feed your cat 6 or more times a day. The reason for this is to minimize vomiting — since the liver failure causes nausea, it's important to do anything you can to make things easier on your cat's stomach.

Unfortunately, people who work full time find it hard to squeeze this many feedings into one day. Spacing feedings 2 hours apart, you can usually fit in 1 or 2 feedings before work, and 2 or 3 feedings after work. Even at the max, that is still one feeding shy. So where do you get the sixth feeding?

I highly recommend setting an alarm and getting up in the middle of the night, if you have to, to feed your cat. I know — it sucks to have to do this. But if it's the only way you can get enough food into your cat, it's worth it, right?

Another advantage of the middle-of-the-night feeding is that your cat's stomach won't be empty all night long, which can cause problems with keeping breakfast down.

Finally, the midnight feeding can be a good way to play catch-up after a difficult day. Despite your best efforts, your cat is most likely going to still vomit, possibly even every day for a while. Getting up in the middle of the night allows you to squeeze another feeding in and make up for whatever your cat threw up during the day.

The key to getting your cat over fatty liver disease is to feed frequent, small meals. The more often you can feed your cat, the less you can give them at one time, and the more likely it is that they'll keep it down!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Force-feeding your cat: Planning a feeding schedule

It can be hard to squeeze 6 or more feedings into one day, so it may help to plan a sort of feeding schedule. Remember, getting plenty of food into your cat is the key to them surviving fatty liver disease (feline hepatic lipidosis), but feeding too much at once will make vomiting more likely, so small but regular feedings are important.

If you work part time or work from home, planning your feeding schedule will be the easiest. However, if you have other obligations you will need to try to plan around them as best you can. You can plan feedings about 2 hours apart, a little bit less if you have to but not much less — too much in your cat's stomach will make vomiting more likely.

As an example, if you work from 8 to 5, you can feed at 5:30am when you get up (5:30 and 6:00 if you split the first meal into two feedings), 7:30 just before you leave for work, 5:30pm as soon as you get home from work, and again at 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30. You will be tired, to be sure, but you can stand a month or two of that schedule if it means the difference between life and death for your cat!

As a variation on that schedule, if you can go home on your lunch break you can feed at that time. That will leave you with only 3 feedings for the evening, instead of 4, which may make the evening schedule a little more manageable.

The actual schedule you use isn't as important as just sticking with it. The smaller and more frequent the feedings, the less likely your cat is to throw up. Also, a good feeding schedule makes it more likely that you will be successful in getting enough food into your cat!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Force-feeding your cat: Keeping breakfast down

In my experience with fatty liver disease and force-feeding sick cats, I've found that the hardest meal to keep down is that first meal of the day, the one that goes into an empty stomach. Vomiting is a fact of life when your cat is being treated for feline hepatic lipidosis, but when a sick cat's stomach has been empty all night long, it seems to be more likely to rebel against the incoming nourishment.

A trick I have found to be highly effective in helping a cat to keep down this first meal is to split it up into two feedings. Depending on how sick your cat is, the first feeding may need to be extremely small — perhaps only 3-6cc. Then wait for 15 or 30 minutes before giving the rest of the meal.

If your cat is on medication, this is also an excellent time to give it. Giving the meds on an empty stomach will probably cause vomiting, which is a waste of the medicine, not to mention frustrating for you. But giving them after a full meal also means a higher likelihood that the cat will throw them up. Instead, give the meds right after the first partial feeding.

While this may not completely eliminate vomiting in the mornings — remember, fatty liver disease causes nausea, and that's why your cat throws up — it will at least make it less likely that your cat's stomach will rebel upon suddenly going from empty to full.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Force-feeding your cat: The technique

I have force-fed three different cats at some point during their lives, and as a result I have been able to perfect a technique that makes it as easy as possible. Although some vets recommend crouching over the cat, tipping their head up, and forcing the syringe in, I think this is a pretty rough way to do it. It also means that you can't see what you are doing very well, and is probably more likely to trigger the gag reflex.

I prefer to hold cats in a cradle when I force-feed them, but since that puts my face within their reach, that means I have to bundle them up in a towel before attempting to feed them.

There are two ways to wrap the towel. One way is to set the cat down on the towel and wrap it so that it overlaps behind them. Another way is to hold the cat still with your hand under their armpits, and drape the towel over their back; then cradle the cat, and finish wrapping the towel over their paws. The second method makes it easier to tighten up the towel or tuck a paw back in if your cat gets it out during the feeding, but can also be a bit trickier if your cat fights getting wrapped up.

When you feed, sit in a chair and rest your cat's back in your lap, with their upper body resting in the crook of your left elbow. (Reverse this if you are left-handed.) I like to cross my left knee over the right, to prop the cat a little higher. This should leave both your hands relatively free for feeding — I syringe with my right hand, and support the cat's head with the left (also keeps the cat from being able to move away).

Finally, when you syringe food in, be sure to put the syringe in at the corner of the cat's mouth. If you poke it into the corner, your cat should open their mouth, and then you can see where you are putting the food. Squirt only 1 or 2 cc on the back of their tongue (NOT down their throat, you'll make them gag) and give them time to swallow between "bites."

As you do this a few times, you should start to develop a routine, which will help make it a little easier. Your cat will recognize the signs of what's to come, and will fight you more at first, but if all goes well they should learn the routine as well and stop fighting it quite so much.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Force-feeding your cat: Tips to help make it easier

I haven't updated this blog much lately, but I seem to have more visitors than ever — most with questions about force-feeding. Since this is the primary treatment method for a cat with feline hepatic lipidosis, a.k.a. fatty liver disease, it makes sense that this is what the owner of a sick cat worries about most.

So to help out these people, I am going to write a series of posts with suggestions for force-feeding your cat. These are tips and tricks that I have discovered on my own through trial and error, and the exact things that I tell everyone who emails me. Feel free to bookmark this page — I will update this post with the links to each installment in the series.