If your cat is diagnosed with hepatitis, how he's treated depends on what caused his liver inflammation and the extent of the damage. The sooner you get him to the vet if he appears sick, the better his chances of recovery.
Strictly speaking, hepatitis means liver inflammation. It's a broad term to describe various liver problems. One common form, cholangiohepatitis, affects a cat's bile ducts and gallbladder. The largest organ in your cat, the liver filters wastes and toxins from his body, along with helping with digestion and fat metabolism. It produces vitamins and proteins for use by his body. Any disease or condition interfering with those processes results in a very sick kitty.
Symptoms and Causes
Symptoms of liver disease include lethargy, appetite loss, swollen abdomen, vomiting and diarrhea, jaundice, personality changes, constant thirst and flooding the litter box. Your cat's liver isn't functioning the way it should, so your vet must figure out the reason. You can help by answering questions about your cat's lifestyle. An outdoor cat might come into contact with pesticides or other toxic substances that can cause liver disease. If he's suffering from other ailments, such as diabetes, feline leukemia, hyperthyroidism or cancer, that can also affect his liver. On the bright side, antibiotics might clear up a liver infection caused by protozoa or bacteria.
Because your cat's symptoms mimic those of many other diseases, it will take a lot of testing to confirm a hepatitis diagnosis. That includes a complete blood chemistry panel, urinalysis, abdominal ultrasound or X-rays. Your vet might need to put Fluffy under to perform a liver biopsy. If the cause of his illness remains a mystery, your vet might perform exploratory surgery to determine the state of his gallbladder and liver.
Once there's a firm diagnosis, Fluffy will likely spend time in the veterinary hospital. He might require a feeding tube, and he'll receive intravenous fluids through a catheter. The vet must treat the underlying cause, so he might receive antibiotic therapy, steroids, anti-inflammatories, vitamin and nutritional supplements and/or medications to reduce cholesterol formation. Your vet will probably prescribe a special prescription diet for Fluffy. Some cats require surgery to remove any obstructions affecting bile flow to the liver.
Fluffy's prognosis depends on many factors. If you catch his disease at an early stage and treat it promptly, he can fully recover. Some cats go into remission for a long time. However, if he's not diagnosed until his liver issues are pretty extensive, the odds aren't in his favor. That's also true if the underlying cause is cancer or another potentially fatal disease.
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Cholangiohepatitis
- VetInfo: Chronic Hepatitis in Cats
- Glendale Animal Hospital: Hepatic Disease (Liver Disease)
- Merck Manual for Pet Health: Disorders of the Liver and Gallbladder in Cats
- Purina: Hepatobiliary Disease (Formerly Cholangiohepatitis) in Cats
- VetInfo: Managing Feline Hepatitis with Actigall
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images