Last week we looked at what the liver does. Signs of a sick liver can be quite varied. Mils cased may just cause poor appetite and lethargy. Vomiting and diarrhea may occur and some ani-
mals will drink a lot of water. As cases get more severe we will start to see a rise in bilirubin (from backed up bile). This leads to yellowing of tissues known as icterus, or jaundice. When a liver actually begins to fail, signs can be dramatic. As toxins buildup in the bloodstream, pets become disoriented and almost act drunk. This can progress to coma and death. Treatment of liver disease depends on the primary cause. Dogs commonly develop a condition known as chronic active hepatitis, which is a catch-all term for a slower onset inflammation of the liver that can be triggered by previous viral infection, toxin or other insult. Both dogs and cats can develop generalized infection of the liver secondary to problems in the intestinal tract. Cats have a unique liver biochemistry that caused them to develop fat deposits in the liver if they fail to eat for just a few days. This is known as hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, and is most common in overweight cats. Liver disease is diagnosed with a combination of bloodwork, imaging and biopsy.
While severe liver disease can be fatal, treatment can also be very rewarding. Mild cases may
only need some oral medications and a special diet. More severe animals will need to be hospitalized on IV fluids and intensive therapy. Cats with hepatic lipidosis need to eat in order to survive, yet they really don ™t want to. We often place a tube through the neck into the esophagus so we can feed these kitties. These tubes are tolerated extremely well and often stay in place several months before the kitties improve.
Early detection is essential to good prognosis. If your pet seems even the slightest bit ill, come
by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP