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Steatitis

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Steatitis, also referred to as yellow fat disease, is a disorder characterized by marked inflammation of adipose (fat) tissue and the deposition of wax pigment in between layers of adipose tissue.

It is caused by an overabundance of unsaturated fatty acids in the food and a deficiency of vitamin E and most commonly affects cats and mink. The disease affects both males and females – young, plump or well fed individuals – and is most prevalent in individuals that have had fish or fish by-products as all or part of their diet.

What to Watch For

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Generalized soreness
  • A greasy or dull hair coat
  • Fever due to inflammation of body fat
  • Reluctance to move
  • Difficult to handle
  • Lumpy fat deposits under the skin

    Diagnosis

  • The diagnosis is sometimes based on clinical signs and dietary history.

  • Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in all patients, and although they may be within normal limits, an elevation in white blood cell count is often present.

  • Screening thoracic (chest) and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) are an important part of any baseline workup, especially to rule out other disorders.

  • Biopsy of the fat, specifically the subcutaneous fat, which is the fat directly under the skin, is necessary for a definitive diagnosis. It is generally yellow-brown with a nodular or granular appearance. Microscopically there is evidence of widespread inflammation.

    Treatment

  • Elimination of the offending food from the diet
  • Proper well balanced diet
  • Administer vitamin E

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer all medication and diet as directed by your veterinarian. Contact your veterinarian at once if your pet is not responding to therapy and/or getting worse. Prognosis is excellent if disease is treated early and diet is improved.

    Handle your cat as little as possible so as not to exacerbate discomfort. Feed a proper, well balanced diet. If the diet is supplemented with any kind of oil (fish or vegetable), vitamin E must be added.

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