How can I get my cat with hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) to eat?

Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra – My cat was diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis. He won't eat on his own, so I have been feeding him with syringe Hills a/d canned cat food. Any ideas how I can get him to eat on his own? And what should I feed him?


Kirsi Arvila


Hi – thanks for your email. You wrote that your cat was recently diagnosis with hepatic lipidosis. As you may know, Hepatic lipidosis (also known as fatty liver disease) is a syndrome characterized by an accumulation of excessive amounts of lipid (fat) within the cells of the liver, abnormal bile flow within the liver, and impaired liver function.

Severe impairment of liver function may affect the liver's ability to detoxify the blood. As toxins accumulate, they can affect the mental status of the cat, leading to mental dullness, severe depression, and seizures.

Hepatic lipidosis can occur as a primary event, or it can occur secondary to other disease processes, such as diabetes. It is the most common liver disease encountered in cats.

Hepatic lipidosis can be a serious disease. Even with aggressive therapy, a significant number of cats die from the condition.

The best treatment is get your cat to eat. This can be difficult as many don't feel good enough to eat and can be very difficult to convince a sick cat to eat. Most cats that are successfully treated with this condition are treated with a temporary feeding tube, which allows the cat to be fed, heal until they feel well enough to eat on their own. This is the most successful way to treat this disease. I'd recommend that you read the article below called "Hepatic lipidosis" and talk to your vet about the feeding tube.

You can do several things to encourage a cat to eat. This includes offering a variety of canned and dry foods and heating food so it is more "smelly". Ensure that the mealtime is not stressful if possible. Although you can TRY to get a cat to eat – generally you can not get your cat to consume enough calories to save him or her from this disease. Many cats are only saved by a feeding tube.

I have a couple of very good articles on PetPlace about this condition that might be helpful. Go to Hepatic Lipidosis and especially this one – Tips on Getting Sick Cats to Eat.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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