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    Obese cats: how to avoid feline hepatic lipidosis

    Feline hepatic lipidosis involves the excessive accumulation of lipids in hepatocytes. This leads to cell injury and liver dysfunction. It mainly occurs in obese cats following the onset of prolonged anorexia triggered by stress.

    What is feline hepatic lipidosis?

    Nevertheless, feline hepatic lipidosis can also be due to secondary causes including carnitine deficiency, severe malnutrition or endocrine disorders such as hyperadrenocorticism or diabetes mellitus.


    Although the exact pathogenesis of feline hepatic lipidosis is unknown, cats usually manifest at least one of the following three factors:

    • Obesity
    • Anorexia
    • Stress

    Possible role of carnitine in the pathogenesis of feline hepatic lipidosis

    Carnitine may be involved in the onset of feline hepatic lipidosis because it is indispensable for the oxidation of triglycerides and a carnitine deficiency could prohibit the use of hepatic fat deposits. Obesity causes lipids to accumulate in parenchymal liver cells, while stress shifts catabolic pathways towards using protein deposits, thereby maintaining the triglyceride reserves in the liver.

    Some drugs, such as tetracyclines, are contraindicated in cats with feline hepatic lipidosis.

    What happens is that stressed cats enter a state of anorexia, resulting in a reduced protein and carbohydrate intake. To counteract this lack of energy, fat deposits are mobilised and lipids are moved to the liver for storage.

    Protein deficiency decreases fatty acid–apoprotein binding, so the fatty acids cannot be mobilised outside the liver, thus leading to hepatic fat deposition.

    Clinical manifestations

    The typical signs of feline hepatic lipidosis are anorexia, weight loss and hepatomegaly. Blood tests show an increase in bilirubin and liver enzymes.

    Evidently, it is important to pay attention to the cat’s diet. Especially if it is obese. A suitable weight reduction diet should not necessarily induce feline hepatic lipidosis, as it should be a balanced diet that covers protein and carbohydrates requirements without causing any change in the cat’s metabolic pathways.

    In conclusion, we can say that feline hepatic lipidosis is the result of metabolic changes occurring in obese cats which develop a state of long-term anorexia triggered by stress.