Healing Your Cat’s Liver. A Step-by-Step Guide

Understanding Feline Liver Disease

Feline liver disease refers to any condition that impairs the normal function of a cat’s liver. Some common liver diseases in cats include:

Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease): The most common liver disease in cats, occurs when fats accumulate in liver cells, leading to dysfunction. Often caused by anorexia or starvation. Symptoms include lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy.

Cholangiohepatitis: Inflammation of the bile ducts and liver, usually from bacterial infection. Causes jaundice, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss.

Lymphoma: Cancer of the white blood cells involving the liver. Enlarged lymph nodes and liver, weight loss, vomiting are common.

The symptoms of feline liver disease can include lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst/urination, jaundice (yellowing of skin/eyes), lethargy, and abdominal swelling. Diagnostic tests may include bloodwork to evaluate liver enzymes, ultrasound or biopsy of the liver, and cultures to identify infection.

Dietary Changes to Support Liver Health

Making dietary changes is an important part of supporting your cat’s liver health. Here are some recommendations:

Feed a high protein, moderate fat diet. Protein provides essential amino acids to help regenerate liver cells, while excess fat can put strain on the liver. Consult your veterinarian for specific dietary guidelines.

Consider supplements that support liver health like S-Adenosyl methionine (SAM-e) and milk thistle. SAM-e is a naturally occurring compound that helps protect liver cells [1]. Milk thistle contains silymarin, an antioxidant that helps protect the liver from toxins [2].

Avoid exposure to toxins from things like chemical cleaners, plants, medications, and foods. Toxins put extra strain on the liver. Talk to your vet about potential toxins to avoid.


There are several medications that may be prescribed to help treat liver disease in cats:

Antibiotics like amoxicillin or metronidazole may be used to treat bacterial infections associated with liver disease. Antibiotics help reduce infection and allow the liver to heal [1].

Steroids like prednisone are often prescribed to reduce inflammation in the liver. By decreasing inflammation, steroids can help the liver function more normally [2].

Ursodeoxycholic acid is sometimes used to help dissolve gallstones that may be blocking bile ducts. Keeping bile flowing smoothly reduces stress on the liver [3].

At-Home Care

Caring for a cat with liver disease at home typically involves providing supportive care to manage symptoms and make them more comfortable. Here are some common at-home treatments:

– Subcutaneous fluids – Your vet may prescribe administering subcutaneous fluids under the skin to prevent dehydration. This helps maintain blood flow to the liver and kidneys. Proper hydration is crucial for cats with liver issues.

– Appetite stimulants – Drugs like cyproheptadine and mirtazapine can help stimulate appetite in cats not wanting to eat due to nausea or other effects of liver disease. Getting adequate nutrition is important.

– Managing vomiting/diarrhea – Medications like Cerenia and metronidazole can help control vomiting and diarrhea that may occur. Staying hydrated and limiting gastrointestinal issues provides comfort.

Work closely with your vet to determine the right at-home care plan for your cat’s needs. Provide a quiet, comfortable area and monitor their eating, drinking, litter box use, and overall condition. Alert your vet if any concerning symptoms arise.

Monitoring and Follow-Up

It is extremely important to monitor your cat’s condition closely if they have liver disease. This will involve:

Repeat Diagnostic Testing
Your vet may recommend repeat blood work or imaging tests periodically to check on liver enzymes, bilirubin levels, and any changes in the size/appearance of the liver. Blood tests and ultrasounds allow the vet to track the progression of the disease and effectiveness of treatment. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, ultrasonography can detect changes in liver appearance and size that may help diagnose certain conditions (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/liver-diseases-in-cats).

Tracking Symptoms and Appetite
Keep a close eye on your cat’s symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, food intake, energy levels, and jaundice. Note if these symptoms improve, stay the same, or worsen over time. Changes may indicate a need to adjust treatment. Also track your cat’s appetite and record how much they are eating each day. Appetite stimulation is crucial for recovery.

Ongoing Vet Visits

Your vet will likely want to see your cat frequently during treatment to monitor progress. Follow your vet’s recommendation for how often to come in, but expect visits every 2-4 weeks or more in the initial stages. Discuss all concerns and updates on your cat’s condition at each appointment. Ongoing vet care can catch any declines or relapses early.


In some cases, surgery may be recommended to help diagnose or treat liver disease in cats. Some common surgical procedures include:

Liver Biopsy: A liver biopsy involves taking a small sample of liver tissue and examining it under a microscope. This helps determine the cause and severity of liver disease. Biopsies are done either with a needle while the cat is sedated or by surgically removing a small wedge of tissue from the liver under general anesthesia. [1]

Portosystemic Shunt Ligation: Some cats are born with abnormal blood vessels called portosystemic shunts that allow blood to bypass the liver, preventing proper detoxification. Surgically closing off these abnormal vessels restores normal blood flow to the liver and improves liver function. However, the condition may recur and lifelong monitoring is required. [2]

If surgical treatment is recommended, your veterinarian will discuss the specific risks and benefits to determine if it is appropriate for your cat’s situation.

Long-Term Management

Managing feline liver disease over the long term requires commitment from pet owners but can significantly extend and improve quality of life. Some key aspects of long-term management include:

Dietary Control
Changing to a veterinary prescription liver diet low in protein, fat and copper is recommended. Unlike commercial cat foods, these diets are designed to reduce strain on the liver. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, “Changing the diet is often helpful and may delay the progression of disease.” [1] Reducing carbohydrate intake may also be beneficial.

Some supplements thought to support liver health and function include SAMe, milk thistle and vitamin E. Consult your veterinarian before starting any supplements, as safety and effectiveness may vary between cats.

Regular Veterinary Checks

Ongoing vet monitoring allows tracking of liver enzymes, early detection of recurrent issues and adjustment of medications. Regular bloodwork and imaging tests may be recommended, though frequency varies case-by-case.

With diligent home care and follow up, many cats can enjoy increased longevity and quality of life despite chronic liver disease. Still, progression is difficult to predict long-term.


The prognosis for cats with liver disease depends significantly on the underlying cause and how early treatment begins. While liver disease can be fatal if left untreated, many cats can live for years with proper care.1

If treatment starts in the early stages, the prognosis is often good. With aggressive treatment and supportive care in the first few days, most cats can make a full recovery within 3-6 weeks.2 For chronic liver disease, ongoing treatment and dietary changes can help extend and improve quality of life.

However, if liver disease goes undetected and untreated for an extended period, permanent liver damage can occur. At this stage, the prognosis worsens significantly. Still, cats can live for months or even years with the right care and monitoring.

Overall, while feline liver disease can be very serious, the prognosis depends greatly on the cause and stage. With early detection and treatment, many cats go on to live happy lives for years after diagnosis.


There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent liver disease in their feline companions:

Feed a high-quality diet. A nutritious, balanced cat food supports overall health and can help prevent issues like obesity that tax the liver. Look for foods rich in natural sources of vitamin E, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants. Avoid low-quality, grain-heavy diets. Consult your veterinarian for diet recommendations tailored to your cat’s needs.

Avoid toxins. Keep cats away from hazardous substances like antifreeze, household cleaners, toxic plants, lead, and rodenticides. Store chemicals securely and clean up any spills right away. Also be mindful of toxins from grooming products, pest control, candles/air fresheners, etc. Read all product labels and opt for natural, pet-safe choices when possible.

Get annual vet exams. Wellness visits allow early detection of emerging health issues. Bloodwork helps evaluate liver enzymes and function. Physical exams also assess weight, which is crucial for cats prone to obesity and related disorders. Discuss any concerns about liver disease risk factors with your veterinarian.

With attentive, proactive care, cat owners can reduce the likelihood of liver problems developing. However, some liver diseases stem from predispositions and may not be preventable. That’s why regular veterinary care remains vital even with preventive measures.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

There are several signs that indicate your cat’s liver disease has progressed to the point of needing urgent veterinary care. These include:

  • Loss of appetite – Cats with advanced liver disease often lose interest in food. This can lead to malnutrition and make the disease worse. Seek care if your cat stops eating for more than 1 day.
  • Vomiting – Frequent vomiting is a red flag, especially if you see blood or bile. Vomiting prevents proper nutrition and leads to dehydration.
  • Lethargy – Liver disease causes toxins to accumulate in the bloodstream. Your cat may become extremely tired and sleep much more often as liver function declines.
  • Jaundice – Yellowing of the skin, gums, and eyes indicates a buildup of bilirubin. This is a sign of advanced liver failure and requires prompt veterinary treatment.

In addition to the above signs, take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice bleeding problems, blood in the urine or stool, fluid buildup, or neurological symptoms like disorientation. Proper treatment can help support liver function and extend your cat’s life.

Scroll to Top