How Treatable Is Liver Disease In Cats?


Feline liver disease refers to a range of conditions that affect the liver in cats. It is relatively common in cats, with some studies estimating a prevalence of 30-40% among the general cat population ( The liver plays an essential role in metabolism, detoxification, protein production, and digestion, so liver dysfunction can have wide-ranging effects on a cat’s health.

Some of the most prevalent liver diseases in cats include hepatic lipidosis, cholangiohepatitis, hepatic necrosis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and cancer. Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, is one of the most frequently diagnosed liver diseases in cats ( Many factors can contribute to liver disease in cats, including genetics, viruses, toxins, cancer, and nutritional imbalances. Preventative care and early detection are key to successfully treating liver disease in cats.

Common Causes

Some of the most common causes of liver disease in cats include:[1]

Hepatic Lipidosis: Also known as fatty liver disease, this is the most common liver disorder in cats. It occurs when the cat stops eating for several days, forcing the liver to tap into fat reserves. This overwhelms the liver, leading to inflammation and liver cell damage.[1]

Cancer: Cancerous growths in the liver or which spread to the liver are relatively common in older cats. Some types include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and hepatic carcinoma. These can obstruct bile flow, leading to jaundice and liver damage.[2]

Infections: Bacterial, viral, or protozoal infections can all spread to the liver. Some examples are toxoplasmosis, histoplasmosis, leptospirosis, bartonellosis, and FIP. The infection causes inflammation, cell death, and scarring.[3]

Toxins: Exposure to certain drugs, chemicals, or plants can be toxic to the feline liver. Acetaminophen toxicity is a common preventable cause of liver injury in cats.[1]


Symptoms of Liver Disease in Cats

There are several common symptoms of liver disease in cats to look out for. Loss of appetite is one of the first signs, as cats with liver issues often stop eating or have a reduced appetite. Frequent vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms, as the liver loses its ability to digest food properly. Significant weight loss usually accompanies the loss of appetite and gastrointestinal issues.

Jaundice is another telltale symptom of liver problems in cats. Jaundice causes yellowing of the skin, gums, and eyes as bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream. The whites of the eyes will take on a yellowish tinge. Other symptoms include increased thirst and urination, lethargy, and abnormal blood clotting.

According to PetMD, some specific symptoms to watch for include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Bleeding disorders

Catching the symptoms early and getting prompt veterinary care can greatly improve the prognosis for cats with liver disease.


Diagnosing liver disease in cats often starts with blood tests such as a complete blood count, biochemical profile, and bile acid test. These can check for elevated liver enzymes, bilirubin levels, low albumin, and other abnormalities that may indicate liver issues.

Veterinarians may also recommend imaging tests like x-rays or an ultrasound to look for liver enlargement, mass lesions, or other structural changes. Ultrasound allows a detailed visual assessment and may help target areas for needle biopsy.

Finally, a needle biopsy of the liver may be performed to obtain a small tissue sample for examination under a microscope. This histopathology assessment can identify the type and severity of inflammation and damage. Biopsies are often needed to definitively diagnose the underlying cause of feline liver disease.


The treatment for liver disease in cats depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Some key aspects of treatment include:

Addressing the underlying cause – If a specific cause like infection or toxins can be identified, treating that can stop further liver damage. For example, antibiotics may be used for bacterial infections.[1]

Supportive care – This involves providing supportive nutritional and fluid therapy to allow the liver to rest and heal. Intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, and vitamin supplements may help.[2]

Medications – Drugs that protect liver cells like ursodeoxycholic acid, S-Adenosylmethionine, or milk thistle may be prescribed. Steroids like prednisone may help reduce inflammation.[1]

Dietary changes – Eating a liver support diet lower in proteins and copper can reduce strain on the damaged liver. Your vet may recommend a prescription food.[3]

Surgery – If there are localized masses or abscesses affecting liver function, surgery may be done to remove them and improve symptoms.


The prognosis for cats with liver disease depends on the underlying cause and how early it is detected and treated. Some types of liver disease like hepatic lipidosis can be completely reversed if caught early and managed properly. Other diseases like cholangiohepatitis are chronic and require lifelong management, but cats can still live many happy years with the right care.

In cases of acute liver failure or end-stage disease, the prognosis is poor if the damage cannot be reversed. However, if the underlying cause is treatable, the liver has a strong capacity for regeneration. With supportive care and addressing the primary problem, many cats can recover normal or near-normal liver function. The key is identifying liver issues quickly and pursuing aggressive treatment.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, most cats with manageable liver disease like cholangiohepatitis have a survival time of 2 years or longer if their condition is well-controlled. However, cats with liver cancer or uncontrolled disease typically survive less than 3-6 months. The prognosis ultimately depends on the specific cause, extent of damage, and response to treatment.

Some sources:


Preventing liver disease in cats requires a combination of proper nutrition, avoiding toxins, and regular veterinary checkups (; Feeding your cat a high-quality diet with plenty of protein from animal sources can help maintain liver health. Avoid giving cats foods high in fat, carbs, and fillers. Also ensure your cat stays well-hydrated by providing ample fresh water. Keep your home free of toxins like chemicals, plants, medications, and other substances that could damage your cat’s liver. Take your cat to the vet for annual checkups and bloodwork. This allows early detection of any abnormalities that could indicate liver issues. With proper care and prevention methods, many cats can live long lives without ever developing liver disease.

Living with Liver Disease

Managing a cat with liver disease can be challenging, but is important for maintaining quality of life and slowing disease progression. Careful monitoring for signs of worsening condition is essential. This includes watching for changes in appetite, energy level, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, jaundice, fluid accumulation, and behavioral changes.

Medications prescribed by a veterinarian, such as ursodiol to improve bile flow, should be given as directed. A special hepatic diet lower in copper and with optimal protein and fat levels helps support liver function and general health. Avoiding toxins, stress, and over vaccination is also recommended.

Providing easy access to food, water, litter box, and resting areas can help compensate for decreased mobility or energy associated with liver dysfunction. Keeping up with regular veterinary check-ups and bloodwork allows treatment plans to be adjusted as needed. With vigilant monitoring and care, cats can live comfortably with liver disease for some time.


Cost of Treatment

Treating liver disease in cats can be quite expensive given the costs associated with diagnosing the condition and providing ongoing care. According to, the initial diagnostic tests alone may cost around $150 to determine if a cat has liver disease and how severe it is. These tests help identify issues like elevations in liver enzymes, decreased liver function, or abnormalities on an abdominal ultrasound.

If a cat is hospitalized for supportive care and monitoring during an acute flare up of liver disease, this can also add significantly to the total cost. Hospitalization often ranges from $100-500 per night depending on the treatments needed. Medications to help manage symptoms or slow progression of liver disease, such as SAM-e supplements, lactulose, or antibiotics, may cost $30-60 per month according to

In total, treating liver disease in cats can easily cost hundreds to thousands of dollars over the course of the illness depending on the diagnostic tests performed, need for hospitalization, medications required, and overall duration of care.


In summary, liver disease in cats can often be successfully treated if the underlying cause is identified and addressed early on. Some of the most common causes of feline liver disease include infections, toxins, cancer, and congenital disorders. Catching liver problems quickly is crucial, as advanced disease becomes much more difficult to manage.

While the prognosis depends on the specific condition, many cats can live normal lives with liver disease through some combination of medications, dietary changes, and supplements. Regular veterinary care and owner vigilance are key to detecting potential liver issues as soon as possible.

With early intervention, a proper diagnosis, and tailored treatment, liver disease does not have to be a death sentence for cats. While challenging to manage, many cats can still live happily and comfortably if their liver condition is caught in time and receives appropriate veterinary attention.

Scroll to Top