Feeding Cats with Liver Disease

Your veterinarian has just informed you that your cat has liver disease. Naturally, you want to ensure your feline friend can live comfortably for as long as possible. In addition to any medications your vet may have recommended, proper nutrition plays a crucial role in managing liver disease. Let’s explore how you can nourish your cat’s liver health effectively.

Understanding the Importance of the Liver

To support your cat’s well-being, it’s essential to comprehend the liver’s role in overall health and the consequences when it malfunctions. The liver serves various functions, including:

  • Absorption of food: Through the digestion and transport of fats.
  • Removal of toxins: Such as ammonia, the by-products of digestion.
  • Production of proteins: This includes blood clotting factors, albumin (which helps with fluid balance and transportation within the circulatory system), and hormones.
  • Maintenance of blood sugar levels: Ensuring normal glucose (sugar) levels.

Liver disorders can impair the organ’s function, leading to further complications. These disorders may result from infections, exposure to toxins or medications, inflammatory processes, reduced blood flow to the liver, or unknown causes. If left untreated, liver dysfunction can lead to the accumulation of toxins, reduction in protein synthesis, and low blood sugar levels, resulting in various health problems.

The Role of Dietary Therapy

Dietary therapy plays a crucial role in supporting liver function and minimizing further damage. The primary goals of nutritional intervention are to:

  1. Provide adequate energy: This involves incorporating high-quality protein into your cat’s diet, reducing the workload on the liver.
  2. Reduce sodium intake: This helps lessen fluid retention.
  3. Increase antioxidants: These protect cells from additional damage.
  4. Address Hepatic Encephalopathy symptoms: Hepatic Encephalopathy is the result of ammonia accumulation, which is toxic to the brain.
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To meet these dietary requirements, you’ll need to select a formula specifically designed for cats with liver disease. There are various brands available, each catering to specific needs. Alternatively, if you’re willing to cook for your cat, a home-prepared diet developed by a veterinary nutritionist familiar with your cat’s case is an option worth considering. Your veterinarian can guide you in choosing the most suitable diet for your cat’s condition. Generally, a diet for cats with liver disease should include:

  • High-quality protein: To ease the liver’s workload.
  • Highly digestible carbohydrates: To ensure proper absorption.
  • High-quality fats: Essential for overall nutrition.
  • Added antioxidants: Such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium, which combat oxidative stress.

When introducing dietary changes, it’s crucial to do so gradually to increase the likelihood of your cat accepting the new food. In cases where a cat refuses to eat anything, the placement of a feeding tube is necessary to prevent negative energy levels and the development or worsening of hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome).

If your cat is experiencing hepatic encephalopathy, a diet low in protein can help minimize the production of ammonia. Additionally, if your cat has ascites (fluid retention in the abdomen), a very low sodium diet can prevent the condition from worsening. Remember, close collaboration with your veterinarian is essential in managing liver disease effectively, not only during the initial diagnosis but also through regular check-ins to provide the necessary nutrition for your cat’s long-term health.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Nutrition Nuggets for Cats, where we’ll explore nutritional supplements for cats with liver disease.

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Dr. Jennifer Coates

Katten TrimSalon
Image: Thinkstock