Liver Disease In Cats – Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

Liver disease is a silent but serious threat that many cat owners might not consider.

Cats are masters at concealing their pain, making it easy to overlook signs of liver disease, such as vomiting or increased sleep time.

These stealthy signs often go unnoticed until the condition becomes severe. As responsible cat owners, we must educate ourselves about cat liver disease.

Recognizing the telltale signs early on can make all the difference in getting Kitty the timely veterinary care they need.

Moreover, the liver plays a pivotal role in a cat's overall health, and damage to this vital organ can have far-reaching consequences.

We can vastly improve the prognosis for cats with liver disease with timely intervention.

So, let's learn more about the importance of feline liver health and how to safeguard the well-being of our cherished furry friends.

What Is The Liver?

The liver is one of the body's vital organs. It is one of the mammals' largest organs, comprised of separate lobes and supporting blood vessels.

black and white CT scan of a cat pet on a black background. Oncology veterinary diagnostic x-ray test. liver highlighted in red.

The liver is part of the metabolic system and has many functions, among them:

  • Synthesizing proteins, glucose and glycogen, and some fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Storing substances such as glucose and some types of vitamins and minerals
  • Breaking down excess hormones
  • Breaking down toxins (or modifying them into harmless forms)
  • Creating components of the bloodstream
  • Taking part in the body's immune system

The liver is a very complex and vital organ. Complete liver failure is always fatal.

We must know and address the early signs of liver problems to prevent irreparable damage.

Symptoms Of Liver Disease In Cats

There are many kinds of liver diseases and conditions. Systemic medical problems such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism can also affect the liver.

Whatever the cause or trigger, the symptoms of liver damage are often the same.

A photograph captures a tricolor kitten reclining on the floor exuding an air of feline melancholy. The cat's demeanor suggests feelings of sadness boredom and perhaps even sickness.

Early symptoms are vague and include -

  • Loss of appetite (of varying degrees)
  • Weight Loss
  • Lack of energy and even lethargy

More advanced and/or specific symptoms include -

  • Jaundice (can be seen in the cat's eye tissues and gums) and dark urine
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Neurological signs (such as seizures or extreme behavior changes)


Common Liver Diseases And Conditions In Cats

Here are some of the most common liver diseases and conditions in cats and a brief description of each:

The image depicts a cat with liver disease, lethargically positioned by the window during the winter season.

Hepatic Lipidosis In Cats

It’s the most common metabolic cause of liver failure in cats. No one knows what exactly brings about hepatic lipidosis in cats, but one reason could be a lack of appetite.

When a cat quits eating, fat accumulates in liver cells, making Kitty’s liver become enlarged and sick.

Cholangiohepatitis In Cats

This is the second most common liver disease for cats. The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile produced by the liver.

With this disease, the liver and bile ducts leading to the gallbladder are inflamed.

If bacteria from the small intestines move into the bile duct, it gets into the gallbladder and liver.

It’s also associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and pancreatitis, sometimes both.


The liver plays a significant role in toxin breakdown (or modification) in the body. A cat's liver cannot handle some toxins and can damage it instead.

Some substances, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), may be far more toxic to cats than they are to humans. It can bring about liver failure in cats very fast.

Liver Cancer In Cats

Cancer that begins in the liver itself - hepatocellular carcinoma - is uncommon in cats. However, bile duct carcinoma is more common and can reach the liver too.

Any cancer that starts elsewhere in the body can also affect the liver.

Diagnosis Of Liver Conditions In Cats

Many possible things can go wrong with a cat's liver. Your vet can run the necessary tests to diagnose your cat and work towards a cure properly.

In a veterinary setting a veterinarian is carefully inspecting a red cat while holding the ginger feline on the examination table conducting tests to diagnose potential liver disease

Tests may include blood tests, a urinalysis, ultrasound scans, X-rays, and liver biopsies.

Do not delay diagnosis and treatment if you suspect your cat may be sick. Some liver conditions can deteriorate quickly and may become fatal if left untreated.

Worried about Kitty's liver enzymes test results? You should probably read this: Elevated Liver Enzymes In Cats – Should You Be Worried?


Comments? Leave them in the comment section below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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3 comments on “Liver Disease In Cats – Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

Anne November 27, 2014
@fatcat5  I copied your question into a thread in the cat health forum. I'm sure you'll get replies there - It's great to leave feedback on articles but when you want to bring up questions for others to respond to, the forums are the right place for that. :)
fatcat5 November 27, 2014
Our kitty has liver disease right now. We are syringe feeding her right now; no fun..but will be having the feeding tube put in on Friday. She too was backed up and it really made her sick. She had x-rays, ultrasound, blood work; the works because originally the vet thought she might have a blockage. I think it was because she became so constipated that she just stopped eating altogether. We didn't notice that she had stopped eating because her bowl would be empty. Turns out our other cat was eating hers too. Now we really have to make sure they are going to be separated. Of course thats going to be when she starts eating again. Right now she is eating a/d. She has never liked soft food; she's only eating it because we're syringe feeding her,  so I'm not sure what we will feed her afterwards. I think I will ask the vet about the LD. Is that a soft food and/or does it come in a dry version? This is so heartbreaking to see her like this. I am committed to doing what it takes to get her health back and maintain it. It looks like a long road ahead, that's for sure. What's the name of the medicine? 
heathernichelle November 6, 2014
My kitty was diagnosed with Liver Disease about 5 years ago. I initially took him into the vet because his stools were backed up and he was turning colors (from light grey to red). We did X-rays and blood work and sure enough, his liver panel came back all out of wack. My vet gave me medicine to give to him every day and changed his cat food to a prescription diet, LD.  Six months later, we repeated the X-rays and blood work and I once again had a healthy kitty! He still eats the LD food and will for the rest of his life. However, his coat is back to it's natural grey color and prettier than ever. Just as a precaution, I have the vet run his blood work once a year, and so far his liver panels have always came back in normal ranges. The LD is the sole reason his disease is being maintained and even though it smells terrible and costs a fortune, it is totally worth it & must taste great because he gobbles it down any chance he can get!

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