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A Bit About Feline Hepatitis

Certainly not a diagnosis that you’d want to hear coming from your cat’s veterinarian, Feline Hepatitis can be an overwhelming designation for your cat that may set you off into a bit of a tailspin. And one of the first things you can do to slow things down a bit is to educate yourself as much as possible about the disease, its causes, and its treatment.

Hepatitis is a condition in which your kitty’s liver is inflamed and because her liver works like a crucial filter that processes food and detoxifies the blood, without a shadow of a doubt she’ll need immediate intervention in order to survive. While most cats will show signs that something is amiss when the condition is already in a quite advanced stage, the good news is that because the liver is a remarkable organ than can regenerate dead cells, if her treatment is followed by you as directed by her vet and is successful, it is possible she can live a normal life. There are many different forms of hepatitis and cholangiohepatitis (where the bile duct system is affected too) and very often the pancreas can be inflamed at the same time as well. She can develop the disease in a number of ways, including: interaction with an infected cat’s blood or faeces; as a result of a bacterial or viral infection; or from certain drugs that she’s unable to tolerate - very often, however, the underlying cause is unknown. Hepatitis symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of other liver diseases and because of this, her vet will need to do a thorough physical exam, including checking her tummy to see if there’s any swelling, and taking an x-ray and doing an ultrasound to check for anything out of the ordinary. You can expect that a blood test will be done to check to see how her liver is functioning. She may also be checked for other bacterial or viral infections that are known to cause hepatitis. And If you’ve recently given her any new medications, do be certain to tell your vet, as several drugs can cause side effects that can lead to liver problems.

So, if your furry feline is showing any of the symptoms below, do get her to the vet straight away:

  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive peeing
  • Increased intake of water
  • Tiredness
  • Jaundice (you’ll notice a yellow hue to the whites of her eyes)
  • Swelling in her tummy
  • Severe changes in her behavior
  • Changes in the colour of her faeces (a bit greyish)

When the diagnosis is confirmed, your vet will prescribe the correct treatment, which very often includes a hospital stay for the administration of intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain and gastro intestinal medications. She may need feeding through a tube, as nutrition is a very important part of treating these diseases - don’t be too surprised if she’s sent home with just such a feeding tube for you to also use for feeding even though she no longer needs hospital care. Each case is different and so treatment times are unique, but if it's stuck to and if you're patient, there is a good chance everything will return to normal and your cat will go back to being her usual cheeky self. It’s exceedingly important that any medications prescribed by the vet be given EXACTLY according to the accompanying instructions so as not to cause additional liver damage (this cannot be stressed enough). In addition to the medication, your vet might suggest a specific diet for your kitty going forward, such as a prescription diet (you can read more about special foods here: The Skinny On Pet Food Prescription Diets). Finally, if in your research you come across suggestions to give her some nutritional supplements, before doing so, be certain to consult her vet.

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