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Tales from the Pet Clinic

with Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all of the insights that Dr. Hohenhaus shared with our readers.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jack the Cat Found at JFK, Treated for Fatty Liver

After escaping from his cat carrier and going on the lam for 61 days in the baggage area of JFK Airport, just a few miles from the Animal Medical Center, Jack the cat is back. His return was widely reported in the NYC press.

It seems that Jack did not like the airport food and, according to The New York Times, is emaciated. The New York Post reports Jack is hospitalized in Queens and being fed through a tube to treat a “fatty liver.” The photograph in that article shows Jack wearing the dreaded cone to keep the tube in place.

Hepatic lipidosis, the medical term for fatty liver, occurs commonly in cats that are not eating. Nearly any medical condition that causes a cat to stop eating can result in the development of hepatic lipidosis:

  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Broken jaws
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer

 
How can I identify this problem in my cat?
Any cat that stops eating is at risk for developing hepatic lipidosis, and overweight or obese cats are predisposed. Owners may notice a yellow tinge (jaundice) of the ears (see image), skin or oral mucous membranes.

cat jaundice

Analysis of a liver biopsy is required to make a definitive diagnosis, but elevations in liver enzymes on routine blood tests or an ultrasound may indicate lipidosis is the likely diagnosis.

What is the treatment?
Food! Simply feeding the cat can reverse hepatic lipidosis. Once a cat is sick with lipidosis, force-feeding of a high calorie diet through a tube inserted through the nostril, esophagus or directly into the stomach is required. Treatment of the inciting disorder – insulin for diabetes or surgery to repair a broken jaw – is also necessary. Veterinarians prescribe other supportive treatments such as fluid therapy to correct dehydration, vitamin, electrolyte and amino acid supplementation to correct deficiencies, and antiemetics if vomiting occurs. Return to health is never guaranteed, but if the cat survives the first critical days of therapy, the vast majority of cats recover.

The AMC has heard Jack is continuing to improve, and we wish him a safe trip home to California.

Photo by Dr. Ann Hohenhaus

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 12:03 pm

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