Sevoog Hemming and The Fatty Liver
Sevoog arrived at Clarkson Village in June 2009 because he had lost some weight, wasn’t eating as well as he normally did and wasn’t himself. Sevoog had experienced urinary crystals (a relatively common cat health problem) when he was much younger. Because he was also urinating outside his litter box, it was suspected that this might be a recurrence of the same type of problem. During his appointment, Sevoog urinated and it contained blood. Dr. Johnson performed an ultrasound of his bladder that showed a lot of sediment (often evidence of urinary crystals) and possible small stones. Cats with this condition require a change to a specialized food to help prevent stones from forming and need to drink as much water as possible. If the sediment in Sevoog’s bladder were to clump into stones, there was the potential that it could block his urethra and become a life-threatening condition.
Sevoog continued to feel ill and required hospitalization. When cats are sick and do not eat, they are at risk for a complication called hepatic lipidosis – more commonly “fatty liver disease” (FLD). FLD is one of the most common causes of liver failure in cats. It is more common in cats who are overweight, but any cat can develop it. FLD is a serious complication that can happen when cats suddenly decrease their food intake (i.e. illness, escaped from the house and did not eat for a day or two, drastic diet changes, fighting with other cats in the household).
When a cat does not eat, their body quickly enters starvation mode and begins to use fat from their body for nutrition. The fat cells – called lipocytes – must be processed through the liver and cat livers are not designed to handle high levels of fat. The lipocytes quickly fill the liver (hence the common name) and it begins to fail. FLD is very serious, is fatal if not treated and requires immediate and aggressive treatment to reverse. Sevoog continued to be ill and his bloodwork showed elevated liver enzymes – a sign that liver damage was occurring. An ultrasound was performed to examine his other internal organs and a small sample was taken with a needle directly from his liver, which confirmed that he had developed hepatic lipidosis.
Cats with FLD are very sick and continue to not eat – which makes their condition worse. Sevoog underwent a short general anesthetic and had a feeding tube placed directly in his esophagus. This allowed him to go home and be fed enough food to survive without stressing him further by force feeding. A combination of medications were given to prevent infection and combat the nausea to keep him comfortable.
Sevoog’s Mom was a little nervous about taking care of a cat with a feeding tube, but with a little practice she quickly became an expert. She was such a trooper! She managed to maintain his weight and nurse him through a very difficult time. She even delayed her own vacation so that she could stay home and be with him while he recovered. After having his tube in place for 2 weeks, Sevoog recovered enough to have it removed and begin eating on his own again. Today Sevoog has returned to his happy, normal self and continues to do well.