Cat Liver Failure And When To Euthanize

When To Euthanize A Cat With Liver FailureLiver disease is a challenging diagnosis in our feline friends. Not only can liver disease have a drastic impact on your cat’s life, but it will often progress to complete liver failure. Once this happens, many cat owners are left with the question of when it’s time to let go. 

In this article we will discuss the details of liver failure in cats, and help you understand when it may be time to euthanize your beloved companion. 

What Is Liver Disease In Cats?

In a healthy cat, the liver is responsible for many body processes. Often referred to as the “factory of the body”, the liver assists in so many essential chemical processes. Some of the many important duties of the liver included producing clotting factors, producing bile, controlling metabolism of some food, as well as detoxifying wastes within the body. With so many important jobs, it makes sense as to why liver disease can cause so many complications for cats. 

Liver disease is a decline in the liver’s function as a result of some form of liver damage. No matter the cause of the damage itself, this results in the liver being unable to function to the same ability as it did before. The liver will often continue to decline as time passes, often resulting in complete liver failure over time. 

Signs and Symptoms Of Liver Failure In Cats

So what does liver failure look like in cats? Since the liver has so many important functions, each cat’s symptoms can vary. Some of the most common symptoms of liver failure in cats include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Jaundice (yellow color of the skin)
  • Ascites (distention of the abdomen)

If your cat is showing any of the above symptoms, be sure to contact your vet right away. Though these symptoms are not always indicative of liver failure, they can point to other serious illnesses as well. 

Diagnosing Liver Failure In Cats

So how can you test for liver disease or liver failure in cats? Since the liver plays a part in so many body functions, your veterinarian may order a variety of tests to help them get to the bottom of your cat’s symptoms. The most common ways to diagnose liver failure includes:

  • Blood work
  • Ultrasound
  • Urinalysis
  • Radiographs
  • Liver biopsy during an ultrasound or exploratory surgery

Liver failure in cats can be a bit tricky to diagnose, especially in the early stages of the disease. Just be sure to take your vets advice for proper diagnostics, and your cat will have access to the best treatment plan for their situation. 

Recovery Rate Of Liver Disease In Cats

Though a cat’s liver can be easily damaged since it is responsible for so many bodily functions, it can also regenerate remarkably well. Though the liver is capable of repairing itself, it will all depend on the cat’s diagnosis and how long they have been sick. 

For example, if a cat is experiencing acute liver failure due to coming in contact with a toxin, aggressive hospitalization and treatment for the toxin can get them through. On the other hand, if a cat has had chronic liver disease that has been untreated, their chance of a full recovery is not as likely. 

If your cat is diagnosed in the early stages of liver disease, there are a few ways to manage their condition in the time they have left. Cats can be switched to a prescription liver approved diet, offered daily liver supporting supplements and vitamins, and any other support that your vet thinks they could benefit from. With this additional support, some cats can have a good prognosis. 

If your cat is suffering from severe acute liver damage, your cat may need to be hospitalized and offered dietary assistance. Some cats will even need a feeding tube to be placed in certain liver conditions, and require weeks of close monitoring. 

Your cat’s best chance at a full recovery from liver failure is through swift action when the first symptoms are noticed. By keeping a close eye on your cat and any changes in their behavior, you can offer them the best chance at medical intervention. 

End Stage Cat Liver Failure

If your cat is diagnosed with liver failure that is too severe to recover, they may be approaching end stage liver failure. End stage liver failure is the progression of their liver disease to the point of drastic impact to body processes. Once a cat has reached this point of their disease, they are not likely to recover. 

End stage liver failure may cause your cat to experience clotting disorders, fluid in the abdomen, severe jaundice, and more. End stage liver failure either requires aggressive hospitalization to pull them out of crisis and offer them more time, or a difficult decision regarding their quality of life. 

Life Expectancy Of A Cat With Liver Failure

Liver failure in cats is a tricky diagnosis that has a varied prognosis based on each situation. The survival rate of each liver condition will often vary based on how quickly the condition was detected, as well as how severe the damage to the liver is. However, if your vet has diagnosed your cat with end stage liver failure, it’s safe to say that your cat may have limited time. 

In cases of liver failure that have resulted in clotting disorders, fluid in the abdomen, and other serious side effects; many cat owners have to make a sudden decision on the quality of their life. However, if your cat has been diagnosed with liver failure and is still free of any major symptoms, you could have anywhere from 6-8 months with your feline friend. 

When it comes to the question of how long your cat will live with their liver failure, it’s best to have an in depth conversation with your vet on their specific prognosis. Since there are so many causes of liver damage in cats, your veterinarian will have the most informed answer for you. It is impossible to give you an answer online or through an article like this since so many factors play a part in being able to come up with an answer. After your vet has done their tests, they will be able to offer you a more detailed answer.

When To Euthanize A Cat With Liver Failure

Since making that final decision can be so hard, we want to offer you a bit of support when it’s time to cross that road. Some of the signs that we think warrant euthanasia in cats with liver failure include:

  • Anorexia (not eating)
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Distended abdomen
  • Weakness
  • Disinterest in things they once enjoyed
  • Any other major shift in their behavior
  • Severe jaundice

It’s always hard to know when it’s time to let go, but we believe that the above symptoms can tell us that our cats are suffering. If you think it may be time to euthanize your cat with liver failure, your veterinarian can offer the support you need. 

Liver failure in cats is a serious diagnosis that requires extra attention and love. Be sure to review the information we mentioned above, and discuss your cat’s options with your veterinarian for the best advice!

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