Q: Hermione, our 11-year-old long-haired calico, was diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis. She received a month of treatment per our veterinarian. We then made a tough decision to stop all treatment. Two weeks later Minie has increased energy, is eating somewhat better, and is again engaging in household life. But all of the fur under her head and all the way down her front has all dropped off.
Dr. Nichol: I’m delighted that Hermione is feeling better, but she may not be out of the woods. Hepatic lipidosis (aka fatty liver disease) is serious business. Cats who are allowed to snack freely on dry food can gradually infiltrate their livers with fat as they lose their girlish figures.
A natural athlete struggling with a corpulent lifestyle may show little evidence of impending disaster. But add any serious physical or behavioral stress and the resulting loss of appetite can ignite a spiral into liver failure in just 48 hours. Even with hospitalization and intensive treatment, a feline chunky monkey can die in a matter of days. Obesity is dangerous.
Minie’s veterinarian set her liver on the road to recovery. To salvage your cat’s fragile health I urge you to follow instructions for gradual weight reduction and periodic monitoring of lab values; a relapse could be just around the corner.
Hermione’s hair loss may or may not be an important sign. The bullet she just dodged was a serious physical drain. Her fur may regrow following her recovery, or maybe not. Benign thyroid tumors (common in older cats), adrenal disease, or malignant pancreatic cancer may also be at work. Or Minie may have a primary skin disorder. Skin scrapings and a fungal culture will check for mange, yeast or ringworm.
Allergies can also result in hair loss. When you aren’t home to keep her entertained, Minie may be so itchy that she is literally licking her hair off with her barbed tongue. For some kitties, a dearth of healthy feline-specific activities fuels anxiety which, in turn, drives self-mutilatory behaviors. Find the full list of Feline Environmental Enrichments at drjeffnichol.com. And follow your good veterinarian’s advice. All facets of Hermione’s health need to be fully understood and addressed.
Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). He cares for the medical needs of pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). Question? Post it on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, 87109. Unpublished questions may not be answered individually.