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 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 high-carbohydrate 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 a physical or behavioral stress and the resulting appetite loss can trigger 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 this kitty’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 after her recovery, or maybe not. Benign thyroid tumors, adrenal disease or pancreatic cancer may be at work. A primary skin disorder is another possible cause. Skin scrapings and a fungal culture will check for mange, yeast and ringworm. Allergies can also result in hair loss. When you aren’t home to entertain Minie, she may be so itchy that she literally licks her hair off.
For many indoor kitties, a dearth of healthy feline-specific activities fuels anxiety. A barren environment with on-demand dry food can cause a wild predator to morph into a couch potato who suffers muscle wasting and fat accumulation. All cats need climbing, perching, hunting and pouncing opportunities. Find the full list of Feline Environmental Enrichments at www.drjeffnichol.com. And follow your good veterinarian’s advice. All aspects of Hermione’s well-being deserve attention.
Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Questions on pet behavioral or physical concerns? For answers, Like my Facebook page at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or contact me by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109.