Cat Liver Failure When to Euthanize | Cloud 9 Vets

Cat Liver Failure When to Euthanize


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Old Cat

The biggest internal organ in your cat is the liver. And it performs hundreds of essential tasks needed for metabolism and detoxification. Acute liver failure is a condition when over 70% of these functions are suddenly lost – due to a massive amount of liver tissue death. This article will provide facts that you need to know about cat liver failure – when to euthanise…

Liver Functions

The liver is the only organ in your cat’s body capable of regenerating itself. Some of the many functions your cat’s liver performs are listed below:

  • Balancing oestrogen and testosterone
  • Breaking down haemoglobin
  • Converting sugar into energy
  • Metabolising drugs and medications
  • Processing nutrients from the blood
  • Producing bile to absorb fat
  • Removing waste
  • Storing vitamins, copper, iron, and zinc
  • Transforming toxic ammonia into urea

Acute Hepatic Failure

This is the medical term used for liver failure in cats. What causes liver failure? Reasons may include infectious poisons or agents, chemicals or drugs that are destructive to the liver, limited flow of fluids into the liver, the inability to breathe, and exposure to excess heat.
Liver dysfunction is common in geriatric cats. And some breeds such as Siamese are prone to developing liver disease. Overweight and obesity are another two culprits.

Other causes include blood clot disease, shock, and acute circulatory failure. As tissue death progresses impaired function and loss of liver enzymes can result in complete liver failure. With extensive metabolic disorders in protein synthesis and glucose absorption, this untreated condition can be fatal.


Liver Failure Signs

Early signs of liver failure aren’t very specific – making it difficult to identify. However, a change in your cat’s eating habits is often an early stage indicator. Lack of appetite alongside anorexia and vomiting are key signs. If your cat stops eating for one to two days you need to visit your vet.

Other symptoms of liver failure in cats that you should look out for include:

  • Blood in stools
  • Decreased appetite
  • Depression
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased thirst
  • Jaundice with yellowing of the gums, eyes, ears, and skin
  • Lack of energy and interest
  • Seizures
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Weakness

System Failures

As the liver is responsible for an entire range of bodily functions when it fails it immediately affects other organs too. See system failures that acute liver failure can have an impact on here:

  • Gastrointestinal – inducing diarrhoea, vomiting and blood in the stools
  • Hepatobiliary – death of the liver and bile ducts manifesting in jaundice
  • Immune, Hemic, and Lymphatic – causing clotting due to system imbalances
  • Nervous – resulting in brain disease from the liver failure
  • Renal – toxins injuring the kidney tubules

Cat Closeup

Liver Failure Diagnosis

A full blood workup known as haematology, alongside urine and biochemistry analysis will be carried out. The removal and analysis of affected tissues known as a biopsy will also be performed. And ultrasound and radiology imaging implemented. These tests will be carried out to determine:

  • Abnormally high enzyme activity and an increase in alkaline phosphatase
  • Anaemia
  • Concentration of nitrogen levels in urine
  • Diminishing protein synthesis
  • Existence of ammonium crystals in urine, as well as sugar and granular casts indicating internal tubular damage from drug toxicity
  • Irregularities in clot promoting blood platelets
  • Low blood sugar
  • Presence of bile pigment in the urine that’s a degraded product of oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells

Other tests will determine:

  • Abnormalities in blood platelets and blood clotting factors
  • Excessive values of total serum bile acid concentrations
  • High plasma ammonia concentration
  • Tissue necrosis and biopsy results identifying any underlying conditions and confirming a liver failure

X-rays and ultrasounds will show any enlargement to the liver. And any other liver-related abnormalities.



There’s a range of medications used to treat the primary cause. And any additional complications. These include antiulcer remedies, antibiotics to kill infections and bacteria, and antioxidants to promote healing.

Other drugs cover antiemetics to treat vomiting and nausea, diuretics to remove excess fluids that cause swellings, lactulose to stop ammonia absorption, and mannitol to decrease swelling in the brain.

Coagulopathy medications help to prevent internal bleeding, and hepatoprotections stop additional damage to the liver.
Fluid therapy may be started to prevent dehydration – given intravenously electrolytes and dextrose will correct any imbalances and low blood sugar levels.
A feeding tube might be needed to ensure a diet high in protein and extra vitamins promote healing and stop blood clots from forming. The tube may be inserted through your cat’s nose, or via an incision made into the neck directly into the oesophagus. This aggressive feeding stops the body converting fat in the liver.

Life Expectancy

Liver disease in a cat’s life expectancy is virtually nil if left untreated – with a mortality rate of above 90%. Cats usually die due to severe malnutrition or other complications.

Cats treated in the early stages can have a recovery rate of between 80-90%. Early detection is the most positive way to combat the disease. The longer the disease goes untreated the higher the death rate. When the primary cause is diagnosed and treated within a few days the prognosis is generally good.

Old Cat


A prescribed diet must be followed to make sure that the liver continues to heal. And that your cat is getting all the nutrients needed. Any medications will need to be administered as instructed. Follow up examinations will be needed to ensure that all organ systems are continuing to heal.
If severe weight loss has occurred muscle wastage will take place as the body changes protein into energy. Resulting in the body being unable to give the brain enough energy to function properly. You cat will begin to die from malnutrition. And the overworked liver will eventually fail causing a total system collapse.

End of Life Care at Home

Cat euthanasia at home may be a final option that will give your cat the necessary treatment. And offer you the understanding you need. A qualified and experienced vet can be with you at any time – day or night. So, there won’t be any concerns or additional stress in transporting your cat to the surgery.
Your cat will be relaxed in familiar surroundings with a loving family. The procedure is gentle with a small sedative administered that sends your cat to sleep. The second injection of an anaesthetic agent will let you cat pass away peacefully. Your vet will discuss all the after-care arrangements with you. And you can take all the time you need to say goodbye to your feline friend.

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by Cloud 9 Vets on September 24, 2019

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