Fatty Liver Disease

:: So I recently got this Clinical Veterinary Advisor off of Amazon. Definitely a nerd move and I’m sooooo excited about it. This will be the first of many posts in which I glean information and ideas from the book. ::

Micrograph demonstrating marked (macrovesicula...

Image via Wikipedia

Fatty liver disease, also known as Hepatic Lipidosis, is a condition in which triglycerides are accumulated in the liver in excess. We had a cat in the vet hospital this week that had developed the condition. She had been overweight, and was put on a diet in which she had to eat her  meals separate from the other cats in her house. She never really learned to eat the full meal and soon stopped eating altogether. This went on for several weeks before being brought to the vet’s attention.

Risk factors for this disease include:

Generally, this disease affects cats middle-aged or older. The patient brought to us is only 4 years old.

Early diagnosis will result in the best management of the disease. There is a 60-85% change of recovery in most cases, but recovery if lessened by the presence of pancreatitis. The condition can be diagnosed by CBC, unrinalysis, abdominal ultrasounds/radiographs, and other methods. Aspirating (using a needle to poke the intended tissue and gather cells) the liver and doing a cytology (staining the gathered cells on a slide) are preferred over a liver biopsy as it is less invasive.

Treatments can be expensive and tube feeding is required for several weeks. They include correcting electrolyte imbalance in the patient and nutritional support. Treating complications due to liver failure may also be a factor. Recurring fatty liver disease is uncommon unless the underlying cause is not addressed.



  1. Côté, Etienne. Clinical Veterinary Advisor : Dogs and Cats. 2nd. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., 2011. Print.

The Science of Purring

The entrance to the larynx, viewed from behind.

Image via Wikipedia - The entrance to the larynx

My kittens are the princes of purring. They’ll purr for just about no reason at all. One will pad their way on to my lap or lay pretty much on my face and start humming. Usually, it just makes me sleepy but their may be some benefits for me thanks to my kitties purring.

Scientists postulate that the sound is produced by rhythmic contractions of the larynx and diaphragm. “The rhythmic contractions of the muscles and vocal chords open and close the glottis. As the cat breathes in and out, air hits the vibrating larynx muscles in the throat producing the purring sound” (#1). The frequency of purring is between 25 and 150 Hertz. This range has shown signs of improving bone density and promoting healing (#2). This comfort factor may be why cats purr during stressful situations such as a visit to the vet or giving birth.

All cats purr, including big cats like jaguars and tigers. Here’s a cheetah purring in case you don’t believe me:

Unlike domestic cats, who purr during inhalation and exhalation, large cats only purr while exhaling. “Purring” has also been used to describe “sounds made by civets, mongoose, genets, bears, badgers, hyenas, rabbits, squirrels, guinea pigs, tapirs, ring-tailed lemurs, elephants, raccoons, and even gorillas when they eat” (#1).


  • Are cats used in a therapeutic sense for osteoporosis patients? Perhaps that solves the mystery of the “cat lady” as opposed to the “dog lady” (ignoring the factor of easier care). – This would assume a great deal of benefit from the frequency and not just a trivial amount.
  • What is triggered in the body in terms of promoting healing?


  1. ABC Science
  2. Scientific American

Milo’s Megacolon

X-ray of megacolon via askavetquestion.com

A cat named Milo was admitted into the hospital on Tuesday to investigate constipation and his lack of appetite for the previous 5 days. It turns out poor Milo has megacolon. “Megacolon is a term used to describe a very dilated, flabby, incompetent colon.  This usually occurs secondary to chronic constipation and retention of feces, but may be a congenital dysfunction.”(#1) The size of the colon will then make it more difficult to pass stool as it will be of larger diameter than its intended point of exit.

At this point, enemas, laxatives and other traditional methods of constipation relief would have done little for Milo. Surgery is the only real avenue for improving his quality of life. Unfortunately, the surgery requires a specialist and runs about $2000. The owners don’t have the necessary funds and Milo was scheduled for euthanasia Wednesday. For whatever reason, he was rescheduled for Thursday (I wasn’t at the hospital) and had been given an enema on Wednesday for a minor amount of relief. In terms of appetite, he was quite a fan of the a/d offered to him. One of the vet techs showed me his x-ray and it looks very similar to the one in the image above.

He was a very sweet cat while hanging out with us in treatment so I’m pretty sad that there’s nothing that we can really do for him. I just hope he makes some nice friends in kitty heaven.



  1. ACVS – Feline Megacolon

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

When working at the vet hospital, one of my favorite things is caring for the “Fantastic Four”. They are the quartet of kittens in the fancy setup in reception waiting to be adopted. There are 2 orange ones (my favorite color on cats), a tortoiseshell, and gorgeous tabby. They are sweet little bundles of energy that always attempt to escape when I have to clean out the cage. During the down time, I try to snuggle with at least one of them so they don’t turn into little demons.

Now the only thing that may affect their adoption is that they all tested mildly positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). They’re only about 4 months old and false positives can occur so they will be retested around 6 months.

FIV is a slow virus (lentivirus) and cats may appear normal for several years. Eventually the immune system may break down leading to greater susceptibility and a worse reaction to common illnesses or infections. Bite wounds are the primary source of transmission, with casual contact seemingly inefficient. Rarely, kittens can acquire infection from their mothers during passage through the birth canal or ingesting infected milk. The disease isn’t often spread by sexual contact.

The virus reproduces in nearby lymph nodes before spreading throughout the body to other lymph nodes. This leads to enlargement of the nodes and fever. According to a page on the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine the following are other symptoms that may occur in cats years after infection:

  • Poor coat condition and persistent fever with a loss of appetite are commonly seen.
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis) and chronic or recurrent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract are often present.
  • Persistent diarrhea can also be a problem, as can a variety of eye conditions.
  • Slow but progressive weight loss is common, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process.
  • Various kinds of cancer and blood diseases are much more common in cats infected with FIV, too.
  • In unspayed female cats, abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures have been noted.
  • Some infected cats experience seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders.

(The page also describes diagnosis of the disease if you’re interested.)

Hopefully upon retesting, those sweet kittens will be negative for FIV. The next step from there is adoption!