My cat won’t eat and has lost a lot of weight after having problems with his liver and pancreas. What are some treatments that could improve his condition?

Original Question: My cat is being treated for liver and pancreas problems and has lost a lot of weight. He is taking an appetite stimulant along with liver support meds, vitamins and antibiotics. Unfortunately my cat is still not interested in eating and I am syringe feeding him. He has been on the meds for 1 week. Any ideas are much appreciated. - Donna

My cat won’t eat and has lost a lot of weight after having problems with his liver and pancreas. What are some treatments that could improve his condition? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Donna,

Thanks for your question.

A question like this is always really difficult. There really is not enough information here to give you specific advice. So when I get a question like this I have to start making assumptions.

The most common problem that cats get related to inflammation of the liver and pancreas would be a condition known as cholangiohepatitis and pancreatitis. This is inflammation of the bile duct, liver and pancreas. It is a very difficult condition to treat and it can really range in its severity. It can be quite insidious and the symptoms can change as well. Usually a cat will present with inappetence, vomiting, lethargy, possibly fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain, among others.

It is diagnosed with blood work and imaging such as radiographs and ultrasound. To really get an understanding of it and its severity liver biopsy can be performed. Sometimes this is cost prohibitive and owners often don’t want to put their cat through it.

There are multiple treatments for this condition and depending on its severity those treatments range from mild to aggressive. You are probably doing some of these treatments and by your question I can’t tell which ones are being employed. I would recommend that you and your veterinarian discuss therapy options and evaluate their effectiveness to determine whether or not to proceed or adjust your treatment strategy. So what I can do is tell you many of the therapies that we use and if you’re not currently using them, you could inquire about them with your veterinarian.

Some of the treatments we use are:

  • An appetite stimulant to improve nutrition.
  • Improving nutrition through assisted feedings like you do mention you’re already doing.
  • Combination of antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections or increased bacteria in the gut.
  • Pain medication to make the patient comfortable but it also has the added benefit of improving blood flow to the pancreas so it settles down.
  • Anti-vomiting medication to prevent further lack of nutrition and hydration maintenance.
  • Hepatic supplements that create an anti-oxidant effect to protect liver cells.
  • A medication called Ursodiol that improves flow of bile through the bile duct and gallbladder.
  • Vitamin supplements.
  • Probiotics could be considered for digestive health.
  • A medical diet that supports liver function and reduces pancreatic irritation.
  • And in more severe cases of inflammation of the liver, anti-inflammatory therapy could be implemented with the use of a steroid but this is often reserved for cases where the condition is absolutely confirmed through liver biopsy.

So hopefully some of these general treatment options offer ideas that you can discuss with your veterinarian. I want to say again that I do not know the true condition going on here so this is a strong warning to use this information in conjunction with your ongoing discussions with your veterinarian.

Thanks for the question and good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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