Curing Orange’s Fatty Liver Disease

By - October 2, 2007 (Updated: December 11, 2014)

First of all, let me say a huge thank you on behalf of Andrew, Orange and myself for all of your kind comments and e-mails. It really helps. I know that many non-pet owners (and for that matter, some people that own pets) don’t understand the bond that Andrew and I have with our cats, but they really are like our children and are such an important part of our family. When they are sick, we feel responsible, helpless and scared. Your kind thoughts and words let us know that we aren’t alone.

So first the bad news… Orange is suffering from liver failure. This is terrifying to me but fortunately there are some positives as well.

The good news is, first of all, we know what we are dealing with now. There are ways to treat the problem (which I’ll get to in a bit) and that gives us hope. The biggest positive is that Orange was allowed to come home with us this morning. She is much perkier after her fluids and some force feeding by the vet. In fact, the little miss is exploring my formerly cat-free office as we speak (yes, the sick must be given some privileges). She is happy to be home and wants lots of attention which I am more than happy to give her. Finally in the good news department, we are much happier with our new vet. She has been very honest about the seriousness of Orange’s condition (she is definitely not out of the woods yet), however she has been competent in her care and has given us some hope.

This brings me back to Orange’s diagnosis of liver failure (not to be confused with liver disease which is much less treatable). Andrew actually put together the explanation this morning of why a relatively young indoor cat would have a sudden and serious liver problem. He found an article on Hepatic Lipidosis or ‘fatty liver’ disease. You can read the article for more information but basically this occurs when a cat that is overweight suddenly looses weight. This fat clogs up the functioning liver and causes it to fail.

When we read about this, it was like a light bulb went on. About a month ago, we took Deirdre to our former vet about a skin rash. He insisted that our cats should be on a natural diet. We felt that they wouldn’t accept a change in diet at their age but he insisted that if we didn’t offer them any other option, eventually they would eat it. He said that they were overweight and losing some wouldn’t hurt them. Well, we tried this new diet for about four weeks and none of the cats were really going for it.

Orange stopped eating it altogether so in the end I switched them back to their old food. She ate this for a few days and then stopped eating that as well. (This brings us to Friday night when this all started).

When we told the new vet of this history, this morning, she immediately guessed who our former vet was and agreed that this rapid weight loss was most likely the cause of Orange’s problem. The treatment is strict force-feeding and hoping that the liver can repair itself.

This whole situation is leaving me with a lot of mixed emotions right now. Of course I am relived that Orange is home and that there is a possible cure. I’m terrified that we didn’t catch it in time and that her liver won’t be able to repair itself. I’m also really mad. I’m mad at our former vet for not warning us of complications with the diet change. I’m now seriously questioning Caesar’s death. He was also switched to a natural diet by this vet. Moreover I’m mad at myself for not trusting my instincts when I felt uncomfortable with all of this. I strongly believe that you shouldn’t blindly trust doctors and that you are ultimately responsible for your own well-being. For serious decisions you should seek a second opinion (or a third or however many it takes) if you feel uncomfortable with the option(s) your doctor gives you. I didn’t apply this reasoning to my pets’ health and now I feel responsible.

I’m not trying to blame the natural diet or even the former vet. I still think in theory it’s a good idea – but starting when the animal is young and/or with very strict guidance and an awareness of the problems that could arise from it. The only good I can hope that will come of this is that someone else might read this and save their pet from the same fate.

Right now all we can do is continue to hope that Orange will be strong enough to fight this. Please keep sending her your positive thoughts.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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1 comment

  1. Comment by Shannon

    Shannon October 3, 2007 at 02:11

    It’s nice to read this and to find out that you have some course of action that you can take to help Orange’s condition. Keep me posted. xo

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