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Hepatitis in Cats: Treatment & Life Expectancy

Hepatitis is a liver disorder that can lead to a number of serious symptoms and health complications for your cat. Today, our Poway vets explain the two types of hepatitis in cats, their causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

Causes of Hepatitis in Cats

The liver is the largest and most important organ in your cat's body. The liver is critical to your cat's body's ability to convert food into nutrients. The liver of your cat also filters impurities, poisons, and drugs from the blood, synthesizes proteins and enzymes, and produces bile, which is required to transport waste products out of the liver.

Hepatitis in cats is a liver disorder that may be caused by parasitic diseases, viral and bacterial infections, or metabolic conditions (such as hyperthyroidism). When your cat develops hepatitis its liver becomes inflamed and its function becomes impaired.

There are two common types of hepatitis in cats, Cholangiohepatitis and Lymphocytic Portal Hepatitis, and each has its own list of symptoms associated with the disease.

Viral hepatitis in cats is usually spread through the blood of infected animals. However, there have been no confirmed cases of hepatitis via a cat scratch. So rest assured that hepatitis in cats should not be contagious to you or other pets.


Cholangiohepatitis in cats is characterized by the bile ducts and liver becoming inflamed, potentially due to a fungal or bacterial infection. In some cases, cats with this condition also experience digestive disorders such as pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease.

Chronic Cholangiohepatitis is characterized by bile flow restriction caused by inflammation and swelling, which may result in caustic bile fluids damaging the liver and biliary ducts. An immune-mediated infection or disease, such as liver flukes, toxoplasmosis, feline leukemia, or feline infectious peritonitis, can cause this type of hepatitis.

Symptoms of Cholangiohepatitis in Cats

  • Vomiting
  • High fever
  • Jaundice (yellowing in the eye)
  • Poor appetite

Lymphocytic Portal Hepatitis

Although the exact cause of Lymphocytic Portal Hepatitis is unknown, it is thought that this inflammatory liver disease is linked to thyroid disease or immune system dysfunction. This type of hepatitis is more common in older cats who have a history of hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms of Lymphocytic Portal Hepatitis in Cats

  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Enlarged liver
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor appetite

Diagnosis of Hepatitis in Cats

Prior to symptoms appearing, your vet will request a complete medical history of your cat and ask a series of questions about his or her health. The more detailed a history of your cat's health you can provide your veterinarian, the better. If hepatitis is suspected after a thorough examination, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing to confirm the diagnosis. A CBC complete blood count, blood chemical profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel are all common tests used to diagnose hepatitis in cats.

Ultrasound imaging and x-rays may also be recommended to allow the vet to examine the liver, and a liver biopsy may be performed to provide a definitive diagnosis.

At Best Friends Veterinary Hospital, our team of veterinarians takes a comprehensive approach to internal medicine. We use advanced diagnostic, testing, and imaging tools to accurately and efficiently diagnose conditions and illnesses in pets, then plan effective treatments.

Hepatitis in Cats Treatment

The treatment prescribed for your kitty’s hepatitis will depend on how severe their condition is. For some cats with hepatitis hospitalization and fluid therapy will be required, along with a number of supplements including dextrose, vitamin B, and potassium.

While your cat is recovering from hepatitis you will need to make an extra effort to keep them warm and comfortable, and their activity will need to be restricted.

Medication can be used to treat fluid buildup in your cat's abdomen, as well as to treat an abdominal infection, reduce brain swelling, decrease ammonia production and absorption, and control other serious symptoms such as seizures. An enema may be performed in some cases to empty the colon.

To help ease the burden on your cat's liver, switching your kitty to a diet of several small meals a day may be recommended. This therapeutic diet will also be low sodium and supplemented with thiamine and other vitamins.

Cats that have lost their appetite and are rapidly losing weight may require an intravenous feeding tube to ensure they do not continue to lose muscle.

Managing Hepatitis in Cats

Depending on the underlying cause of your cat's hepatitis your vet may recommend follow-up appointments for ongoing treatments, to check your cat's overall health, and to watch for worsening symptoms.

You will need to keep an eye on your cat's symptoms and monitor his or her health at home. If your cat loses weight, their symptoms worsen, or their bodily functions begin to deteriorate, contact your veterinarian right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your feline friend displaying symptoms of hepatitis? Contact us today to book an appointment for your cat. Our Poway can work with you to provide your pet with the best possible treatment outcomes.

New Patients Welcome

Best Friends Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Poway companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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