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Understanding hepatic diets and feeding cats with liver disease

The liver is the largest internal organ in the cat’s body; it regulates the levels of most of the chemicals in the blood. It also produces proteins for the blood plasma, converts waste products of protein-processing into a substance that can be removed from the body by the kidneys, helps regulate the distribution of fats in the body, produces bile to aid digestion, and stores glycogen, which is used as an energy source when needed. In addition, the liver regulates amino acid levels and helps clear the blood of certain toxins.

Dietary therapy is important in the treatment of the cat with liver disease to aid in re generation. High quality and highly digestible carbohydrates are recommended to supply energy for the cat. Inferior types of carbohydrates that are undigested are fermented by intestinal bacteria which increase the bacteria in the colon; these bacteria then break down dietary proteins and produce extra ammonia, which is absorbed into the body and contributes to toxicity in cats with liver disease.

Proteins provided by the diet must be of high biological value to reduce the production of ammonia (a by-product of protein digestion). Most commercial foods contain proteins that are not of high biological value. Normal amounts of protein should be fed as protein is needed by the liver during repair.
Hepatic diets will include the following:
  • Highly digestable protein reduces the workload on the liver. Highly digestible ingredients compensate for decreased intestinal enzymatic activity, ensuring an optimal intake of nutrients.
  • Low copper with increased zinc content minimises copper accumulation in the hepatocytes
  • A limited sodium intake decreases portal hypertension and reduces extravascular water flow
  • Antioxidants - The synergistic antioxident complex neautralises free radicals and helps support health of hepatocytes
  • High energy content food allows a reduction in meal volume and a decreased intestinal charge provided from fat avoids excessive protein catabolism, a risk factor for the onset or progression of hepatic encephalopathy.
  • Soluble fibre decreases ammonia reabsorption (and ammonia generation) in the bowel and reduced copper helps to avoid accumulation in the liver.
Hills Prescription Diet Feline I/D is a prescription diet that takes these nutritional requirements into account and provide the correct nutrition required by cats affected by liver disorders that result in reduced liver function:
  • Helps managing cats with liver disease.
  • Highly digestible protein, carbohydrate and fats.
  • Helps limit the production of metabolic toxins from nutrients.
  • Helps reduce the workload of the liver
MedicAnimal recommends that you consult your vet before making any dietary changes, especially if your animal is under treatment for a medical condition.