Identifying and helping cats with inflammatory hepatobiliary disease - Veterinary Medicine
Medicine Center
DVM Veterinary Medicine Featuring Information from:


Identifying and helping cats with inflammatory hepatobiliary disease
This common liver disease in cats can be acute or chronic and is caused by bacterial infections, liver fluke infestations, and many other conditions. These clinicians help you sort through the types and causes of this disease, so you can plot a course to the best outcome in affected cats.


Before beginning invasive procedures, assess the patient's coagulation status by determining the prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, and platelet count. Vitamin K1 is routinely given, especially in hyperbilirubinemic animals, 24 to 36 hours before the coagulation profile is performed.

A hepatic biopsy may be obtained by ultrasound guidance (Tru-Cut biopsy with a 16- or 18-ga needle) or by laparoscopy or exploratory surgery (wedge biopsy). Regardless of the technique, optimal evaluation in a relatively stable patient would consist of two or three samples obtained from different liver lobes. Submit the biopsy samples in anaerobic culture medium (aerobes will survive in low-oxygen states) for aerobic and anaerobic bacterial culture and antimicrobial sensitivity testing. In cases in which surgical or laparoscopic sample collection is elected, perform concurrent pancreatic and intestinal biopsy because of the high incidence of concurrent disease in these organs.8,9

Fine-needle aspiration

Fine-needle aspiration may be considered instead of hepatic biopsy in animals with coagulopathies or when hepatic lipidosis or lymphoma is suspected.1 Lipid infiltration in greater than 80% of the hepatocytes or the presence of lymphoblasts can be used to diagnose hepatic lipidosis (primary or secondary) and lymphoma, respectively. Cytologic examination of fine-needle aspirates may also reveal infectious organisms that may be difficult to visualize on histologic sections.1 Keep in mind that fine-needle aspirates will consistently miss hepatobiliary inflammation, so they are inadequate for diagnosing feline inflammatory hepatobiliary disease.


Treating feline inflammatory hepatobiliary disease requires identifying and eliminating causative factors, providing supportive care to promote hepatic recovery, and anticipating and controlling secondary complications.

Identifying and treating etiologic factors

Table 1: Treatment for Acute Suppurative and Chronic Nonsuppurative Feline Inflammatory Hepatobiliary Disease
In cats with suppurative disease, promptly administer antibiotics that have broad-spectrum coverage for aerobic and anaerobic intestinal coliforms (Table 1).1,2,5,6 In systemically ill animals, good choices include ticarcillin disodium-clavulanate potassium or enrofloxacin or amikacin in combination with ampicillin. Some prefer to add metronidazole for its broad anaerobic spectrum and anti-inflammatory actions.1,2 Less systemically ill cats (lack of neutrophil toxicity, degenerative left shift, neutropenia, hypoglycemia, pyrexia, or hypothermia) may be given either ampicillin or cefazolin alone. Long-term antibiotic therapy can be adjusted based on culture and antimicrobial sensitivity results and should be continued for a minimum of three months.1 In cases of toxoplasmosis, administer clindamycin for four weeks (Table 1).

In addition to treating underlying bacterial infection, address other predisposing factors for suppurative disease. If abdominal ultrasonography reveals cholelithiasis or extrahepatic bile duct obstruction, surgery for stone removal or decompression of the biliary tract, respectively, is warranted. Survival rates are directly related to prompt definitive treatment and biliary decompression.1


Click here