what causes elevated liver enzymes in cats


what causes elevated liver enzymes in cats

Elevated Liver Enzyme Causes

When it comes to the health of our feline friends, there are various ailments and conditions that can affect them. One such concern is elevated liver enzyme levels. Just like humans, cats can experience elevated levels of liver enzymes, which can be an indicator of an underlying health issue. In this article, we will explore the causes of elevated liver enzymes in cats and discuss the importance of monitoring and addressing this condition.

Liver Enzyme Levels in Cats

The liver is a vital organ responsible for numerous functions in a cat's body, including metabolism, detoxification, and the production of essential enzymes. When the liver is healthy, these enzymes are present in normal, stable levels. However, when the liver is damaged or stressed, the release of these enzymes into the bloodstream can lead to elevated levels.

Common Causes of Elevated Liver Enzymes

Elevated liver enzyme levels in cats can be caused by various factors, ranging from mild to severe. It is essential to identify the underlying cause to ensure proper treatment and management. Here are some common reasons for elevated liver enzymes in cats:

1. Hepatic Lipidosis

Hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease, occurs when a cat's liver accumulates an excessive amount of fat. This condition can lead to inflammation and liver cell damage, resulting in elevated liver enzymes. Hepatic lipidosis is often seen in cats who have experienced a sudden loss of appetite or have been obese.

2. Infections

Infections, such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) or bacterial infections, can cause inflammation and damage to the liver, leading to elevated liver enzyme levels. It is crucial to address any infections promptly to prevent further complications and support the liver's healing process.

3. Medications and Toxins

Certain medications and toxins can have a detrimental effect on a cat's liver, leading to elevated enzyme levels. This includes medications like anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs. Additionally, exposure to toxins, such as poisonous plants or household chemicals, can result in liver damage and enzyme elevation.

4. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis, which refers to inflammation of the pancreas, can also impact liver enzyme levels. The close proximity of the pancreas to the liver can cause inflammation to spread, affecting both organs. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic and requires proper diagnosis and treatment to address the underlying cause.

5. Cancer

Cancer can affect various organs in a cat's body, including the liver. When cancer spreads to the liver, it can cause liver enzyme levels to rise. Common types of feline cancer that can impact the liver include lymphoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. A definitive diagnosis and treatment plan are crucial for these cases.

Liver Enzyme Levels in Cats

Diagnosing elevated liver enzymes in cats involves a blood test called a liver enzyme panel. This panel measures the levels of specific liver enzymes, such as alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT).

Normal liver enzyme levels in cats can vary slightly depending on the laboratory's reference range. However, significant elevation beyond the normal range indicates potential liver dysfunction or damage.

It is important to note that elevated liver enzyme levels alone do not provide a definitive diagnosis. Additional diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound, X-rays, or liver biopsy, may be necessary to identify the underlying cause of the elevated levels.

Treatment and Management

Once the underlying cause of elevated liver enzyme levels in a cat has been identified, a treatment plan can be developed. The specific treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the condition.

In cases of hepatic lipidosis, supportive care is crucial. This may include nutritional support through tube feeding, fluid therapy, and medications to manage symptoms. Cats with infections may require antibiotic treatment, while cats with pancreatitis might need pain management and dietary modifications.

If medications or toxins are causing the elevated enzyme levels, they should be discontinued or avoided under veterinary guidance. In cases of cancer, treatment options such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy may be considered.

In addition to treating the underlying cause, it is essential to support the liver's function and promote its healing. This can be achieved through dietary changes, supplementation with liver-supporting nutrients, and regular monitoring of liver enzyme levels.

Prevention and Prognosis

While not all cases of elevated liver enzyme levels in cats can be prevented, there are steps that pet owners can take to minimize the risk. These include:

1. Providing a Balanced Diet

A balanced and nutritious diet plays a vital role in maintaining a cat's overall health, including liver function. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure you are feeding your cat a diet appropriate for their age, breed, and any specific health considerations.

2. Avoiding Toxins

Keep your home free from potentially toxic substances. This includes plants that are toxic to cats, such as lilies, as well as chemicals and cleaners that may be harmful when ingested. Always store medications securely and keep them out of your cat's reach.

3. Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help detect any changes in your cat's health, including elevated liver enzyme levels. Early detection and intervention greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and management.

Regarding the prognosis for cats with elevated liver enzyme levels, it will depend on the underlying cause, the severity of liver damage, and the promptness of treatment. Some cats may experience a full recovery with appropriate management, while others may require ongoing supportive care.


Elevated liver enzyme levels in cats can be a cause for concern, indicating an underlying health issue that needs attention. By understanding the potential causes and seeking veterinary care promptly, cat owners can help their feline companions receive appropriate treatment and management. Maintaining a balanced diet, keeping toxins at bay, and scheduling regular veterinary check-ups are all essential aspects of preventing and addressing elevated liver enzymes in cats. Remember, a healthy liver is crucial for a cat's overall well-being, so prioritize their liver health to ensure a happy and active life.