Five years ago, a stray cat strolled into Hasnah’s house and decided it is a good place to stay. He never left. Everyone thought he was a girl and named him Elle.
On 22 October, Elle was rushed to our After Hours Emergency Clinic. He was lethargic, vomited once and had been eating very little for four days.
“I got what?” You’ve got liver flukes, Elle. Good to see you feeling much better already!
what is liver fluke?
The cat liver fluke is a parasitic worm that infects the liver and pancreas of cats. Outdoor cats who hunt are most at risk of liver fluke infection.
Flukes spread when infected cats pass their eggs in faeces. The eggs are consumed by snails which may then be consumed by secondary hosts such as toads or lizards. If your cat eats an infected lizard, he becomes infected with the parasite.
Some cats do not display any symptoms until they become heavily infected
- Weight loss
- Distended abdomen
- Enlarged liver
- Jaundice or icterus (yellowing of eyes or skin) which occurs when bilirubin accumulates in the blood
- Thorough physical examination
- Blood tests to evaluate liver function
- X-rays to evaluate liver health and check for other symptoms
- Check stool sample for liver fluke eggs
- Collect fluid and tissue samples from liver for laboratory analysis
The cat liver fluke is a hepatic fluke – it affects the bile duct, small intestines, pancreatic duct & liver.
Severely ill cats like Elle need to be hospitalised and hydrated intravenously. A feeding tube was surgically placed to ensure Elle receives proper nutrition and medication to clear his body of the liver fluke parasite.
Medication that kill parasitic worms, such as praziquantel, can be given to eliminate the parasites from your cat’s body. Additional medications may be prescribed to lessen inflammation and prevent infections. In severe infections where the bile ducts are blocked, surgery may be required.
When appropriate treatment is given before severe damage has occurred in the liver or gallbladder, your cat can recover. Some cats may progressively develop liver cirrhosis and liver failure.
The sight of your cat or dog with a feeding tube might be unpleasant. However, feeding tubes are very useful for animals who are ill & have lost their appetite, or are keen to eat but have difficulties swallowing or keeping food down.
If your cat does not eat for as little as forty-eight hours, she can develop a potentially life-threatening form of liver malfunction known as hepatic lipidosis. Read more about the importance of feeding tubes.
Preventing Liver Fluke Infection in Your Cat
Keep your cat indoors to reduce the risk of infection. Discourage your cat from hunting and eating lizards. If your cat does go outside and is a hunter by nature, watch out for signs such as appetite loss and weight loss.
A dirty house attracts small insects or bugs, which in turn attract lizards. Clear food waste properly and keep your house clean, bright and airy. Try home remedies (like egg shells or garlic) to keep lizards out of your house.
Many animals do not display pain or signs of diseases until it has progressed to later stages. Consider sending your cat for regular health screens and blood tests. Early detection and treatment can prolong the quality of your beloved pet’s life!
Hasnah jokes: “Elle is back from ‘reservist’ at Mount Pleasant Central! He is eating well & getting active again.” At the rate Elle is going, any weight loss will be put back in no time!