Kitten Has Elevated Liver Levels Prior to Spaying

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, recommends a test to determine whether the kitten's liver is functioning properly.

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Q: During routine blood work for spaying, my kitten had elevated liver levels. After repeated testing, they continue to get higher. The breeder suggested feeding only Iams dry food. After a month of changed diet, the test showed a rise in the liver levels. It is now 500.

I also have her sister, and she also showed elevated levels when she went for her spaying. But after testing a month apart, for three months, hers were normal. The vet is not sure if it is a breed-related issue (Russian Blue) or not. So far, they both appear healthy. The vet mentioned giving her a form of amino acid to help repair the liver, but I’d like to find out exactly what is causing the problem.

A: There are several different parameters on a chemistry panel that give information about the liver. I’m not sure which of the “liver levels” are elevated, but I will assume that you’re talking about ALT, which is the most likely liver enzyme to become elevated if there is an issue with the liver.

In most instances, elevated liver enzymes indicate that there may be something going on with the liver, but elevated liver enzymes don’t really convey information about whether the liver is truly functioning properly. In order to determine whether liver function is normal, your vet may need to perform another blood test, called a “bile acid test.” It is a simple test. Your cat fasts for 12 hours. A blood sample is obtained. Your cat is then fed some food, and blood is taken two hours later. If the blood samples reveal elevated bile acid levels, it means that the liver is not functioning properly, and that we’re justified in doing further diagnostics, such as ultrasound and possibly a liver biopsy.

I’d be concerned that your kitten might have a congenital liver disorder, given the age and the pedigreed status. The fact that a sibling was similarly affected certainly makes one suspicious that there’s a genetic factor at play here. The fact that the liver values returned to normal in the sibling is encouraging, however.

You certainly could hold off on spaying, and monitor the liver enzyme level every month for a few months to see what happens. If you do decide to do this, I would administer the supplement that your veterinarian mentioned. I’m assuming it is SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine), a supplement that does help the liver repair itself. I think that you should request that a bile acid test be performed, since it is a simple, non-invasive test that has the potential to reveal whether there is a significant problem with liver function. The sooner a diagnosis can be achieved, the sooner any treatments can be attempted.

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