Some amount of fat is always to be found in the cells of the healthy liver, but the term fatty liver is used to express a morbid state in which the cells have either accumulated large quantities of fat within themselves from the blood (fatty infiltration), or in which the cell-contents (protoplasm) have become changed into fat (fatty degeneration) (fig. 111).
Fatty liver has no constant relation with any specific disease, but it has sometimes been noted to follow on those profound congestions which so frequently attend influenza fever. It is more commonly due to unnatural conditions of life. It is not among the poor and overworked that we look to find it, but in the pampered pet, kept artificially warm, overfed on highly stimulating food, and insufficiently exercised. Brewers' horses, for some reason or other, are specially liable to it. It is a condition antecedent to and favouring rupture and apoplexy, and in its degenerative form is always to be found in cirrhosis of the liver to a greater or less extent. The indiscriminate use of condiments and spices are indirectly responsible for many cases of this disease in the pampered show animal.
It is only when the disease is far advanced that any tell-tale signs appear. In this stage the belly gives evidence of undue distension after feeding, and a good deal of gas is discharged per anum as the result of impaired digestion. As structural alterations proceed, the appetite is liable to fail, and the animal passes through short periods of dulness and becomes prematurely fatigued by work. The faeces are at times offensive and soft, and on these occasions frequently pale in colour.
Where idleness is concerned this may often be summed up in one word - work, which should not be violent and unmeasured, but a gradual change from idleness to activity, from the pernicious use of cattle spices and condiments and artificial stimulation of appetite for rich foods to a simple diet, in amount and quality only sufficient for the muscular exertion required. The frequent employment of purgatives is not to be recommended, but unless the food is judiciously regulated an occasional aperient is most desirable. Epsom-salts, given in 4-ounce doses for two successive days, is perhaps the best agent to employ. Salt with the food should be attended with good results. In speaking of other affections of the liver we have advocated grass, and it may again be recommended here, but a short rather than a deep pasture, where the patient will require to take exercise in obtaining it, is most desirable. By this means the tendency to store up fat in the internal organs is overcome.