Hepatic lesions in 90 captive nondomestic felids presented for autopsy

Vet Pathol. 2015 Mar;52(2):369-76. doi: 10.1177/0300985814532822. Epub 2014 May 1.


Hepatic lesions in nondomestic felids are poorly characterized. The purpose of this study was to evaluate hepatic lesions in 90 captive, nondomestic felids including tigers, cougars, and lions. Hepatic lesions were histologically characterized as vacuolar change (lipidosis or glycogenosis), biliary cysts, biliary hyperplasia, hepatitis, necrosis, neoplasia, fibrosis, veno-occlusive disease, cholestasis, hematoma, congestion, or hemorrhage. Stepwise logistic regression analyses were performed for vacuolar change, benign biliary lesions, hepatitis, lipogranulomas, extramedullary hematopoiesis, and hepatic stellate cell hypertrophy and hyperplasia, with species as the outcome variable. Ninety cats met the inclusion criteria. Seventy livers (78%) contained 1 or more lesions. Hepatocellular vacuolar change (41/90 [46%]) was the most common lesion overall. Extramedullary hematopoiesis, lipogranulomas, and hepatic stellate cell hyperplasia were also common. One snow leopard had veno-occlusive disease. Tigers were more likely than other felids to have no significant hepatic histologic lesions (odds ratio [OR], 12.687; P = .002), and lions were more likely to have biliary cysts (OR, 5.97; P = .021). Six animals (7%) died of hepatic disease: cholangiocellular carcinoma (n = 2) and 1 each of hepatic lipidosis, hepatocellular necrosis, pyogranulomatous hepatitis, and suppurative cholecystitis. Hepatocellular iron and copper accumulations were present in 72 of 90 (80%) and 10 of 90 (11%) sections, respectively. Sinusoidal fibrosis was common (74/90 [82%]) and primarily centrilobular (65/74 [88%]). Hepatocellular iron, copper, and fibrosis were not significantly associated with hepatic lesions. Primary hepatic disease was not a common cause of death in nondomestic felids in this study.

Keywords: Felidae; Panthera; heavy metals; leopard; lion; liver disease; puma; tiger.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo
  • Autopsy / veterinary
  • Copper / analysis
  • Felidae*
  • Female
  • Iron / analysis
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / veterinary
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / veterinary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Necrosis / pathology


  • Copper
  • Iron