Lactic Acid Build-Up in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Feb. 28, 2012

Lactic Acidosis

Lactic acidosis refers to the abnormal build-up of lactic acid in the body. When this abnormal build-up occurs, it affects the heart (cardiac system), and eventually all of the organ systems in the body.


Lactic acid is a substance that is produced by the muscles during normal physical activity, and which is elevated during exercise. In a normal functioning body, the liver and the kidneys work to maintain the balance between lactic acid production and its removal. When lactic acid is not being adequately removed, the body becomes ill. The recommended treatment for lactic acidosis will be dependent upon the underlying medical condition that is causing the lactic acid to build up.

Symptoms and Types

Common symptoms can include heavy breathing, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Persistent lactic acid build-up in the body will affect heart function and output, and can have a severe impact on organ function. Most signs of lactic acidosis are related to the underlying cause of the medical condition and not the actual condition.


One of the primary causes of lactic acidosis is an insufficient amount of oxygen in the blood or poor use of oxygen by the body. Young cats are at a higher risk for developing the condition and they are also more likely to go into traumatic shock as a result of acquiring it. Older animals are more likely to develop kidney (renal) failure, heart failure, liver disease, cancer, anemia, or vascular disorders.


Your veterinarian's primary objective is to determine what the cause is for the lactic acid build-up in the body. A series of blood tests will be carried out in order to pinpoint the cause of the condition, as well as to determine what the appropriate treatment will be.


Lactic acidosis is often severe by the time it is diagnosed and will require aggressive therapy to bring it under control. Prescribed treatment by your veterinarian will be dependent upon the underlying cause. The ability of your cat's body's to clear lactate (salt of lactic acid) will be a good indicator of the therapy's success, and can determine whether your cat will survive.

Living and Management

It is important to observe your cat's ongoing response to the given treatment so that the chances for a healthy recovery are increased. Some of the potential complications of lactic acidosis include multiple organ failure and a heightened mortality rate.

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