Jaundice in dogs and cats – yellow skin, gums, and eyes

Yellow eyes, skin or gums could indicate jaundice

When an animal guardian notices that their dog or cat’s gums, eyes, or skin are turning yellow this usually indicates a condition called jaundice, and is often an important indicator that an urgent visit to a veterinarian is needed. A yellow dog is typically due to an immune mediated disease of the blood, where a pet is destroying its own red blood cells, thus becoming very anemic; or a severe liver or pancreatic problem exists.  Infections in dogs such as the recently emerging disease of leptospirosis, as well as various immune and infectious conditions of the liver may also result in a yellow patient.

A yellow cat can also mean there is an immune mediated disease of the blood, but could also be a result of various infectious, viral and parasitic diseases, such as feline leukemia virus, FIV, FIP, toxoplasmosis, and haemobartonella.  Many cats with diseases called cholangiohepatitis or triaditis (inflammation of the liver, intestines and pancreas) can also present this way. Cats with the fatty liver disease called hepatic lipidosis can also develop signs of jaundice.  Most of these conditions need immediate workup and treatment from your veterinarian and can also help to differentiate the above conditions from abdominal cancer.

Depending upon the specific diagnosis or combination of diagnoses, an individualized treatment plan is typically undertaken that could involve antibiotics or anti-inflammatories like Prednisone. In addition, force feeding or feeding tubes may be needed in situations where pets refuse to eat for prolonged periods of time.

There are excellent supportive products that may also help in your pet’s recovery when battling these blood or liver/pancreatic disorders. Denosyl is such a product made by the Nutramax Company which I’ve often used for these conditions.

Given that our companion animals’ livers are under constant and chronic stress, it’s no wonder we’re seeing an increasing number of pets with chronic liver disorders. With appropriate dietary therapy, these combination supplements can often improve liver function significantly, sometimes avoiding the need for higher doses of prescription stronger drugs.


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  1. My parents 8 year old Havanese was diagnosed with severe IMHA 2 weeks after annual vaccinations, he’s been in an Intensive care Unit for a week and after 2 RBC infusions and reactive hemolytic anemia which resulted in a Bilirubin level of 70mg/dL was discharged to an even more advanced ICU in another state at my parents request. The intake Vet there told my parents he’d never seen such a high level of bilirubin and the prognosis was very bad. However, because my parents don’t believe the dog seems in much pain albeit extremely fatigued and jaundiced, peeing and pooping dark orange, throwing up his medications, they are still choosing not to euthanize. I personally believe he’s suffering greatly, but he is not my dog and I’m not a Vet. He’s now receiving more infusions of all sorts. His Anemia is worsening and he’s getting close to receiving a 3rd RBC infusion this weekend. The Vet says his biliary “tree” is quite “murky” in his most recent imaging studies suggesting the bile is thick and not moving freely. With Bilirubin so high, what are the chances (if he does survive this crisis period) that he suffers permanent liver and kidney damage? Should I strongly suggest they euthanize him or just wait it out?

  2. My dog showed no symptoms of being ill but died when she died her eyes turned yellow and she had thick yellow discharge comming from her mouth and nose

  3. Is it contagious for humans and other animals?

  4. Ok thank you

  5. IMHA, autoimmune disease of the blood, is NOT contagious to other animals or people, unless there were predisposing infectious disease causes such as leptospirosis, which your local vet should be able to tell you

  6. I had a sheltie about 15 yrs ago that became jaundice. I sensed she wasn’t feeling up to par but couldn’t physically find anything obvious. Until the next day. She layed her head on my lap and looked up at me and the first thing I saw was the yellow of her eyes. I checked her body and saw beneath her fur her skin was yellow as well. I immediately phoned the vet and rushed her there. He did the work up and found her gallbladder and liver was “sick” as he put it and needed emergency surgery. He said he only ran into this type of problem once before in his career and explained he would have to open her up and do what he had to to save her. During surgery he found her gallbladder was filled with yellow gunk and her liver was only a quarter the size it should’ve been. He explained he drained and flushed out her gallbladder and checked for a blockage which he found none. He told me the other dog who had this same problem here performed the same procedure and the other dog came through it with flying colors and never had a reoccurrence. And the other dog’s liver grew to normal size then. He couldn’t explain whether the gallbladder made her liver “sick” or if it was the liver that made the gallbladder sick but they were related. Anyhow, the surgery was performed, or dog survived, her liver did grow to near normal and she lived for another 11 yrs. Was wondering if you ever came across this condition and what it might be called and if it was also from an autoimmune condition as she had both food and grass allergies. Food-wise she was allergic to beef and grains so I had to cook for her, mostly rice, fowl and vegetables and fruit. But no gassy vegetables and no carrots, which made her vomit. I believe intolerance of gassy foods and carrots were still related to her gallbladder. Was I right?

  7. HI Mel. There are many potential inflammatory and/or infectious diseases of the gall bladder, bile duct system and liver in dogs. Sometimes dogs will even develop gall stones that can block up the flow of bile, or even from another disease like severe pancreatitis, which can also cause a backup of bile into the liver. So many possible causes. Also without a biopsy of the gall bladder or liver, an exact diagnosis is not possible, but to answer your question: yes, it is possible to have blockages of this system and secondary or primary inflammation of the liver or gall bladder

  8. My puppy she is 4 months old inside her ears is yellow and under he belly … she is eating …but vomits it out also she is lively i hav noticed this yellowish thing on her about 5 days now … how can i help her plzz email me asap… thank you

  9. BEst to see vet in your area ASAP, as jaundice or yellow pets like this can have many causes from a liver problem, blood disorder to toxicity reaction. Vet evaluation will help sort this out and best treatment plan

  10. My male cat, Tony diagnostd Jan 2016 with kidney and liver disease he had jaundice. And he is still living. My cat was on firing and the vet say wasn’t nothing they can do. I was do upset and heart was beating so hard. I looked online and found Milk Thirst for cat. Clean the toxin and blood. Went to vet other day and he had check up and they said it’s a amazing that he still a live. Now it time, got him to go. Throwing up blood with water and not eatting this morning. I have had since he was 6 weeks old. I just have to wait and see what the good Lord going to do. The vet is only one mile away. To all the animal loves God will answer your prays and God bless you

  11. Thanks for sharing Carrie. Given Tony’s chronic disease history, if the current symptoms persist or worsen, best to take him to vet for recheck and repeat blood work, etc

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