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Jaundice in Cats

Jaundice in Cats

Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, is considered as an abnormal illness in cats. This article provides information on the causes and symptoms of this condition.
Leena Palande
Cat health can be affected due to skin problems, eye problems, hormonal imbalance, digestive system disorders, mental stress, etc. Jaundice is rarely found in cats. Given below are some symptoms noticed in cats that are affected by jaundice.

  • Skin appears yellow. The yellow color can be more apparent in the skin at the base of the ears.
  • Whites of the eyes appear yellow.
  • Yellow color in the gums.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Lethargy.
  • Loss of appetite or loss of body condition.
  • Weight loss.
  • Excessive drinking and excessive urinating.
  • Abdominal distension.
A changed or reduced appetite is the main symptom of any illness in cats.


Jaundice is considered as an abnormal condition in cats. It occurs when there are elevated levels of bilirubin in the cat's body. The red blood cells are processed in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, and bilirubin is the product of this process. Normally, the liver absorbs, metabolizes, and excretes this bilirubin. Elevated levels indicate that either the liver is not able to process it properly, or it is not excreted adequately. This can cause the eyes and skin of the cat to turn yellow. Although the symptom is obvious, the underlying cause can be different every time. Given below are some probable causes.

Prehepatic Causes: When the breakdown of red blood cells takes place before the blood passes through the liver, the causes are called prehepatic. They are as follows.
  • Blood transfusion reactions
  • Low phosphate levels in the blood
  • Heartworm disease
  • Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia
  • Drugs and medications
Hepatic Causes: The blood disorders associated with the liver are called hepatic causes of jaundice.
  • Viral, bacterial, or protozoal infections
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation of liver or Hepatitis
  • Cholangitis or inflammation of the bile duct
  • Cholangiohepatitis or inflammation of liver and bile duct
  • Hepatic lipidosis or fatty infiltration of the liver
  • Certain drugs such as diazepam, acetaminophen, or griseofulvin
  • Toxins such as heavy metals, certain chemical flea and tick dips and sprays
Posthepatic Causes: These are the disorders occurring after the blood passes through the liver. The following list includes such disorders which result in blockage of the bile flow from the liver.
  • Gallbladder diseases such as gallstones, cancer, or inflammation of the gallbladder and bile duct
  • Pancreatic diseases such as pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer
  • Intestinal diseases that block the bile ducts
  • When your cat is diagnosed with jaundice, you should discontinue any therapy initiated before its onset.
  • Healthy, nutritious, and appropriate cat food should be provided after consulting with your vet.
  • Severely-ill or dehydrated cats may require intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy.
  • Profoundly anemic cats need blood transfusion.
  • Avoiding any kind of stress and allowing the animal to rest can help cure it fast.
  • Medications to manage symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, excessive abdominal fluid, and neurological problems can be administered.
  • Pet care plays an important role in the treatment of jaundice. It should be noted that jaundice itself is a symptom arising due to a wide range of cat diseases that result in high levels of bilirubin in the body.
  • The veterinarian might recommend to treat the patient after determining the exact cause of the jaundice. He might prescribe medicines after finding the same. Information about the disease and its symptoms should be provided to him.
Early diagnosis of jaundice helps improve the prognosis. Regular medical checkups, watching the change in weight, and appetite help prevent most of the cat diseases.