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The dog or cat has a yellow discolouring of the skin, gums, tongue and whites of the dog's or cat's eyes. Yellowing of the skin, or jaundice, in pets is a serious condition that can be fatal if not treated promptly. This condition is a symptom of liver disease and can occur in both cats and dogs of any breed or age. The most common conditions that will cause liver disease and yellowing of the skin include hepatitis, cancer, damage due to toxins, hepatic lipodosis, hypoxia and perfusion.

How to Recognize

Yellowing of the skin, medically known as jaundice or icterus, is a symptom of various health conditions that can occur in both dogs and cats. While some of these conditions are only minor health concerns, others can be quite serious and even fatal. As such, it is important for you to learn all about this symptom. Jaundice is characterized by a yellowing of the tissues throughout a dog or cat's body. It is mainly recognized by a yellowish color of the animal's skin, and it is most noticeable along the gums, on the abdomen and at the base of the ears. However, jaundice often affects the whites of the eyes as well.

Causes of Yellowing

Yellowing of the mucous membranes can occur if there is a high concentration of bilirubin in a pet's system. Bilirubin is a bile pigment that is naturally formed when hemoglobin breaks down in red blood cells. A small amount of bilirubin is necessary for bodily functions. However, when there is an abnormally high rate of RBC breakdowns, bilirubin can accumulate in the body's tissues, which will result in jaundice.


If you pet is exhibiting jaundice, it is important for your veterinarian to determine the exact cause of the symptom. For this to be accomplished, a thorough physical examination will be necessary. Additionally, your veterinarian may also perform some or all of the following tests and procedures, such as Complete Blood Count, Biochemical Profile, Urinalysis, Chest and Abdominal X-rays, Abdominal Ultrasound, Serologic Tests, Coagulation Profile, Liver Biopsy, Coombs Test and Exploratory Laparotomy.

Similar Symptoms

Depending on the condition that a pet may be suffering from, jaundice is often accompanied by several other symptoms. You can find the most common of these symptoms listed below. However, it is essential to note that unless these symptoms occur alongside jaundice, they can indicate a health issue that has nothing to do with bilirubin accumulation. Similar symptoms are: Loss of Appetite and/or Weight Loss, Vomiting and/or Diarrhea, Poor Body Condition, Swollen Abdomen, Excessive Thirst and Urination, Difficulty Breathing and Lethargy.

Possible Conditions

There are many health conditions that can cause an accumulation of bilirubin in the body resulting in yellowing of the skin. You can find some of the most common of these conditions listed below. While some of these issues can be reversed, others are irreversible and can even be fatal. Possible conditions are: Various Toxins, Various Drugs, Incompatible Blood Transfusions, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Cirrhosis, Damage to Liver Tissue, Hemangiosarcoma, Collection of Blood Within the Body Cavity, Hepatic Lipidosis, Hemolytic Anemia, Vena Cava Syndrome, Cholangitis, Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Cancer, Gall Bladder Diseases and Stones and Heartworm Disease.

Treatment for Yellowing

It is essential to note that no matter what the cause may be, high concentrations of bilirubin can be toxic. Not only will it cause yellowing of the skin and eyes, but it can also damage the liver, kidneys and brain. As such, it is essential for you to seek veterinary attention right away if your pet develops jaundice. Depending on your vet's diagnosis, treatment may include any of the following medications or procedures: Surgery, Blood Transfusion, IV Fluid Therapy, Electrolyte Replacement Therapy, Special Diets and Vitamin Supplementation, Gastrostomy, Antibiotics, Corticosteroids and Anti-inflammatory Drugs. Yellowing of the skin, or jaundice, occurs when there is a buildup of bilirubin in the body. Since jaundice can become a serious condition no matter what the cause, it is essential for you to seek veterinary attention for your pet right away if it develops any yellowing of the skin or eyes.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

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