What causes jaundice in cats and how is it treated?

Jaundice in cats can be caused by a variety of factors, including liver disease, inflammation of the gallbladder, or red blood cell destruction. If your cat’s eyes, gums, or skin have a yellow tint, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian will likely perform blood tests and liver function tests to determine the underlying cause of the jaundice. Treatment for jaundice in cats will depend on the underlying cause, and may include medications, dietary changes, or in severe cases, hospitalization for supportive care. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial in ensuring the best possible outcome for your feline companion.

Key Takeaways:

  • Causes of Jaundice in Cats: Jaundice in cats can be caused by a variety of factors, including liver disease, gallbladder and bile duct obstruction, infections, toxins, or red blood cell destruction.
  • Symptoms of Jaundice in Cats: Common symptoms of jaundice in cats include yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, dark-colored urine, lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: To diagnose jaundice in cats, a veterinarian will perform a physical exam, blood tests, imaging tests, and possibly a liver biopsy. Treatment may involve addressing the underlying cause, such as medication for liver disease or removal of gallstones.
  • Dietary Management: Feeding a high-quality, balanced diet can help support liver function in cats with jaundice. This may involve prescription diets specifically tailored for liver health.
  • Prognosis: The prognosis for cats with jaundice depends on the underlying cause and how quickly it is diagnosed and treated. With prompt and appropriate treatment, many cats can recover from jaundice and lead healthy lives.

Understanding Jaundice

Clearly, understanding the causes and effects of jaundice in cats is crucial for their well-being. Jaundice is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition.

Definition of Jaundice in Cats

Jaundice in cats, also known as icterus, is a condition characterized by the yellow discoloration of the skin, gums, and whites of the eyes. This discoloration is caused by the accumulation of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced by the breakdown of red blood cells in the liver.

The Role of Bilirubin

The buildup of bilirubin in the body is the primary cause of jaundice. When red blood cells are broken down, bilirubin is formed and processed by the liver. If the liver is unable to metabolize bilirubin effectively, it accumulates in the bloodstream and causes the characteristic yellowing of the skin and eyes. Elevated levels of bilirubin can indicate liver disease, gallbladder disease, or other underlying health issues in your cat.

Causes of Jaundice in Cats

One of the main causes of jaundice in cats is the breakdown of red blood cells, also known as hemolytic disorders. This can lead to an excess of bilirubin in your cat’s blood, resulting in the yellowing of the skin, eyes, and gums. Other causes of jaundice include liver disease, biliary tract disease, infectious diseases, and other underlying health issues.

Hemolytic Disorders

Hemolytic disorders occur when your cat’s immune system attacks its own red blood cells, leading to their premature destruction. This can be caused by autoimmune disorders, certain medications, toxins, or inherited conditions. As a result, your cat’s body is no longer able to effectively eliminate bilirubin, leading to its buildup in the bloodstream and subsequent jaundice.

Liver Disease

Liver disease can also be a major cause of jaundice in cats. Conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and cancer can impair the liver’s ability to process bilirubin, leading to its accumulation in the body. Additionally, liver disease can also interfere with the production of proteins necessary for the transport of bilirubin, further exacerbating the problem.

Biliary Tract Disease

Biliary tract disease, including conditions such as gallstones, bile duct obstruction, or inflammation, can impede the flow of bile from the liver to the intestine, leading to the buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream. This can result in jaundice and other associated symptoms in your cat.

Infectious Diseases

Several infectious diseases, such as feline leukemia virus, feline infectious peritonitis, and certain bacterial or parasitic infections, can also lead to jaundice in cats. These infections can directly damage the liver or cause obstructions in the biliary tract, resulting in the accumulation of bilirubin and subsequent jaundice.

Other Underlying Health Issues

In addition to the aforementioned causes, other underlying health issues such as pancreatic diseases, certain cancers, and disorders of the urinary system can also contribute to the development of jaundice in cats. It is important to identify and address any underlying health issues that may be contributing to your cat’s jaundice in order to effectively treat the condition.

By understanding the various potential causes of jaundice in cats, you can work with your veterinarian to identify the underlying issue and develop an appropriate treatment plan to address the specific needs of your feline companion. Early detection and intervention are crucial in treating jaundice and its underlying causes, so be sure to seek veterinary care if you notice any signs of jaundice in your cat.

Diagnosis and Treatment

For a proper diagnosis of jaundice in your cat, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and may also request blood tests and imaging studies to determine the underlying cause of the condition.

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic procedures for jaundice in cats may include blood tests to assess liver function, as well as imaging studies such as ultrasound or X-rays to examine the liver and other abdominal organs. Your veterinarian may also perform a urinalysis to check for the presence of bilirubin in the urine, which can indicate liver dysfunction.

Treatment Options

Treatment for jaundice in cats will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. If the jaundice is due to an underlying infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics. If the cause is liver disease, your cat may require special dietary management and medications to support liver function. In some cases, hospitalization and supportive care may be necessary.

Home Care and Management

Once your cat has been diagnosed and treated for jaundice, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for at-home care. This may include administering medications, feeding a special diet, and monitoring your cat for any changes in behavior or symptoms. You should also keep your cat’s living environment clean and free from potential toxins.

Potential Complications

Jaundice in cats can lead to serious complications if not properly managed. Untreated liver disease can progress and potentially lead to liver failure, which can be life-threatening. Additionally, jaundice may be a sign of an underlying condition that requires immediate attention. It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations closely to minimize the risk of complications.

Prevention and Prognosis

To understand how to prevent jaundice in cats, it’s important to be aware of the potential causes of this condition. You can find comprehensive information about the causes and treatments of yellow eyes/skin (jaundice) in cats in this article: Yellow Eyes/Skin (Jaundice) in Cats – Causes, Treatment …

Preventive Measures

Preventing jaundice in cats involves maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, offering regular exercise, keeping up with routine veterinary check-ups, and ensuring your cat is up-to-date on all vaccinations. Avoid exposing your feline companion to potentially toxic substances such as certain plants, human medications, and chemicals. Additionally, it’s crucial to keep an eye on anything unusual in your cat’s behavior or physical appearance that could indicate a potential health problem.

Prognosis for Cats with Jaundice

The prognosis for cats with jaundice can vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Some cases of jaundice may be relatively mild and easily treatable, while others can be indicative of more serious health issues. If your cat is diagnosed with jaundice, it is important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations closely. Your vet will be able to provide you with the most accurate prognosis and treatment plan based on your cat’s specific situation. With prompt and appropriate care, many cats are able to recover from jaundice and go on to live long, healthy lives.

Causes and Treatment of Jaundice in Cats

On the whole, jaundice in cats is often caused by underlying liver or gallbladder conditions. This can include liver disease, pancreatitis, or obstruction of the bile duct. If your cat is displaying signs of jaundice such as yellowing of the skin, gums, or whites of the eyes, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Your vet will likely conduct blood tests, ultrasounds, or biopsies to determine the underlying cause of the jaundice. Treatment will depend on the specific diagnosis, but may include supportive care, medication, dietary changes, or surgery. It’s crucial to follow your vet’s recommendations and closely monitor your cat’s condition to ensure the best possible outcome.


Q: What causes jaundice in cats?

A: Jaundice in cats is typically caused by an excess of bilirubin in the bloodstream, which is often a result of liver disease, such as hepatitis or cholangitis. Other causes may include gallbladder inflammation, tumors, or certain infections.

Q: How is jaundice in cats treated?

A: Treatment for jaundice in cats will depend on the underlying cause. If the jaundice is a result of liver disease, medication or a special diet may be prescribed to help manage the condition. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove obstructions in the bile ducts. It is important to seek veterinary care promptly to determine the cause of jaundice and initiate treatment.

Q: What are the symptoms of jaundice in cats?

A: Symptoms of jaundice in cats may include yellowing of the skin, gums, and whites of the eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and changes in behavior. If you notice these symptoms in your cat, it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately as jaundice can be a sign of a serious underlying condition.

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