What causes jaundice in cats and how is it treated?

Greetings, feline enthusiasts! If you’ve noticed a yellowish tint to your cat’s eyes, skin, or gums, it’s possible that they may be suffering from jaundice. Jaundice in cats is a serious condition that can be caused by a range of underlying health issues, including liver disease, gallbladder obstructions, or red blood cell destruction. If left untreated, jaundice can lead to liver failure and even death in severe cases. It’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect your cat is jaundiced. Treatment for jaundice in cats typically involves addressing the underlying cause, such as medication, surgery, or dietary changes. With prompt diagnosis and proper treatment, many cats can recover from jaundice and go on to live healthy, happy lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Causes of Jaundice in Cats: Jaundice in cats can be caused by various factors such as liver disease, red blood cell destruction, bile duct obstruction, or ingestion of toxins.
  • Symptoms of Jaundice in Cats: Yellowing of the skin, gums, and whites of the eyes, dark-colored urine, and pale-colored stools are common symptoms of jaundice in cats.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: A thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing including blood work, ultrasound, and biopsies may be necessary to diagnose the underlying cause of jaundice in cats. Treatment will depend on the specific cause and may include medication, dietary changes, or surgery.
  • Prognosis: The prognosis for cats with jaundice depends on the underlying cause and how early it is diagnosed and treated. Some causes may be treatable and manageable with proper care, while others may have a poor prognosis.
  • Prevention and Monitoring: Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and avoiding toxins can help prevent jaundice in cats. Monitoring for any changes in behavior, appetite, or signs of illness can help catch jaundice early for better outcomes.

The Biology of Jaundice

The development of jaundice in cats is often a result of an underlying medical condition that affects the liver or the production, metabolism, or excretion of bilirubin. To understand how jaundice occurs in your cat, it’s important to grasp the fundamentals of the condition and its biological causes.

Definition and Symptoms

Jaundice, also known as icterus, is a condition characterized by the yellow discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes. It occurs when there is an accumulation of bilirubin in the bloodstream, leading to its deposition in the tissues. In cats, jaundice may be accompanied by symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and changes in urine or stool color. If you notice these signs in your cat, it’s essential to seek prompt veterinary attention to determine the underlying cause and initiate appropriate treatment.

The Role of Bilirubin

Bilirubin is a product of hemoglobin breakdown, produced in the spleen and then metabolized in the liver before being excreted from the body. When the liver is unable to effectively process and excrete bilirubin, it accumulates in the bloodstream and tissues, leading to the onset of jaundice. High levels of bilirubin in your cat’s body can indicate liver disease, bile duct obstruction, or other underlying conditions that require immediate medical attention. It’s crucial to monitor bilirubin levels in your cat and address any abnormalities to prevent serious complications associated with jaundice.

Causes of Jaundice in Cats

Any time your cat’s skin, gums, or the whites of their eyes take on a yellowish hue, it’s a sign of jaundice. This occurs when there’s an excess of bilirubin in your cat’s system. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that’s produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. If you’re looking for more detailed information on jaundice in cats, you can visit Jaundice (Icterus) in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and…

Liver Diseases

Liver diseases in cats, such as cholangiohepatitis or hepatic lipidosis, can lead to jaundice. These conditions can cause the liver to malfunction, leading to a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. If left untreated, liver diseases can be life-threatening for your feline companion.

Hemolytic Disorders

Hemolytic disorders, such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia or blood parasites, can also cause jaundice in cats. These conditions result in the destruction of red blood cells, leading to an increase in bilirubin levels and the characteristic yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes.

Other Contributing Factors

In addition to liver diseases and hemolytic disorders, there are other factors that can contribute to jaundice in cats. These include pancreatitis, biliary blockage, and certain medications or toxins. It’s important to be aware of these potential causes and seek veterinary care if you notice any signs of jaundice in your cat. After all, early detection and treatment can greatly improve your cat’s prognosis.

  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas can lead to liver dysfunction and jaundice.
  • Biliary blockage: Obstruction of the bile ducts can prevent the excretion of bilirubin, causing its accumulation in the blood.
  • Toxins and medications: Certain substances, such as acetaminophen or certain plants, can damage the liver and lead to jaundice in cats.

Diagnosis and Treatment

After observing the symptoms of jaundice in your cat, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. The diagnosis and treatment of jaundice in cats involves a combination of diagnostic approaches, treatment modalities, and ongoing management to ensure the best possible outcome for your feline companion.

Diagnostic Approaches

When you take your cat to the veterinarian for jaundice, they will conduct a thorough physical examination and may recommend additional diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause of the condition. These tests may include blood work, urinalysis, ultrasound, and possibly a liver biopsy. These diagnostic approaches will help the veterinarian determine the specific cause of jaundice in your cat, allowing for targeted treatment.

Treatment Modalities

The treatment of jaundice in cats depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Your veterinarian may recommend treatments such as medications to address liver or bile duct issues, dietary changes to support liver function, and supportive care to manage symptoms. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary for more intensive treatment and monitoring. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan closely to ensure the best possible outcome for your cat.

Prognosis and Management

The prognosis for jaundice in cats depends on the underlying cause and how early it is diagnosed and treated. Some causes of jaundice may have a better prognosis than others, so it is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to monitor your cat’s condition and manage their ongoing care. With prompt and appropriate treatment, many cats with jaundice can experience a positive outcome and a good quality of life. However, some causes of jaundice may have more serious implications, so close monitoring and management by a veterinary professional are essential for the best possible outcome for your feline companion.

Prevention and Care

To ensure the health and well-being of your cat, it’s important to take preventative measures and provide long-term care if your cat is affected by jaundice. By following these tips, you can help reduce the risk of jaundice and ensure your cat receives the best possible care.

Preventative Measures

Firstly, it’s crucial to ensure that your cat receives regular veterinary check-ups. Your vet can assess your cat’s overall health and detect any early signs of illness, including jaundice. Additionally, maintaining a balanced diet for your cat is essential. Provide them with a high-quality, nutritious diet to support their liver function and overall well-being. Furthermore, avoid exposing your cat to harmful substances such as toxic plants, chemicals, and medications that could potentially damage their liver and lead to jaundice.

Long-Term Care for Affected Cats

If your cat is diagnosed with jaundice, it’s important to provide them with ongoing care to manage the condition. Your vet will recommend a treatment plan, which may include medications, dietary changes, and regular monitoring of their liver function. It’s crucial to follow your vet’s instructions closely and administer any prescribed medications as directed. Additionally, creating a stress-free environment for your cat can help support their recovery. Minimize changes to their routine and provide a calm, comfortable space for them to rest and recuperate.


Following this overview of jaundice in cats and its treatment, it is important to be aware of the potential causes of jaundice in your feline companion. Whether it is due to liver disease, bile obstruction, or other underlying issues, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. If you notice the tell-tale signs of jaundice in your cat, such as yellowing of the gums or eyes, it is imperative to seek prompt veterinary care. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination, including blood work and imaging, to determine the underlying cause of the jaundice. Based on the diagnosis, treatment may include medication, dietary changes, or surgical intervention. By staying vigilant and seeking timely veterinary attention, you can help ensure the best outcome for your pet.


Q: What causes jaundice in cats?

A: Jaundice in cats is caused by an accumulation of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells. This build-up can occur due to various underlying conditions such as liver disease, gallstones, pancreatitis, or leukemia. It can also result from an obstruction in the bile duct, leading to impaired bile flow and causing the yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes.

Q: How is jaundice in cats treated?

A: Treatment for jaundice in cats depends on the underlying cause. The first step is often to address the primary condition leading to the jaundice, such as providing supportive care for liver disease or addressing any blockages in the bile duct. This may involve medication, dietary changes, or surgical intervention. In some cases, supportive therapies such as fluid therapy and nutritional support may also be necessary to help the cat recover. It’s crucial to seek veterinary care promptly for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

Q: Are there any preventive measures for jaundice in cats?

A: While it may not always be possible to prevent jaundice in cats, maintaining their overall health and well-being can help reduce the risk. This includes providing a balanced diet, regular exercise, and keeping up with routine veterinary check-ups. Additionally, being mindful of potential hazards such as toxic plants, chemicals, and certain medications can help prevent liver damage and other conditions that may contribute to jaundice. Promptly addressing any signs of illness or abnormal behavior can also help catch potential issues early and prevent them from progressing to the point of causing jaundice.

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