Dr. Debra Primovic discuss possible causes of jaundice in cats, including hepatic lipidosis.

Ask Dr. Debra: What Causes Jaundice in Cats?

This Week’s Question:

I have an almost 3-year-old Maine Coon cat named Dog. Last month, Dog started vomiting and having diarrhea. We sent him to a pet hospital and his doctor found a cyst in his stomach. After a few days of infusion and a period of rest, he had a surgical operation, and the cyst was removed. It was about 2 inches big and filled with liquid, which contained bacteria. The cyst was coming out of his pancreas and connected with the duodenum.

Five days later, he became jaundiced, and we brought him to the hospital again. The reports showed a disorder of the liver, and he is now infused with fluids every day. His condition is getting more serious and his doctors do not know the cause.

Can you provide any insight?


Dr. Debra’s Answer:


Thank you for your question and I’m sorry to hear about your cat named “Dog.” From what you wrote, he had a cyst attached to his pancreas that was surgically removed, after which he developed jaundice. Cysts can develop almost anywhere on or in the body and are typically benign. It is unclear why they develop.

You are right that this is a serious matter. Bloodwork and a repeat diagnostic test called an ultrasound may be helpful to determine what is currently going on with the pancreas and liver. Pancreatitis can develop after surgery in some cats. In addition, after a period of not eating, some cats can develop a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis (also known as fatty liver disease). This can cause jaundice. You may never know the cause of the cyst.

The critical treatments for this condition include fluid therapy to optimize hydration, medications to control vomiting and treat diarrhea, and dietary therapy. Some cats require feeding tubes to provide appropriate nutrition.

Also, getting a second opinion is always an option, such as those provided by a specialty hospital or local college of veterinary medicine.

I hope this helps you in some small way.

Best of luck to you and Dog,

Dr. Debra

Please note: Dr. Debra’s guidance should not be considered veterinary advice like that provided by your veterinarian, since she is unable to personally examine your pet. If you have an immediate concern or emergency, contact a veterinarian or local veterinary hospital about your specific situation.