Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, describes the yellow color taken on by the tissues throughout the body due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a substance that comes from the break down of red blood cells. Many consider jaundice as a yellowness of the skin, sclera or mucous membranes. In cats, sometimes the jaundice (yellow) color can be best noticed in the gum tissue, roof of the mouth, sclera (white of the eyes) and/or the inside of the ear flap.
Regardless of the cause, jaundice is considered abnormal in cats. Jaundice is recognized by a yellow color to the animal’s skin. It is often more apparent in the whites of the eyes and in the skin at the base of the ears.
Causes of Jaundice in Cats
There are three primary classifications of causes of jaundice.
Prehepatic Causes of Jaundice in Cats
Prehepatic causes are those occurring before the blood passes through the liver and are also referred to as hemolytic causes. These result from a breakdown of red blood cells.
Hepatic Causes of Jaundice in Cats
Hepatic causes are those disorders associated with the liver and include:
Post hepatic Causes of Jaundice in Cats
Posthepatic causes are disorders that occur after blood passes through the liver and include disorders that result in blockage of the bile flow from the liver.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Jaundice in Cats
Baseline tests such as a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis are recommended in jaundiced patients. The tests also evaluate electrolytes, blood sugar, protein level, and urine concentration. Additional tests may include:
Treatment of Jaundice in Cats
There are several steps your veterinarian might recommend to treat the jaundiced patient symptomatically, especially during diagnostic testing and prior to obtaining an underlying cause and instituting specific therapy. These include:
Administer all prescribed medication as directed by your veterinarian. Observe your pet very closely. If clinical signs are not improving and/or are getting worse, contact your veterinarian at once.
Remove any drugs or other substances in the environment that may have triggered the jaundice.