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Be aware of this serious symptom: If your pet has jaundice, she needs to see a vet as soon as possible. Heres more information.

If your pet looks a little peaked, take a closer look at her skin, the whites of her eyes, and her gums. A yellowish tinge is a common sign of jaundice, a condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Jaundice, also called icterus, occurs when bilirubin levels increase in the body. Bilirubin is an orange pigment and a by-product of used red blood cells (RBCs). The liver processes the pigment and disposes of it in bile, which is then eliminated with other bodily wastes. Your pet will develop jaundice if she suffers liver damage or blocked bile flow or if too many RBCs are destroyed.

Bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal infections can alter bilirubin levels, inducing this condition. Other causes include:

  • Liver disease
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Bile duct obstruction
  • Fever
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Pancreatitis
  • Shock
  • Toxins (poisoning)
  • Cancer

Certain medications can damage the liver, leading to jaundice. And obese cats are uniquely predisposed to a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis one of the most common causes of feline jaundice.

What You Can Do at Home
Most causes of jaundice are serious and require hospitalization, so take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Pets with jaundice usually show other symptoms, including vomiting, appetite loss, lethargy, disorientation, or increased or decreased thirst and urination.

You can help prevent the health problems that cause jaundice by vaccinating your pet regularly, keeping your pet indoors, and preventing exposure to poisons. If your cat refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, call your veterinarian appetite loss can lead to hepatic lipidosis in felines.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian will ask about your pets access to poisons, her energy level and eating habits, current medications, and whether your pet exhibits other symptoms. After a thorough examination, the doctor may recommend blood and urine tests, a fecal exam, X-rays, ultrasound, and possibly a liver biopsy.

Most pets need hospitalization during treatment, and severely anemic pets may also need a blood transfusion. Identifying the cause of jaundice can take time, so be patient. Your veterinarian will be able to discuss your pets prognosis more fully after diagnosing the underlying condition.