What is Yellow Skin?
If your cat is exhibiting signs of yellow skin, which is also referred to as icterus, it is imperative that they visit a veterinary clinic. Jaundice can happen to cats of any age, breed, or sex and whether they are an indoor cat or an outdoor cat.
Yellow skin in cats is a direct result of jaundice, which is a sign of liver issues just as it is in humans. Since cats are usually covered in fur it is often in the whites of the eyes, in the cat's gums, or in the flaps of their ears that you will notice the yellow skin discoloration.
Symptoms of Yellow Skin in Cats
A yellowing of the skin is only one of the symptoms of liver disease or failure in a cat. If your cat is exhibiting yellow skin it is likely to display some of the following symptoms as well:
- Frequent urination
- Orange-colored urine
- Weight loss
- Changes in eating habits
Causes of Yellow Skin in Cats
The main causes of yellow skin in cats are liver issues. These can include:
- Fatty liver
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Inflammatory issues in the bowels and the liver
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Some drugs and toxins, such as heavy metals
There are also non-liver related problems that can lead to yellow skin in cats.
- Parasites in the blood
- Heartworm disease
- Immune deficiency
- Reactions to blood transfusions
Diagnosis of Yellow Skin in Cats
It is an increased amount of bilirubin in the system that causes jaundice and the yellowing of the skin, both in animals and in humans. Your veterinarian will do a blood test on your cat that will tell them if the bilirubin count is abnormal.
Your vet will also do urinary tests to identify possible causes of yellowing of the skin. Since it could be anything from a viral infection to cancer or a failing liver, it is important that they run as many tests as possible to plan the most effective course of treatment.
Your veterinarian may also ask you some questions to help with the diagnosis. They will want to know when you first noticed the yellowing of the skin, if there have been recent changes in urination habits or bowel movements, and what those changes have been. You should monitor your cat's bathroom habits prior to the visit, as well as after.
Treatment of Yellow Skin in Cats
Once your veterinarian knows the cause of the skin yellowing, they can make a treatment plan for your cat. Jaundice is something you simply cannot treat at home since there are so many underlying factors that could be leading to the skin discoloration.
There are underlying diseases that can lead to fatty liver, or hepatic lipidosis, in cats, including cancer and diabetes. Once the underlying cause is determined, treatment can be started. However, if the illness has progressed to cirrhosis, it may be too late for successful treatment. At this point the best bet is to help the cat remain comfortable for its final days.
The best treatment for a fatty liver is changing the cat’s diet to a healthy one that promotes healing the liver. Because cats with this condition may not be able to eat, a feeding tube could be required, which is not painful but may be needed for many weeks.
If your cat’s jaundice is being caused by liver cancer there is potential for a successful recovery. Up to 75 percent of your cat's liver can be removed and still have proper function. Your vet will determine if your cat needs something a drastic procedure depending on the findings of tumors or nodules.
Oftentimes, liver cancer can be treated with chemotherapy on an outpatient basis without surgery.
Recovery of Yellow Skin in Cats
Once your cat has received the treatment they need for whichever ailment has caused their yellow skin you will want to keep an eye on them during recovery. Cats that have undergone surgery will need time for lots of rest and should be confined to a small area to promote healing and prevent injury.
It is important to monitor the color and condition of the cat’s skin, eating and drinking habits, urinary and bowel movements, as well as its energy level. Your veterinarian will also recommend you bring your cat in for regular checkups periodically following any treatment.